Intergalactic invaders. Renegade monsters. Time travel. It's all in a day's work for agents Kay and Jay of the Men in Black (Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith). Celebrate 20 years of iconic sci-fi comedy with the Men in Black, now with all three films fully restored in 4K.
Includes Men in Black, Men in Black II and Men in Black III.
"Imagine what you'll know tomorrow."
As we've already done some pretty good coverage over the years with these movies on Blu-ray, I encourage you to give those reviews a look before reading my thoughts on the franchise.
For my part, the Men In Black movies are just great entertainment value. Loosely based on the little-known Malibu Comics series, the film took the basic premise of a secret government agency policing the activities of aliens on earth and spun it into an action-comedy buddy-cop science fiction movie. The first film was a vehicle designed to bolster Will Smith's growing cinematic stardom while also capitalizing on Tommy Lee Jones' own surging box office presence. It was a dynamite hit at the summer box office when it was released. When you have a movie that makes a little over half a billion dollars globally, it's not surprising that the powers that be decided to let director Barry Sonnenfeld spawn a pair of sequels in the ensuing fifteen years.
Unfortunately, films like Men In Black have a built-in freshness date. While a lot of the fun of the first film certainly hinged on the pairing of a straight-as-a-nail Tommy Lee Jones and the smart-ass wisecracks of his co-star Will Smith, a lot of the fun was the intricate world-building efforts. It's not enough that Smith was recruited into a secret agency that operates above the law and in the shadows of society, we get to learn just how deep and intricate this deception goes playing with a great deal of social commentary at the same time. We get humorous lines about all cab drivers and our worst grade school teachers being aliens while also giving us the tidbit that various celebrity personalities are also aliens hiding right under our nose.
By the time Men In Black II hit theaters five years later, a lot of that magic had worn off. This intricately designed world no longer felt new or spectacular. In fact, it kinda felt commonplace. Not helping matters was the generic and uninspired storyline featuring a lame villain that paled in comparison to the hilarious nastiness of Vincent D'Onofrio's Edgar in the first film. Making matters worse, an obnoxious two-headed Johnny Knoxville just didn't help. While it did feature some great alien creations from Rick Baker, that wasn't enough to save a tepid and heartless film that was more interested in cashing in than actually making anything new and interesting.
With 3D the "in" movie marketing craze in 2012, it's only natural that Men In Black III would utilize the format. thankfully, a few years away from the franchise allowed Sonnenfeld, Smith, and Jones some time to breathe, recuperate, and reset after that stinker of a second film. While it's not as good as the first film, it's good enough to make you remember what you loved about Men In Black and what makes this creative franchise so great. The time travel angle allowed for some new world building and introduced us to a younger version of Jones in the form of Josh Brolin. It wasn't perfect, but at least it was in keeping with the tone and fit of the original film and actually felt like a genuine and true sequel that fans always deserved.
To that end, I don't really look at the Men In Black Trilogy as an actual "trilogy." Since it was such an insufferably forgettable movie, I find myself pretending that Men In Black II never happened. It's more like a bonus feature you never want to actually watch. But taken as a whole, I'm glad that in the course of twenty years, Men In Black is still a ton of fun. The visual effects still look terrific and the Rick Baker creatures remain some of the best practical effects committed to film - it's a true shame that he's felt the need to retire given the changes in the industry. Even with Men in Black II included, this is a hell of a set that provides hours of entertainment and ultimately proves why the franchise is so well remembered. Now if they could just get that rumored 21 Jump Street / Men In Black crossover movie off the ground!
Men In Black - 4.5/5
Men In Black II - 1/5
Men In Black III - 3.5/5
Vital Disc Stats: The 4K UHD
The Men In Black Trilogy 20th Anniversary Collection arrives on 4K UHD Blu-ray courtesy of Sony Pictures in a six-disc three 4K UHD and three Blu-ray set with Digital HD. Each film is given their own single digipack style booklet with both the respective 4K UHD and Blu-ray disc stacked on top of each other and all three booklets are encased in a slick black outer shell. The 3D disc for MIB III is sadly not included with this set. The included Digital HD code is Movies Anywhere compatible, the 4K stream is only available through Sony's streaming service through compatible devices. Every other service redeems in HDX.
Fans are in for a real treat with the respective 4K UHD 1.85:1 2160p transfers provided for Men In Black, Men In Black II, and Men In Black III. Speaking uniformly, they're all go-for-broke excellent. One of the constant companions of improved resolution for big special effects-heavy films is the betrayal of that added resolution. If a makeup job or prosthetic was hastily applied or a CGI creation was rendered poorly, they tend to stick out like a gouge to the eyeball. But amazingly enough, everything holds up beautifully for these three films.
Dollars to donuts, Men In Black sports the biggest improvement over its respective SDR counterpart. Not to say that the previous Blu-ray was any slouch, it wasn't, but it had some flaws - most notably low-light black levels that could look a bit crushed or hazy. Here, there's enough contrast improvement and black level accuracy with the accompanying HDR10 push to fix that issue for the most part. Those low light scenes, for instance, when K is showing J the MIB headquarters for the first time, still display some slightly hazy blacks, but they look far and away better than previous releases and more consistent with the surrounding footage. Colors are spot on beautiful. J's red coat, the black suits, and the drab tan Farmer John outfit Vincent D'Onofrio's Edgar wears all look terrific. Fine details are splendid allowing you really take in and appreciate the intricate creature effects Rick Baker created. Especially during that introduction to MIB headquarters, it's really something to see in 4K! 4.5/5
Men In Black II enjoys a similar level of an upgrade as its predecessor. However, the caveat I will make is that it calls more attention to some of the lower quality CGI effects. Don't get me wrong, this one still looks amazing, keeping with a fine amount of apparent film grain, improved black levels. Colors are rich and beautiful with a terrific primary presence. Greens are especially a stand out given Lara Flynn Boyle's Serleena plant-like predilections. Black levels don't suffer the same sort of thickness as the first film so that's never an issue here. The HDR10 push ensures that contrast and black levels are notably improved and give this film a notable sense of depth and dimension to the image I hadn't really felt in its SDR counterpart. Skin tones look healthy and accurate. As I mentioned at the outset, the increased number of CGI effects hampers this film a bit. While overall they're well rendered, some effects like when Serleena's fingers turn into vines or when Knoxville's second head pops out of his back that things look off. The effects while good for their day stand out here and look notably softer than their real-life counterparts in any given scene. Not a dealbreaker by any stretch as the rest of the film's transfer looks damn beautiful. 4.5/5
Men In Black III was a bit of an outlier for its time as it was shot in on a combination of 35mm and digital but finished on a 4K digital intermediate. So to that end, this 4K UHD release is the best possible version of this film on home video! While I may bemoan the loss of the 3D release, I've got to admit that this 2D HDR10 release is drop dead gorgeous. The series at this point had become more heavily dependent upon CGI effects over practical, but everything appears top shelf. The improved contrast and black levels ensure that even without the benefits of 3D, there is a terrific sense of depth and dimension to the image - especially when J makes his time jumps. Some effects can look a tad goofy, namely the ones designed for 3D "pop-out," but even the CGI looks impressive here. Colors offer up a notable improvement with impressive flesh tones and the 60s colorful stylings really pop. The Frank Lloyd Wright-inspired look of the 60s era MIB headquarters is especially beautiful with the deep mahogany colors against the black and white suits of the agents. It's also great to see how well Jermaine Clement's Boris The Animal makeup and digital effects hold up. Considering the intent for this film was to be displayed in 3D, I wasn't sure how well it would hold up under 4K scrutiny, but I have to say that this transfer is the standout star of the set. 5/5
There's a part of me that is actually glad that I don't really have a personal relationship with any of my neighbors who live above my apartment. After picking through the Dolby Atmos tracks for each of these films, I'd hate for them to actually be compelled to say something about all of the noise rather than keeping to the Chicago way of passive-aggressively not dealing with grievances. When you watch these movies - turn the volume WAY up! Not because they're mixed poorly or you're going to have difficulty hearing the dialogue, quite the opposite in fact. As I loaded up Men in Black, Men In Black II, and Men In Black III, I would start things out at a reasonably respectful level given the thin nature of the walls of my building. But each and every time, it wasn't long before I found my thumb sliding that volume button just a notch or two higher. The biggest improvement I could detect was the stronger LFE presence. These tones would pop up during big explosions, roars of car engines, and especially during Danny Elfman's uniformly terrific compositions for each film. The bass tones for the music are terrific.
Equally impressive is how well spaced out the mixes are for each film. I really felt like they each enjoyed a terrific sense of immersion. The vertical activity may have been a bit more restrained for the first two films, but it really comes to life for Men In Black III. Dialogue is clean and clear for each flick and there is plenty of space around the elements to provide a terrific sense of atmosphere and dimension. Levels are spot on and shouldn't require adjusting. But like I said, be prepared to run these movies louder than you normally would just for the fun of it. When J pushed the little red button in the first film, the roar of that engine combined with Jones singing along with Elvis as the car drives on the top of the tunnel is a real treat! 5/5 for all three movies.
All bonus features have been ported over from previous releases and are available only on their respective Blu-ray discs. None of the bonus features are present on the 4K UHD discs themselves. All in all, this is a good package of features. If you haven't picked through these before, you'll have a good time giving these a look. As There are no new features produced for this set, I encourage you to give our previous reviews a look for full details:
What more can I say? If you're a fan of the franchise and have made the jump to 4K, the Men In Black Trilogy is exactly what you need to have on your shelf. Sure, you can easily skip the unnecessary and forgettable Men In Black II, but the first and third films outweigh that film and make the set worth the upgrade over the previous releases. Even if you're double dip weary, the new 4K image transfers and their accompanying Dolby Atmos audio tracks are well worth having. Sony has done a terrific job with this release, granted some new bonus features would have been cool to commemorate the first film's 20th Anniversary, but the inclusion of all previous bonus features on each films' Blu-ray disc makes this collection feel complete - at least until they decide to make a fourth movie. But for now, if you're a Men In Black fan, this Men In Black Trilogy set is the best thing to happen to the franchise on home video. If you don't already have any of the movies, it's a must own, if you're on the fence about double dipping, consider this one very highly recommended.