As a spin-off reboot meant to reignite interest for a new generation, F. Gary Gray's Men in Black: International sadly crash lands with a sleep-inducing dud, despite the cosmic charisma of stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. On the bright side, the London branch saves the world of Ultra HD with a reference-quality 4K presentation and a demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack, but a disappointingly small set of bonuses. Still, the overall UHD package is Worth a Look for those hungering for some HDR goodness.
(We have also reviewed the Blu-ray HERE.)
Men in Black: International opens on an awkward but cheerfully confident footing that puts the entire production at odds with itself, leaving us to admire what could have been versus what it ultimately is. Like Tessa Thompson's off-the-charts genius Molly strutting into the MiB headquarters in New York, believing she has fooled everyone into thinking she belongs there, the F. Gary Gray directed feature swaggers into cinemas as though confidently capturing the same sci-fi fantasy magic of the original Barry Sonnenfeld trilogy. Sadly, this spin-off/reboot isn't fooling anyone with visual gags and out-of-this-world humor more likely to raise skeptical eyebrows with questionable expressions than mobilizing genuine laugh. A major problem is a story overrun in spoon-feed nostalgia and a plot that feels derivative of the first Will Smith-Tommy Lee Jones pairing.
The script from Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (Iron Man, Transformers: The Last Knight) kicks into action with two flashback sequences confusingly out of order, meaning the first is set four years ago and the second jumps back twenty years earlier before returning to the present. Granted, the sequences set things in motion and add some backstory to our pair of alien crime fighters — and the Lilo & Stitch ripoff thankfully comes with an eventual payoff that is admittedly amusing — but two flashbacks with weird jumps in between are rather clunky and feel incredibly amateurish from a filmmaker who is much better skilled. For Thompson's Molly, a childhood experience with a blue alien feels more like a lame skit for cracking jokes about parents still living in the age of Prince and Morris Day. Her search for the truth as an adult and easily discovering the MiB's super-secret location only begs the question of the New York branch's effectiveness at policing unauthorized alien visitations. It would seem since Agent K's retirement, the mysterious agency has been on the decline.
As for Chris Hemsworth's Agent H, we are continuously told he is the London branch's top agent and repeatedly informed of his courageous heroism in the cold open: "He once saved the world with nothing but his wits and his Series-7 De-Atomizer." We never see this, however. We're just made aware of the fact, again and again and again, bashed into our heads as though Chekhov's gun were a real thing, boringly reminded of its relevant importance for the final act. Instead, what we see is a languid, presumptuous rogue agent swaggering from one episodic event to the next with nothing but his self-important charm and his cocky good looks. Hemsworth is only at his most appealing when sharing the screen with Thompson. It's not quite as delightfully fun as what we saw in Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok, but the two make a great buddy-cop pair, ricocheting quips off one another with enough natural charm to ever so slightly elevate this otherwise snoozefest and bring a smile when seeing them together.
Sadly, all that charisma sparkling between Thompson and Hemsworth is pretty much wasted in Men in Black: International, a fourth series entry meant to reignite interest in the franchise for an audience too young to have experienced the whimsical enchantment of the original. Unfortunately, this reboot attempt, much like the aliens camouflaging themselves as humans, is ultimately a cleverly-disguised retread of the first movie. A pair of conflicting personalities — a seasoned veteran and a goofy, green trainee — must save the world from another bug-like parasite called the Hive. And again, everyone is seeking a mysterious artifact worth more than it seems and an important intergalactic figure is assassinated for it. H and M are joined by the blatant children's comic relief Pawny (Kumail Nanjiani), this movie's version of Frank the Pug, only more annoying. The shape-shifting cosmic aliens (Laurent and Larry Bourgeois) make better antagonists, but the filmmakers apparently didn't think so. The end result is a dull production that has us wishing Neuralyzers were real. I think we've more than earned one.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Sony Pictures Home Entertainment brings Men in Black: International to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Digital Copy, which can be redeemed via sonypictures.com and Movies Anywhere. When redeeming said code, users have access to the 4K Dolby Vision version with Dolby Atmos audio on certain streaming platforms. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc inside a black, eco-elite vortex case with a glossy slipcover. At startup, the disc goes straight to an interactive main menu that changes screens when switching between the usual options while music plays in the background.
The London branch saves the Ultra HD world with nothing but their wits and a spectacularly eye-catching, reference-quality HEVC H.265 encode, painlessly De-Atomizing an already sensational Blu-ray and sure to neuralyze any memory of its day-and-date HD partner.
Shot on a combination of Arri Alexa cameras, ranging from 3.4K and 6.5K resolution levels but later mastered to a 2K digital intermediate, the upscaled transfer lands to home theaters with a near-flawless 2160p picture. Keeping it from perfection, however, are a few trivial instances of aliasing along the sharpest edges and on monitor screens, a tinge of moiré and some extreme wide shots falling on the softer side of things. But overlooking that, the action boasts stunning, razor-sharp clarity in almost every scene. Facial complexions, especially during close-ups, are striking, exposing every wrinkle, pore and negligible blemish with amazing lifelike textures. The individual bricks of buildings are distinct and can practically be counted, the smallest imperfections of buildings are plainly visible, and every little knob and blinking light in the assorted gadgetry within MiB's arsenal is unmistakable. Every hair and stitch in the costumes is well-defined, and the incredible CG work of the various alien creatures are highly detailed.
Better still, the freshly-minted HDR10 presentation equips the fantastical action with a pleasant bump in the overall palette. It may not be quite as a dramatic difference as we've come to expect from the format, but the jump in nonetheless notably appreciated and a welcomed boost on the whole. Primaries lavish nearly every scene with lustrous, electrifying blues in the weapons and the lighting while many nighttime sequences come with a soft cerulean tone due to the orange-and-teal cinematography. Meanwhile, greens are lively and full-bodied, and the reds on some vehicles, lights and Pawny's armor are a deep crimson cherry. But, like its HD SDR counterpart, the most impressive demo-worthy moments are The Twins appear in their true cosmic form, animating the scenes with a mesmerizing feast for the eyes. Their bodies are a swirling spectacle of lush tans, vibrant yellows and rich, fiery red-orange mixed with lilac purples, dazzling lavenders, hot fuschia pinks, blooming greenish teals and cobalt blues.
However, the real win in this 4K video is hands-down the significantly higher dynamic range, greatly heightening overall contrast and brightness, delivering several looking-out-the-window moments and making the presentation feel as though watching in the cinemas again. Not only is the family-friendly action dramatically brighter, but the spot-on, true-to-life whites outfit the visual silliness with more upbeat energy and animation than the 1080p HD version. Seriously, from the MiB offices and the lighting to the agents' clothing and weapons, whites are exceptionally clean and immaculate. Needless to say, specular highlights are equally captivating, outfitting the explosions, the laser guns or the pure-energy alien Twins with intense radiance and crisper, tighter luminosity. Likewise, black levels are inkier and more luxurious, supplying the MiB uniforms and hair with a realistic, velvety shine. Meanwhile, silky, pitch-black shadows penetrate deep into the screen with excellent visibility of the finer details, providing the 2.00:1 image with a three-dimensional feel and a gorgeous cinematic quality.
It's also worth noting since the movie is presented in its original 2.00:1 aspect ratio, CIH enthusiasts will have to make a few adjustments in order to remove the top and bottom black bars. After making such alterations on my system, which ended up with small black bars on the left and right of the screen, I was able to fully enjoy the movie as the filmmaker's intended. (HDR10 Video Rating: 96/100)
The reboot spin-off crash lands into 4K home theaters with an outstanding, demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack that delivers several noteworthy enhancements to its already fantastic DTS-HD MA counterpart, making this the preferred way to enjoy the movie.
The action-comedy comes in peace with excellent directionality and placement in the entire room, placing the viewer right in the middle of the fantastical chaos as various cartoonish noises effectively bounce from the front to the back or from the sides to the ceiling speakers. The sci-fi visuals burst to life with enthusiasm when battles suddenly erupt, particularly the initial fight with The Twins in London or the bonkers street escape in Marrakesh. The laser gunfire fluidly zooms in every direction, debris rains down from above, and the crazy alien vehicles flawlessly pan through the surrounds and the overheads, generating an effectively immersive hemispheric soundfield. In the climactic showdown, the Hive's roar echoes into all the speakers, and the final gun blast reverberates everywhere. As with the Blu-ray, quieter scenes are pretty apparent, but thankfully, the energetic action more than makes up for them.
The fronts, however, are continuously layered with lots of background activity that convincingly moves between the three channels, to the top heights and into the off-screen space, creating a brilliantly broad and spacious half-dome soundstage. The object-based mix also exhibits phenomenally distinct clarity and superb definition in the mid-range, providing the loudest, ear-piercing moments with striking acoustical details and distinction in the upper frequencies. Likewise, Chris Bacon's score and Danny Elfman's now-iconic MiB motif enjoy the extra breathing room, bleeding across the heights and sides with appreciable warmth and splendid accuracy. Aside from the periodic mumbling in Hemsworth's British accent, the dialogue is always precise and well-prioritized amid the mayhem. The low-end is powerfully robust and accurately responsive with a few authoritative moments that provide the visuals some commanding weight and presence, especially in the bombastic climactic battle (bass chart). (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 96/100)
All the special features are contained in the accompanying Blu-ray disc.
Starring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson as the black-suited agents policing the planet from the scum of the universe, F. Gary Gray's Men in Black: International is the fourth entry in the series and a reboot spin-off that's sadly too boring to take off, crash landing with a massive dud despite its fantastical, eye-candy visuals. However, the London branch manages to save the world on 4K Ultra HD with a spectacularly eye-catching, reference-quality HDR10 presentation and a satisfyingly demo-worthy Dolby Atmos soundtrack, effectively neuralizing any memory of its Blu-ray counterpart. Although it arrives with a disappointingly small set of bonuses, the overall UHD package is surprisingly worth a look for the audio and picture quality.