Men In Black II Review

5 years since agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) has retired from his work at MIB, agent J (Will Smith) is still keeping aliens in the Big Apple at bay and under control. But an angry alien answering to the name of Sereena and shaped like Lara Flynn Boyle has arrived on earth seeking the Light of Zartha – apparently some cosmic Holy Grail – which was shipped off to a distant galaxy by agent K, or was it? Obviously wiping his memory at the end of MIB was not the smartest of moves but with little more than the universe’s future at stake, J goes seeking for K to see if he’ll reintegrate MIB.

Sequels are never easy films to make - you've got a story to continue, a style to retain and try to remain original despite retreading the same ground again. Visually, the film remains quite impressive but given it’s budget that would be the least you’d expect - the aliens’ designs are as good as ever although some of the best ones are used for only a couple of seconds on screen. Things do go pear-shaped however in the plotting which seems to throw in every single sequel cliché – maybe it’s meant to be tongue-in-cheek but you can’t help feeling underwhelmed by the way the plot is unfolding. Worse still the pace is at times completely lost on parallel errands and other excuses for a joke. Humour wise it does retain some of the zany gags of the first instalment but leave you with the vague feeling they were outtakes from MIB.

Performance wise, the leads seem to comfortably work together but seem to have grown slightly disenchanted with the entire project. Granted Jones is supposed to look slightly peeved with life but Smith’s wise-cracking is getting to the point where even kids find him a little passé. Smith’s sidekick - a talking dog called Frank– manages to lower the humour a few notches but really seems to be tagged in for marketing reasons. Thankfully Boyle does add some extra zing to the mix but doesn’t really save the mix becoming a little stolid.

All in all the film itself does keep the meticulous visual power of the first instalment but bar the Michael Jackson cameo you’re left wondering why they ever bothered revisiting a film that was in many ways hard to beat. Of course, MIIB has some good moments and is a pleasant enough comedy but fares poorly in comparison to the first episode…

The DVD:

The image:There’s little to flaw in the image - the master is very clean and artifacting is kept at a minimal level. I did feel that the colours were maybe a little too bland in parts and could have been slightly more vibrant but bar that, it’s a very good transfer.

The sound

:We get a pretty good 5.1 DD mix which makes a good use of the surround effects and shows no real problems. The dialogue is generally quite clear but I found the special sound effects were mixed a little too high. A pretty good soundtrack.

The menus:Each disc features a different set of menus but both of them are very good and keep the MIB sense of humour. The menus are not completely ground breaking but pretty much cutting edge with a lot of work having been put into them…

The extras

:Disc one:Director’s commentary: Barry Sonnenfeld goes to the extent of using a magic pen for his commentary which highlights what he wants you to look at – a pretty effective tool but has the side effect of disabling the subtitles. Sadly the commentary itself is pretty dull and focussing mainly on where they filmed each scene and the special effects used – worth giving a miss unless you’re really into special effects…

Alien Broadcast: Whilst watching the film a logo can appear that when accessed will show you some behind the scenes for that scene –there’s plenty of interviews with members of the cast and crew include in this as well as plenty of involvement from the special effects . It’s an interesting enough feature and can be disabled if required but again it’s very much special effects orientated. There’s no possibility to access this via the menu but with a small amount of remote control wizardry, you can get to watch them without having to watch the film again – each one is filed in a separate title starting at title 3 chapter 1…

MIB training video: A 5 minute long “training” video - seemingly made for the UK audience – which demonstrates how Vernon Kay, Caprice Bourret and Richard Madeley are in fact aliens who’ve assumed human form – amusing enough although a little tedious after a while it’s an interesting addition to the DVD…

Frank’s favo(u)rites

: We get the MIIB teaser and trailer (good anamorphic transfers) as well as some trailers for other films and MIB games…

Disc two:MIIB orb: a bizarre feature that allows you to watch nine behind the scenes documentaries in the order you want – these look at a wide range of topics including the soundtrack, the looping, the design and yes yet again the special effects! By this point theses are starting to retread the same ground and getting pretty redundant – still the image quality is good but filmed in 4:3.

Blooper reel: 5 minutes of outtakes and mess-ups… Despite the film being in 1.85:1 they’ve given us a less than stellar 4:3 transfer with the added bonus of the timecode… Bizarre but entertaining enough.

Serleena Animatic Sequence: a mix of rough computer animation and storyboards which takes us through the opening sequence of Sereena arriving on earth and taking human form. Clocking in at under two minutes, it’s interesting enough although there’s been some bizarre editing on the storyboard with some elements of a magazine being removed – adult humour? libellous material? The transfer is good enough though but despite the aspect ratio we get a 4:3 transfer.

Multiangle sequences: This uses the DVD’s multiangle possibilities to show us 5 scenes at various stages of the special effects development. It’s interesting enough to have a look at although it’s pretty much samey after a while – worth a one-off look.

Alternate ending: A two minute discarding ending (which you see parts of in the trailer) which is just as good as the ending they wound up using. Again we get this strange 4:3 transfer with timecode – the transfer is not too great with the brightness set too high but it’s watchable.

Music Video: The video from Will Smith’s track from the film Black Suits Coming (Nod Ya Head) – a pretty effective video with cameos from most of the alien cast and special effects galore. Given the MTV nature of the video it was filmed and transferred in full frame.

Creature featurettes

: Another set of featurettes on the creatures – by this point the material is getting severely repetitive – but we do get 7 featurettes on different aliens each lasting a few minutes – you’ve got to be obsessed to still be interested in them now! Again the transfer is 4:3 throughout and we also get the bonus of Barry Sonnenfeld’s guide to intergalactic humour – 5 minutes of him explaining how his humour works (or doesn’t – depending on your point of view!)…

Theatrical one-sheets: Four posters that were used to advertise the film.

DVD-rom: These features has the annoying side-effect of crashing my computer (but given that this was a a review copy maybe the full retail version will not do the same)… Still this features a demo of a Doom style game of MIB, more behind the scenes featurettes and concept designs (!!!) and the complete screenplay.

Conclusions:Despite being laden with extras, the DVD does seem to be a bit chaotically assembled as there’s too much crossover between the two discs and the bulk of the extras are not necessarily that interesting. Still the image and sound on the main feature are above par and, whether you want the extras or not, it’s a pretty good release…

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