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Men In Black: Limited Edition

review by Zach B.



Rated PG-13

Running Time: 98 Minutes

Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Rip Torn, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio

Studio: Columbia/Tri-Star

Screen Story and Screenplay by Ed Solomon
Based on the comic by Lowell Cunningham

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld


Retail Price: 39.99

Features: Video Commentary with Barry Sonnenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones, Deleted and Extended Scenes, "Metamorphosis Of Men In Black" Featurette, Promotional 1997 Making-Of Featurette, Multi-Angle Visual Effects Demonstration of the "Tunnel Scene", Storyboard-to-Screen Comparisons, Storyboard Gallery, Conceptual Art Gallery, Interactive Character Animation Studies, Will Smith and Mikey "Men In Black" Music Video, Talent Files, Theatrical Trailers, Commentary with Barry Sonnenfeld and Special Effects Team, Interactive Scene Editing Workshop, "Creatures: Concept To Completion" Featurette, Additional Conceptial Art Gallery, Additional Production Photos, Multi-Angle Effects Comparison, 12 Page Booklet, Reproduction Concept Drawing, DVD-ROM: Weapons of MIB, Devices of MIB, 3-D Exploration of MIB Headquartes, Resident Alien Tracking, MIB Game, Weblinks

Specs: 1.85:1 Anamorphic Widescreen, 1.33:1 Pan and Scan, 5.1 Dolby Digital English, English Dolby Surround, Fench Dolby Surround, English Captions, French Cpations, Spanish Captions, Mandarin Captions, Cantonese Captions, Chapter Search (27 Chapters), Two Disc Set

Another incredibly anticipated DVD title, "Men In Black" was supposed to be out long ago... if it weren't for Spielberg who was unsure of the DVD format and decided not to release any of his or Amblin titles on DVD (since then he's been giving in). It's been a long wait, and DVD fans have been pretty pumped for this release.

Based on the cult comic book, "Men In Black" was the top movie of the summer of 1997, raking in a good, cool 250 million. It was also the most successful Columbia Pictures movie of all time. It also gave Will Smith the nickname "King of Summer" or whatnot due to the previous success of 1996's Independence Day (but he later bombed with "Wild Wild West").

The whole idea and plot of "Men In Black" is quite simple, really. A cop named Jay becomes a member of a top secret government agency which investigates alien and phenomena on Earth. He is teamed with Kay, and it's up to them to stop a raging evil.

Barry Sonnenfeld, a former cinematographer and successful director ("The Adams Family", "Adams Family Values) directed "Men In Black", and I think it is because of him the movie works so well. His direction and vision is superb, and really makes the film feel like something special. The cast is very good, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith have great chemistry. The sets and design aspect of the film is really nice, and the special effects are really good. They make the film pretty fun, and it's all coursety of Industrial Light and Magic.

There are three versions of Men In Black. One a Dolby Digital release, one a DTS release, and one a Limited Edition release with a few more fantastic bells and whistles. This Limited Edition should not disappoint at all and was worth the wait.

This Limited Edition release of "Men In Black" has two formats of viewing (the only release of the movie to feature two). An anamorphic widescreen display of 1.85:1, and pan and scan of 1.33:1. The transfer is breathtaking, at best. The image is a little soft, but the transfer I expected is the usual excellent Columbia standard. Colors pop right out at you, fleshtones are remarkable and detail is vivid as well as clear. The picture is really crisp too. The only complaint I have is the grain which came up now and then, but other than that, this transfer will please everyone who views it. The pan and scan transfer however loses some parts of key shots.

A movie like this was simply MADE for 5.1 audio. This is an action movie. Yes, there is dialogue, but there are many cool effects and sounds. The music makes good use of the channels, as well as crashes, blasts, flying sounds... you name it. This will rock your speakers, you can feel the sound bouncing all over the place. Bass is very good here, as well as fidelity. This mix is really creative, and fits the movie perfectly. No one will be disappointed here either. There is also English and French Dolby Surround tracks.

While the transfer and audio shine, the features are out of this world (sorry for the stupid joke). This Limited Edition features more features than the standard, so this may very well be your cup of tea.

First off, there is a Commentary with Barry Sonnenfeld and Tommy Lee Jones. This is one of the better commentaries I have heard lately, and it is one of those "video" commentaries we've come to see from Columbia, the Mystery Science Theater 3000 type where you see the sillouttes of the people. This track is pretty entertaining, and the two discuss the joys and work of the making of the film. You're sure to pick up some nice knowledge of the movie by listening to the track.

Deleted Scenes... pretty self explanitory. Here you'll see what didn't make the final cut of the film, and you can see why. They are pretty short in total, and some are extended as well as alternate versions of what appears in the movie. A nice touch to see what we were missing out on.

"Metamorphosis of 'Men in Black' Documentary runs under a half hour and shows how the movie was brought from the comic page to the silver screen. Pretty interesting to watch and it does feature interviews.

There is also a short, promotional Featurette which runs around seven minutes and is pure fluff to advertise the movie.

One of the most notable scenes in the film was the tunnel scene, and the Multi-Angle Deconstruction of it is really cool to check out. It uses the angle feature on your DVD player, and shows how difficult and big of a special effects task is to make something like it. There is also an optional commentary from the ILM crew, and you can see five different stages of how it was brought to life.

Character Animation Studies also uses the angle feature to show you three different characters and how the animators created them with different layers. Much like the tunnel scene's effect, it shows the process of what animators do and how it is done.

Storyboard Comparisons are used for three different scenes, and are the basic storyboards on one half of the screen to the final product on the other half. You can also view Storyboards seperatley in a gallery.

The Conceptual Art Gallery features some great original artwork, and how all designs featured went in or differ from what can be found in the final film. There are 3-D Models, paintings, sketches. It's also a good view.

Production Photo Gallery has a bunch of photos of the people behind the scenes, such as animators, costume desiners and art people. These are some really good photos and introduce us to those who worked on the creative side of the movie.

There are the usual Talent Files which points out Sonnenfeld's and the cast's key moments in the industry and basic info, as well as Theatrical Trailers. One is the Men in Black Teaser, one is the full Men in Black trailer and the other is a Men In Black II teaser, which actually has a different voice over to hype a little about the sequel and uses footage from the original teaser. The trailers for the original are a bit rough and could have used a little cleaning up, but they're not terrible. There also trailers for the home video release of Ghostbusters and theatrical trailers for Starship Troopers and The Mask of Zorro, among another. There is also the hit music video, Men In Black with Will Smith and Mikey.

There are also some neat DVD-ROM features. Beside the basic Weblinks, you can take a peek at the Men In Black HQ (you need Quicktime VR, though) as well as MIB Weapons and Devices. There's also a Game and Resident Alien Tracking.

That rounds out what's in the basic releases, but there's more in the Limited Edition...

There's another Commentary which has Sonnenfeld, Rick Baker and the Industrial Light and Magic Team. This track is screen specific, and points out things in the movie on a more technical side. This is a very good track as they all discuss the special effects and computer magic which made a good majority of the film possible. If you have any interest in computer graphics or special effects, be sure to listen to this track, you'll get a lot out of it.

Creautres: Concept To Completion is a gallery of five characters from the film, and show them morphing from sketches to real time images. It's an excellent feature which shows another part of the creative process of the movie.

Another Deconstruction, this one only on the Limited Edition features another key scene, the Edgar Bug Fight Scene. This one also has an optional ILM commentary, and you use your angles to show five different stages of the production. Again, it's pretty neat.

There are some Additional Concept Art and Gallery Photos, as well as Exclusive Production Photos as an added bonus and to give us a little bit more about the production and development of the movie through pictures.

Finally, what I think is the best feature and really fun, is the Interactive Scene Editing Workshop. Here you can edit three scenes, each with three different shots and parts, and see how they turn out. This is a really clever feature, nothing that's ever been done on DVD. It's really fun, and pretty cool to then compare it to how Sonnenfeld did it. Sonnenfeld gives an intro to this (pretty egotisitical... thinks his is perfect) as well. My only complaints, however, is that the scenes are short (understandable, due to the nature and space of the disc), and some shots appear rough. This makes it a bit uneven. Say you choose a few different shots. One looks perfectly fine with some flaws, while the other is a really rough used shot, and then it switches back or it also looks different. I understand some of these shots were not used for the film and have just been sitting around, but they could have been cleaned up to give it a more perfect and natural feel. Still, it's a fun feature sure to get the director in you going.

To round off this set is a 12 Page Color Booklet citing features from the DVD as well as art, photos and background on the movie. There is also a Concept Art Poster with a signature from Sonnenfeld and the artist inside.

As far as other things on the disc go, I was pretty happy that Sonnenfeld played such a big part in this DVD release and cared what went in and offered much insight (but why not with "The Adams Family" with Paramount!?). The Interactive Menus are also really nice, perfectly fitting in with the movie itself. These menus stand out and are really nice to look at. The Packaging is also pretty nice. It resembles a hardcover book of sorts and when you open it, there is one disc at each side, and the inserts between them. Very nice.

This is all your choice now. Don't care about features or sound so much? Go with the standard Dolby Digital. Like DTS a alot? Check out the standard DTS release. Love those extras? This DVD version is the one for you. Outstanding picture and sound, and remarkable and creative features, Men In Black: Limited Edition is one for your collection. Go out and get this puppy!

(4/5, NOT included in final score)




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