When the first 'Men in Black' opened, I was obsessed with it. As a teenager, I loved that sort of thing - fun science fiction comedies. When 'Men in Black II' was released five years later in 2002, I was shocked at how mild it was. After five whole years, couldn't they come up with something better than this? Apparently not.
Everything that was done well in the original 'Men in Black' wasn't done well in 'MIB II.' The story is so skimpy that a huge amount of non-related padding is installed. Even then, it only runs a measly 88 minutes – and that's including the long and pointless opening credits sequence and the five-plus minutes of closing credits.
The movie itself wouldn't be so bad if it wasn't chock full of filler. The villain in the movie, Serleena (played by a sexy lingerie-clad Lara Flynn Boyle), is looking for something called The Light of Zartha – or, as I like to call it, "The MacGuffin of MIB." To get it, she has infiltrated the MIB headquarters. Only one person knows where it is, and therein lies the problem. Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) knows where it is hidden, but he has since retired and had his mind wiped clean. When Agent J (Will Smith) pulls K out of retirement and has his memory unscrambled, they learn that K had it completely wiped for good. This plot is full of time-wasting. 'MIB II' wouldn't be so bad if it held the same elements that made the first one so good, but it's hollow.
Serleena's sidekick is played by a two-headed Johnny Knoxville who is only there for stunt casting. His character simply disappears in the final act without any rhyme or reason and is given no closure whatsoever. Repeat characters are brought back from the first movie just so we can say, "Hey, there's that one alien again," when in reality all it shouts is, "Hey, we're not too creative, so we're banking off the first movie instead of inventing new iconic things for the series." The one sub-plot shown at the beginning of the movie is corny and lame, obviously only there to set up something pointless to be used again later in the movie. Michael Jackson's cameo is bad. Product placement riddles the movie in epic Michael Bay proportions. Gags that are used to draw laughs aren't worthy of laughter at (like the part where K and J are literally "flushed"). The anticlimactic ending is devoid of intensity. The heart and soul of the first 'MIB' is absent. 'MIB II' is a shameless studio paycheck franchise, which has me really worries for the upcoming 'MIB III' - which I really want to be good. If it took 26 minutes to get K back into 'MIB II,' with a plot revolving around his death and time travel, how long is it going to take to get to his character in 'MIB III?'
When I popped in the disc for 'MIB II,' I realized that the only thing I could remember from the one time I had seen it was Lara Flynn Boyle's "lingeralien." Seeing it now for a second time, it hit me how utterly forgettable this movie is. For me, 'MIB II' is the 'Mission: Impossible II' of this franchise (so far). While founded on greatness, the second movie is an absurd cop-out that wouldn't be missed on my Blu-ray shelf even if I owned every other installments. Completing the series means nothing because these sequels aren't worth revisiting. Unless you're a die-hard collector or you are unapologetic about your love of the franchise, then – even despite its strong video/audio qualities and ample special features - this is a skippable disc.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
'Men In Black II' has been placed on a Region A/B/C BD-50 in a combo pack that includes a code for unlocking an Ultraviolet digital copy. The packaging itself is very nice, which ought to make the collectors happy. Images have been printed on the backside of the cover art sheet and are visible through the keepcase. A neat cardboard slipcase is includes that features a nice black matte finished with the reflective Roman numeral II in the background. Two annoying stickers are slapped on the front of the keepcase – one for the 'MIB' PS3 video game demo that's included on the Blu-ray and another for the included voucher for a free $10 movie ticket to see 'Men In Black III' – but each, if done slowly and carefully, can be removed without leaving a trace. Good luck. Nothing but a Sony vanity reel plays before the main menu.
The Columbia logo that kicks off the new 1080p/AVC MPEG-4 transfer of 'MIB II' had me worried. During this vanity reel, the image isn't at all sharp, it seems to jitter around and show the movie's age. But, luckily, everything after it is pretty good.
The print used for the transfer has been almost entirely cleaned up. There are very few specks of dirt or grime within the image. 99.9 percent of the picture is completely clean and clear. The sharpness of the image is very strong, but occasionally shifts soft. The soft scenes carry a hazy look that botches up the strong black levels and blurs fine details. But when the video is strong, it's strong. The amount of detail is so high that it makes all the cheesy CG effects look extra bad.
Those flaws ding the score a bit, but there's one specific thing that knocks it down the rest of the way to a three-and-a-half star rating – fleshtones. It's a given that many of the aliens are going to have funky fleshtones, but everyone else? Tommy Lee Jones isn't an alien and his face tends to carry a lifeless gray color. This happens with almost all skintones, they appear eerily lifeless. This flaw doesn't fluctuate, it's constant.
There aren't any instances of artifacts, aliasing, banding or noise. Edge enhancement and DNR have not been applied. The only other video issue is a slight side-to-side shift of the frame at the 11:40 mark.
Various foreign 5.1 Dolby Digital tracks are featured, but the English track is only available in impressive 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio that perfectly hides the movie's age. This bassy mix is almost always loud and dynamic. The filmmakers must have known how strong their mix was because there's are two special features dedicated to it.
Danny Elfman's rich score is playfully bounced around the theater in this lossless mix and it truthfully could not sound any better. The effects are also used in an impressive manner, utilizing the surround and rear channels just as frequently as the fronts and center. Imaging is frequently and properly used and LFE is applied at all of the right times.
The vocal track is clear and lifelike, not a single word being trumped by music of effects. If only the same amount of love had been put into the video quality as it is the audio.
Please note that while all of the special features are technically presented in HD, not a single one has been remastered, so it still looks and sounds like SD.
Being a fan of the first 'Men In Black,' it's disappointing to watch 'MIB II' and see the filmmakers mail it in. Not only is bad story stretched thin, but it relies on everything from the first movie for entertainment value. Nothing new or creative is added to the mix. It capitalizes on the same things as the first. Although not nearly as unoriginal a sequel as 'The Hangover Part II,' it features those exact same problems. The video quality is stronger than most catalog titles, but has its flaws. However, the remastered audio is quite spectacular. If you're a fan of the franchise, you're going to love the fully loaded special features section. All in all, this is a very strong Blu-ray release. If only the movie itself had been better.