Before seeing 'Men in Black 3,' I had many concerns. First, Sony originally wasn't going to screen the movie for press until the Thursday night before it opened – which is never a good sign. Last-minute press screenings hint at a studio's lack of faith in a given film. Second, the series doesn't have the best track record, and the initial trailers for 'MIB3' sure didn't make 'MIB3' look like anything special. Fortunately, Sony moved the press screening to a Tuesday, which isn't at all bad, and the advertisements got better with time. Having now seen 'MIB3,' I can tell you that my concerns were for naught, and it makes right all of the franchise's wrongs.
I was a teenager when the original 'Men in Black' opened; therefore, I loved it. Having watched it again recently, it's not the great movie that I once saw it as, but it's still pretty fun and creative. 'Men in Black II,' on the other hand, was a cop-out. Everyone involved with the movie mailed it in. The story was awful, the script was bland, and comedy was nowhere to be found. Lucky for us, 'Men in Black 3' goes back to the creative, fun storytelling style of the first, adds a lot of comedy, and gives it the most complex and playful story of the bunch. Honestly, I'd go as far as to say that 'MIB3' is my favorite of the franchise.
(Does it bother anyone else that the sequel used roman numerals to signify the "two" and that this new three-quel uses the standard number "3," or is it just me?)
Once again, Agent J (Will Smith) is in trouble due to his partner, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). A hate-filled alien named Boris (Jemaine Clement from 'Flight of the Conchords') was imprisoned 40 years ago because of Agent K. Boris' getting caught resulted in his entire alien race becoming extinct – with the exception of Boris himself, of course – so Boris is determined to escape prison, travel back in time, and kill K before K can thwart his attempt to take over the world. As shown in the trailers, Boris is successful in doing so and reality is altered. With a memory mysteriously unaffected by Boris' alternate reality (don't worry, time travel enthusiasts – there's an explanation for it), J must now jump back to 1969, unravel the mystery of K's shrouded past, and stop both the old and young versions of Boris from altering the future and dooming the human race.
By dealing with alternate realities and time travel, 'MIB3' is like the 'Back to the Future II' of the franchise. Time travel is playfully toyed in a very entertaining manner. Along the way, we meet new characters. The of them (played by Michael Stuhlbarg from 'A Serious Man') is the best supporting character of the franchise yet – and he's not even CG like that old pug character! Cameos abound, all of which I'll refrain from spoiling. What I will mention is how awesome Josh Brolin is as the young K. He's absolutely perfect. It's shocking to see how much he resembles Jones, not only in face, but in voice, mannerisms, and details.
By far, the best aspect of 'MIB3' is the grand scale. The ante has been upped, and there's a lot at stake. If J fails, all of humanity is doomed – but that's not it. Have you ever wondered what makes Agents J and K the characters they are? Get ready to dig into a lot of backstory. It's within this aspect of the script that 'MIB3' finds a huge heart that brings the entire trilogy full circle. 'MIB3' may be all about Boris altering the present, but at it's very core it's only about the characters.
If the first 'Men in Black' sequel left you as disappointed and let-down as it did with me, then you're going to love what's done here. The Men in Black are back and they're funnier and wittier than ever, and definitely just as much entertaining as they've ever been. Including my first theatrical screening and now viewing both the 2D and 3D versions on Blu-ray, I've seen 'Men in Black 3' three times. I thoroughly enjoyed it the first time and only fell in love with it more after the recent Blu-ray double-dose. I cannot guarantee that you'll find it to be the best of the trilogy, like I do, but I can guarantee that you will find it an entertaining cap on the series – that is, assuming they don't go for a fourth.
The Blu-ray: Vital Disc Stats
Sony has given 'Men in Black 3' three different home video releases: 3D Blu-ray, 2D Blu-ray and standard DVD. Each upgraded version carries at least two special features more than the lower version. For this review, I watched the 3D version and all of the special feature that came along with it.
The 3D packaging begins with a lenticular slipcover featuring Will Smith front and center and Josh Brolin over one shoulder, Tommy Lee Jones over the other. While it doesn't exactly match the covers of the first two, it's similar enough that I don't mind the variance on my shelf. The 3D set features one 3D BD-50, one 2D BD-50, one DVD and a code for redeeming an Ultraviolet copy of the film. In essence, you're getting four different mediums of release with one purchase. The three-disc set has caused the clear keepcase to be a little thicker than usual. When you make your purchase, be sure to shake the case and listen for any rattling. When I opened mine, the clear hard plastic two-sided hinge that carries the Blu-ray discs was slightly broken on the inner ring clasp, causing one disc to float around in the case. Luckily, there was enough paperwork stuffed inside (ads, Ultraviolet code sheet, etc.) that it didn't give the disc a range of motion that would result in scratching. Upon inserting the 3D Blu-ray, the only thing that plays before the main menu is a 3D trailer for 'The Amazing Spider-Man.'
When I first screened 'MIB3' theatrically, it was shown on a Dolby 3D screen. The 3D presentation wasn't the best, but it wasn't awful either. However, I have to speak differently about the 3D Blu-ray presentation because it is sharp, bright, colorful and deep. I don't ever recall be impressed by the theatrical 3D, but it's the opposite with the Blu-ray.
My biggest beef with the theatrical 3D was that some shots – not many, but some – carried the look of a pop-up book: flat images layered one on top of the other. I never once had that impression with the Blu-ray. Believe me – I was looking for it. The third dimensional elements transition smoothly into the distance. For example, one shot on the sandy beaches of Cape Canaveral show the surface of the ocean disappear far off into the horizon. Each footprint leading up to the gentle ocean waves appears to slowly get farther and farther into the background. When K pushes a secret button and his living opens up to reveal a hidden arsenal, the room protrudes deeper into the usual 3D background. The 3D element also plays with images in the foreground. During one shot in the intro, as a character peers through a small barred visor into a prison cell, we get his point-of-view shot with the highly blurred bars so close in the foreground that you wouldn't be able to focus on them even if they weren't already blurred. These effects are constantly good, enhancing the moments that could really benefit from them – like the time "jump."
I seem to recall the theatrical experience appearing a tad too dark. The daytime shots appeared like the lazy filtered ones that some directors try to pass off as nighttime shots. This problem is non-existent with the 3D Blu-ray. Again, knowing that it was a problem before, I was looking for it on this go-around. Having watched both the 2D and 3D Blu-rays, I can say that the 3D presentation is slightly darker than that of the 2D – but the difference is minimal. Along these same lines, the bright hippie colors are able to remain explosive and vibrant through the darkened 3D lenses.
Through it all, fine details remain clearly visible. From the pores on actors' faces (which, unfortunately, show Tommy Lee Jones' age) to each individual strand of Emma Thompson's crazy hairdo, it's all visible. This heightened amount of detail does great justice for the knock-out visual effects. None of this would be commendable were it not for the immaculate clarity of this transfer and the complete absence of compression errors.
While I was initially disappointed that 'MIB3' did not get a 7.1 audio mix, I'm almost completely satisfied with the 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio mix presented here. From the opening credits sequence on, it's apparent that we're getting something great.
The film kicks off with a modernized version of the classic Danny Elfman theme. All sounds just fine until the heavy electric guitar kicks in, at which point it begins to sound spectacular. Music is dynamically mixed throughout the entire picture. Combine that with the great amount of strong effects and you've really got something great. When we first see them, it's fun to hear sounds of the technologically advance and upgraded weapons. There's a new futuristic ring to them that sounds great. When J goes back to 1969, the retro MIB weapons carry a completely different sound, one of humming and vibrating moving parts. The same goes for vehicles.
I'm no car expert. The closest I come to a being a car guy is watching 'Top Gear' on BBC America. I couldn't tell you what model car K and J drive in 2012, but the hyperdrive engine that it carries emits an awesome LFE-laden effect when it is fired up. Oddly enough, the Ford Galaxy they drive in 1969 (I only know the model because it was stated in a special feature) carries an even deeper sound with a much more rumbly LFE than the 2012 version. My only guess is that the 2012 version was a hybrid.
The vocal aspect of the mix is also outstanding. The majority of the vocal mix is great and average – that is, with the exception of Boris. Jemaine Clement's voice is so deep and rich that it almost sounds like two or three voices stacked one on the other. The bass that he exudes is so deep that I can only assume that it is the result of post-production. Either way, it sounds phenomenal.
My only complaint with this audio mix is that on several occasions there seems to be a lull in the all around sound. This isn't due to a flaw, but it's simply a lacking quality in the audio that is normally present. There's almost always something to hear in the audio, but a few scenes (one in specific being the jet pack introduction in MIB headquarters) seem too quiet.
Completely disregarding the existence of the forgettable first sequel, 'MIB3' comes out of nowhere and really ups the ante, giving it a coherent and complex story, lovable original characters, a great big heart, and a whole lot of fun. 'Men in Black 3' is the franchise's best. Only making it better is this near-perfect Blu-ray set. While the 3D video quality is absolutely flawless, it's the barely-lacking audio that knocks it out of "perfect" status in my book. The quality and type of special features match that of the previous two Blu-rays, giving the franchise release consistency (aside from the fact that 'MIB3' is the only one available in 3D). If I didn't already own it, the 3D Blu-ray release of 'Men in Black 3' would definitely be on my Christmas wish-list. Highly recommended.
Portions of this review also appear in our coverage of Dunkirk on Blu-ray. This post features unique Vital Disc Stats, Video, and Final Thoughts sections.