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Barry Sonnenfeld
Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D'Onofrio, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub
Ed Solomon, based on the comic by Lowell Cunningham

Protecting the earth from the scum of the universe.
Box Office:
Budget $90 million.
Opening weekend $84.133 million on 3020 screens.
Domestic gross $326.6 million.
Rated PG-13 for language and sci-fi violence.

Academy Awards:
Won for Best Makeup.
Nominated for Best Art Direction-Set Decoration.

Widescreen 1.85:1/16x9
English Dolby Digital 5.1
English DTS 5.1
English, French, Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Thai, Portuguese

Runtime: 98 min.
Price: $26.95
Release Date: 5/13/2003

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Sony 36" WEGA KV-36FS12 Monitor; Sony DA333ES Processor/Receiver; Panasonic CV-50 DVD Player using component outputs; Michael Green Revolution Cinema 6i Speakers (all five); Sony SA-WM40 Subwoofer.

Men in Black: Superbit (1997)

Reviewed by Colin Jacobson (May 15, 2003)

For those folks keeping track at home, we’re now up to the fifth – that’s right , fifth - DVD release of 1997’s Men In Black. Since this is also my fifth review of MIB on DVD, I’ll keep my preliminary comments brief. Despite all these exposures to the flick, I continue to like it. The movie offers a light and lively piece of fun that works well after repeated viewings.

If you’d like to check out my thoughts about MIB in greater detail, please go back to my original review of the first DVD. Otherwise let’s move on to the technical discussion!

The DVD Grades: Picture B+/ Audio A-/ Bonus F

Men In Black appears in an aspect ratio of approximately 1.85:1 on this single-sided, double-layered DVD; the image has been enhanced for 16X9 televisions. I found all four of the prior MIB discs to look virtually identical, and I didn’t feel any differently about the Superbit version of the flick; it seemed to present visuals that looked the same as those of the earlier releases.

Sharpness generally looked clear and well defined. Only a few wider shots displayed some mild softness. Moiré effects and jagged edges caused no problems, but I did notice some light edge enhancement at times. The print showed a little grain at times, and I also noticed minor instances of speckles and a little grit – most notably during the scene where Edwards chased and met his first alien - but for the most part, the movie seemed clean.

Colors looked accurate and well saturated, with no concerns related to noise or bleeding. I felt the hues could have appeared a bit more bold and daring for this kind of film, but I had no complaints about them. Black levels were deep and dark, and shadow detail generally appeared appropriately dense but not overly opaque. However, some scenes - particularly during the first half of the film - showed slightly excessive heaviness in the shadows. For example the "illegal aliens" segment looked just a little too thick for my liking. Nonetheless, Men In Black presented a very satisfying image as a whole.

The Superbit release of Men In Black included both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 soundtracks. Whereas most prior Superbit versions presented their films with DTS for the first time, MIB got a separate DTS release back in 2000. For the first time, the Superbit edition put both tracks on the same disc. Overall, the two mixes sounded pretty similar, but I did notice some advantages to the DTS track. I’ll cover the Dolby one first and then discuss the differences I perceived.

The soundfield favored the front channels in that those three speakers displayed the most distinct and well-oriented audio. The music showed terrific stereo separation, and effects were placed accurately in the spectrum; when appropriate, sound panned smoothly from channel to channel as well, and the front speakers offered a very active presentation. The rears seemed a bit skimpy on discrete, split-surround information but they made for involved partners nonetheless, as they created a terrific and three-dimensional image. The ship crash toward the end of the film really showed off this track at its best.

Audio quality also seemed very strong. Although some dialogue clearly sounded dubbed, the majority of it appeared well integrated, and the speech always appeared natural and distinct, with no concerns related to intelligibility. Effects came across extremely accurately and clearly; they also displayed some fine low end and could really add a powerful element to the mix. Danny Elfman's score seemed crisp and bright, and it also offered nice bass that gave the track some sweet "oomph".

As mentioned a little earlier, I did detect some minor differences between the two tracks. The DTS version displayed slightly stronger bass response and also was somewhat more involving and encompassing. At times the Dolby mix appeared a little sterile in regard to its soundfield, as the DTS track came across as more full-blooded and rich. Possibly the most notable example of this occurred during the "tunnel" sequence. In both versions, the loud parts - mainly the shots that show the exterior of the car - were pretty similar; both filled the space nicely. However, the quieter interior bits favored the DTS mix, as they provided slightly broader imaging. Ultimately, the differences seemed quite minor; I didn't feel strongly that the DTS mix clearly surpassed the Dolby one, which is why my grade remained the same. However, with all else being equal, the DTS track is the way to go; the improvements are slight, but they exist.

Where the Superbit version of Men In Black most significantly differs from the prior four releases relates to its extras. The others included copious supplements, but this one provides none. I’m somewhat surprised that Columbia didn’t make this one of their “Superbit Deluxe” titles; all they had to do was include the second disc of the Deluxe Edition and there you go. But they didn’t, so this package provides no bonus materials.

And that’s why I prefer the prior releases. After six years and five DVDs, Men In Black continues to entertain. It remains a fun and inventive flick that easily endures multiple viewings. This Superbit DVD provides picture and sound that seem virtually identical of those found on earlier versions, and it totally omits all the extras. Unless you simply must have both Dolby Digital 5.1 and DTS 5.1 on the same disc, I’d pass on the Superbit MIB and buy whichever of the others most interests you. The “Deluxe Edition” from 2002 probably is the best release overall.

To rate this film visit the review of the Deluxe Edition