The word ‘cool’ will be liberally used around this DVD by the target market
of 18 – 35 year old (mainly) males. But this DVD is much more than a cool piece of
entertainment around a fun movie – a movie that sprang from a comic, one of the great
(and often underrated) repositories of writing invention. The ultimate DVD on its release,
Men In Black provides its worldwide audience an entirely new experience of its own
‘culture’ as well as a lesson in filmmaking that stretches from the simple to
the extraordinarily complex.
As the list of features at left signals, either version of the DVD is worth owning. Of
course, the film itself, whether in full screen (pan and scan) or widescreen, is a joy to
see and hear. It’s funny and dynamic, and sitting so close to it, there is a new
verve in many of the scenes. It certainly stands repeated vieweing – even by those
like me who are a little outside its prime target demographics (by a generation or so).
Some of the features are for the seriously obsessed: like the scene deconstruction in
Creating MIB, which devotes 10 – 15 minutes to each scene, allowing you to go from
one layer (like storyboard) to the next, all the way up (to final cut). This is as good as
film school at home gets. Oh, no, actually the scene editing workshop is even better:
there are three scenes to play with (yes, I know, you could handle a dozen…) and it
redefines ‘interactive’ as a description for DVD features.
In fact, we get the feeling that there are even more ideas being thrown around here
than could be contained within the movie. We see the extent of creativity beyond the
frame; we see just how much invention and energy went into this film. For example,
discussion raged for eight months on just how should the Edgar bug punch Will Smith during
their fight scene (bug fight deconstruction with angle options). Director Barry Sonnenfeld (pic)
finally won his case against the FX guys: he wanted it jokey, a human-like
‘roundhouse’ punch. It may seem a trifle excessive, but it’s symbolic.
Even the photo gallery, a standard enough DVD feature, excels by its sheer variety and
The menus – which alone cost an extra US$250,000 – are superbly stylised;
they are imaginative and in keeping with the film’s design themes. The oh-so-cool
music video is … well, oh-so-cool, and the creature feature (concept to completion)
is a wonderful insight into the alien world conjured up by the film.
Then there are the two commentary versions; in the first, director Sonnenfeld and Tommy
Lee Jones are silhouetted (small) against the screen, their body language adding an extra
element to their comments. It’s all very ad-lib, almost like a double act, and
The technical commentary has Sonnenfeld again with a team of four, including Rick Baker
(make up effects artist), who is responsible for the aliens. This is all detailed material
that will appeal to the ardent fans – and movie buffs.
Baker explains, for example, how Mikey, the first alien we see in the movie, is made
– and why. And there is a brilliant explanation of how that marvellous ‘best of
the best of the best’ aptitude test scene was developed, in which Will Smith is the
only guy – out of all the trained military boys, etc – to think outside the
Like his character, the makers of the film and this DVD deserve a ‘best of the
best of the best’ medal.
There is enough information on this DVD to spawn an entire trivial quiz game of its
own. Perhaps two.
Andrew L. Urban
MEN IN BLACK & HOW DVD IS CHANGING MOVIES
A movie on DVD is not just another form of video: it offers the filmmakers unprecedented opportunities to use everything they shot and more - and talk directly to their audience. Men in Black - released worldwide on September 5, 2000 - comes in two versions, including a Limited Edition with 13 hours of entertainment on the DVD and will impact on filmmaking and alter our consumption of movies, says Andrew L. Urban.
Our Cover Story: August 31, 2000