Men in Black 1997
Today I’m gonna be talking about the 1997 sci-fi comedy film: Men in Black.
Men in Black stars Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Linda Fiorentino, and Vincent D’Onofrio and was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. It’s loosely adapted from a short-lived comic book and tells the story of a secret government agency, known as The Men in Black, which is tasked with protecting the Earth from aliens and other intergalactic threats. Agent K, played by Tommy Lee Jones, is a senior agent who recruits Will Smith’s Agent J. It’s not long before the Earth is threatened by aliens and the pair must do everything they can to save the world. The mid-90s were a good time for Will Smith and a bad time for aliens. Between Independence Day and Men in Black, audiences sure got their fill of both.
While Independence Day was a sci-fi action film with a generally serious tone. Men in Black was able to fill the sci-fi comedy niche fairly well. In fact, it was quite the genre-blending film. Sometimes mixing too many genres together or even just the wrong pairing of genres can result in a movie that feels choppy and unfocused. But, Men in Black manages to successfully meld a variety of genres; combining sci-fi action with a gross-out chills and buddy cop comedy. I’ll admit, I’ve never read the comics, though it’s my understanding that the film has a very different plot and tone. And so, while I’m sure the more serious nature of the comics made for a very interesting story, I’m so happy they went the way they did with the movie. It’s just such an incredibly fun film. And really, I think it has something for just about everybody.
It’s got the comedy, it’s got the action, it’s got dashes of horror, romance, and mystery sprinkled throughout, all steeped very heavily in science fiction. For me, the premise is one of the driving forces of this film. Anytime there’s a story involving a secret organization or society, I’m in. The idea that groups can exist and conduct business, while the rest of the population remains completely oblivious is both unsettling and extremely cool. And with this film, we’re on both sides of that.
I kinda have a thing for origin stories and this movie essentially serves as J’s. J’s great and really funny, but this movie wouldn’t be close to as entertaining as it is without K. That mismatched buddy cop pairing is what really produces the humor in this film. The basic interplay between their characters isn’t anything exceptionally unique. You’ve probably seen it in another dozen movies: the job-hardened stoic veteran paired up with the cocky wise-cracking rookie. But between the chemistry that these two have together and the possibilities that the premise and setting allow for, this is definitely one of my favorite unlikely pair partnerships. Sci-fi and comedy, especially when combined, don’t always age the best. Jokes and references that were funny and relevant ten, twenty years ago might not play the same way today.
Futuristic technology and special effects that were state of the art might look like first-draft renders by today’s standards. But, I gotta say, Men in Black still holds up. The CGI, while fairly rudimentary, doesn’t look bad and most of the jokes still land. Even the story holds up. Over the years, I’ve probably watched this movie twenty or twenty-five times and even on this most recent rewatch, I still found the whole mystery of Orion’s Belt to be satisfying. I’ve liked this movie since I was a kidÖ just hearing that opening Danny Elfman score still gets me excited, but this is a movie that I think I’ve grown to like even the more the older I’ve gotten and the more times I’ve watched it. Alright, let’s talk about the pros and cons. Pro number one is really simple: it’s fun.
The secret government agency angle is fun, but there’s just so much world-building beyond that. All the different alien races, the technology and gadgets, even the specifics of the environment at Men in Black Headquarters. It all works together to create a fantastical, yet still believable story.
On the con side, my gripes are really minor. The only thing that was noticeably a con for me during this rewatch was some of the physical comedy, particularly with Will Smith. Much of it’s enjoyable, even some goofy stuff like the encounter with Reggie and his wife. But some of it gets very overly slapstick or plays out for too long on screen and loses its humor, like the car scene in the tunnel for instance. I’m gonna give Men in Black 4 out of 5 paws. This is a movie that I always underestimate. I always forget just how much I like it. But, no matter how many times I watch it, I still have a really great time with it.
I would recommend Men in Black to just about anybody. Certainly fans of sci-fi comedy, aliens, or Will Smith will get quite a bit of enjoyment out of this one, but its blend of genres almost ensures that everybody will be able to find something they like about the movie. If you liked Men in Black, I’ve gotta recommend Independence Day for the obvious connections I made at the beginning of the review: Will Smith and aliens. It has a slightly more serious tone than this film, but definitely still has plenty of humor throughout. I would also recommend Kingsman: The Secret Service, which features a similar secret-agency-recruits-rookie plot.
There aren’t any aliens, but there’s plenty of action and comedy. Alright, a couple of questions for you guys. Number one: Have you seen Men in Black? If so, what’d you think of it? And number two: Do you think that little Tiffany seemed suspicious with her quantum physics books? Be sure to leave your answers in the comments below so we can get a discussion going. Alright, so if you got some enjoyment, insight, or information out of this review.