Men in Black is the rare breed of a sci-fi blockbuster that film audiences don’t really get the opportunity to see anymore in theaters.
The gist of Men in Black is that there is a secret government agency protecting us from intergalactic threats. After making contact in 1961, MIB would allow alien refugees to live in New York City. It’s not quite as simple as this. We’re quickly introduced to Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and a retiring Agent D (Richard Hamilton) as the duo work a case along the Mexican border. While this is happening, police officer James Darrell Edwards III (Will Smith) learns that there’s a bigger world than he knows about. Before we know it, he’s being recruited by to be his new partner.
Back to the intergalactic threats, the threat at hand for MIB is none other than Edgar the Bug (Vincent D’Onofrio). He’s chasing after “The Galaxy.” Not much is known about the Galaxy other than getting in the wrong hands would lead to disaster on Earth. Two dead aliens end up in Dr. Laurel Weaver’s (Linda Fiorentino) office. One of them just happens to be Rosenberg (Mike Nussbaum)–a member of the Arquillian royal family. A dying Rosenberg informs J Dr. Weaver that “to prevent war, the galaxy is on Orion’s belt.” Figuring this out certainly will not be easy. It’s going to require the help of MIB informants such as Frank the Pug. Frank is no ordinary pug but an alien in disguise.
Tommy Lee Jones lends Agent K a sense of dry humor. The chemistry with Will Smith’s Agent J works so well because of their interplay. The two couldn’t be more different with what they bring to their characters. I give a lot of credit to Barry Sonnenfeld’s direction from Ed Solomon’s script. This is a film where every single thing must come together. To say that it does would certainly not be an understatement.
The MIB headquarters is a feat in its own right. It’s exactly what you’d imagine the place to be with aliens seeking refuge or just wanting to tour the planet. The film’s Oscar-nominated art direction holds up to this day.
The film came around at a time when Will Smith was becoming quite the box office draw. After all, this film would see its theatrical release just a year after Independence Day. Will Smith, aliens, and a holiday release in July–what could possibly go wrong? Thankfully, the answer is nothing can go wrong. The fact that this film holds up is a testament to Rick Baker and David LeRoy Anderson’s special effects. You can’t go wrong with Danny Elfman’s catchy tunes, either. You know they were doing something right when you find yourself humming the theme song after watching the film.
Men in Black would become one of the best sci-fi comedies in years upon its release in 1997.
DIRECTOR: Barry Sonnenfeld
SCREENWRITER: Ed Solomon
CAST: Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rip Torn