These guys were facing off against aliens, before that was even cool.
Working for a highly-funded yet unofficial government agency, K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) are the Men In Black, providers of immigration services and regulators of all things alien on Earth. While investigating a series of unregistered close encounters, the MIB agents uncover the deadly plot of an intergalactic terrorist who is on a mission to assassinate two ambassadors from opposing galaxies currently in residence in New York city.
So with Men in Black III coming out soon, I thought it would be a nice idea to go back and check out the first one that not only did I love as a kid, but so did every other kid around me. Sad to see how things change as you grow older, and then become a d-bag movie critic.
Director Barry Sonnenfeld did a pretty good job with this material, which is based on a comic book series that’s full of darkness and violence, by making it somewhat light and fluffy with humor and slime instead. There was plenty of jokes to go around in this flick and I liked that because it showed that the film didn’t really take itself too seriously, which was never more serious than it needed to be at all in the first place. I mean you have two guys dressed in ALL black, going around looking for aliens: how much goofier can you get? Liked the tone of this film because it could have easily fallen apart by taking a serious look at the world of alien hunting. It’s actually more cool than it is goofy, but I think it’s all in a day’s work and that’s all that really mattered to me.
What really took me away was the fact that Rick Baker‘s art direction was something only he could do. Baker is a dude that’s known for doing all of the make-up and costume features on plenty of films ranging from Tim Burton’s Planet of the Apes, The Nutty Professor, and the one he just recently won an Oscar for, The Wolfman. If you have watched any of those three, you will notice that this guy isn’t messing around when it comes to making some crazy make-up look real and this is probably one of his best examples. Whether it’s the giant bug Edgar, or the little worm aliens with the Mexican accents, or even Jack Jeebs, Baker’s detail to make-up and costumes look funny, scary, and surprisingly, very believable. This was one of the main selling points of the flick when it first came out and it’s understandable as to why because they still hold up in today’s day and age of constant IMAX 3D flicks filled with CGI out the wahzoo, coming out almost every weekend.
What I was a little bummed out by this film was that a lot of this just feels very generic, which is mainly due to the plot. The plot is so 1-2-3 that you can usually tell everything that’s going to happen within the first 5 minutes and even though it’s not as bad here as it is with plenty of other flicks of this nature, I still couldn’t get past that I wasn’t really going to see any surprises. Still, I think it’s Sonnenfield’s direction that kept my mind off of this problem for a short time anyway. Speaking of short time, the film is only 98 minutes long and it actually went by pretty quick, even though I do think they could have done a little bit more developing when it came to the characters and just what exactly their main objective was. I get that they were going after the one big, bad alien dude but I don’t know how he was going to tear down the galaxy. Hmmm, maybe it’s just a mystery I’ll never know about.
Where I think this film really worked well with was the two performances from Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K and Will Smith as Agent J. This is one of those polar-opposite, buddy-buddy combinations we see all of the time in these types of flicks but it’s so much fun to watch here because of the type of performers Jones and Smith both are. Jones’ sense of comedy (or lack thereof) is very dry and sometimes non-existent, while Smith is constantly up in everybody’s grill, making slang jokes at everybody he meets and is constantly just shoving his attitude in other peoples’ faces. They both make a good team together because they work well and you can tell that they both do have chemistry, even though the film doesn’t really focus on it all that much. But hey, at least they’re having fun.
Vincent D’Onofrio‘s performance as Edgar was pretty impressive when it came to his physical stature, like how he moved his body and neck in some crazy places, but he really just left me feeling uncomfortable every time he was on-screen. I don’t really think that was any problem with D’Onofrio at all, as it was more of the writing that made him look and feel like an uncomfortable, dirty slob that looks like he hasn’t bathed in years. It was also pretty bad to see Linda Fiorentino absolutely do nothing with the character she was given as Dr. Laurel Weaver. Yeah, I know that the female character in any action movie isn’t really supposed to be a big role by any means, but you could at least try and make it the least memorable instead of just making it seem like you obviously don’t want to be there with you dry deliver and “phoning it in” looks from start to finish. Never really been impressed by this chick and it’s really no surprise that she hasn’t done much in the past decade.
Consensus: Men in Black is what you would expect: funny, light, filled with cool-looking special effects and monsters from Rick Baker, and entertaining but is also very light on plot, which doesn’t really bring up many surprises as it goes along. However, it’s a flick that will always be in my childhood.