Men in Black (1997)

men in black poster 1997 movie
8.0 Overall Score
Story: 7/10
Acting: 7/10
Visuals: 9/10

Interesting concept, looks good

Too short, not a huge Will Smith fan

Movie Info

Movie Name:  Men in Black

Studio:  Amblin Entertainment

Genre(s):  Sci-Fi/Fantasy/Action/Adventure/Comedy/Comic Book

Release Date(s):  July 2, 1997

MPAA Rating:  PG-13


We’ve been slimed!!!

Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is a member of the hidden agency known as the Men in Black whose duty it is to monitor extraterrestrials’ activities on Earth.  With the retirement of his partner, Agent K nd his boss Agent Zed (Rip Torn) are looking for a new agent.  Officer James Darrell Edwards III (Will Smith) has encountered a strange being warning of death and destruction.  Officer Edwards is recruited into M.I.B. and becomes Agent J as both he and Agent K are set to track down the threat to Earth.  Meanwhile, an alien possessed farmer named Edgar (Vincent D’Onofrio) is searching for a galaxy hidden in Orion’s belt…and if he finds it, Earth could die.

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, Men in Black adapted the small independent comic The Men in Black first published by Aircel Comics in January 1990.  The film won an Academy Award for Best Makeup and was nominated for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score and Best Art Direction.  In addition to these awards, the film has nominations for the American Film Institute’s top lists for comedy, sci-fi, and even heroes for Agent J and Agent K.


Let’s do the Time Warp again!

Men in Black was a runaway success.  After Independence Day, it helped establish Will Smith as a go to guy for summer blockbusters.  Despite the huge success, I did have some problems with the movie…though I did enjoy it more than Independence Day.

Men in Black is a pretty good balance of comedy, classic sci-fi, and action adventure.  With big guns, aliens, and talking dogs, the movie taps into a lot of genres and explores them decently.  The problem becomes with the film that I feel it is a bit short and the final battle is somewhat anticlimactic.

I admit that I’m not the biggest Will Smith fan.  With only a couple of hits under his belt (and Fresh Prince of Bel Air), he isn’t as over-the-top “Will Smith” as he is now and that is a good thing (both Chris O’Donnell and David Schwimmer turned down the role).  I enjoy Tommy Lee Jones as a straight man (a role turned down by Clint Eastwood), but occasionally the film makes him feel a bit out of character (like jamming out to music in the tunnel car scene).  The character isn’t supposed to have a sense of humor and this seems not natural…he works better as the straight man so things like “I’m going to get my gun back” are more of a surprise and more humorous.


Hey ugly…how’s it going?

The movie does have some fun supporting cast members.  Tony Shalhoub as an alien pawn shop owner is fun, and David Cross appears as a morgue worker.  The lead alien is played by Vincent D’Onofrio, and he’s almost unrecognizable as the rotting Edgar.  Linda Fiorentino is pretty flat as Dr. Laurel Weaver and fortunately she doesn’t return.  Rip Torn is good as Zed, but Frank the Pug steals the show in his short scene (which is run into the ground in the sequel).

Men in Black is one of those rare movie occasions where I think the film isn’t long enough.  With a relatively short running time, the movie feels like it ends as it starts going.  I think the film has a lot of promise, but the follow-up Men in Black II in 2002 did not really expand on the concept enough.

Related Links:

Men in Black II (2002)

Men in Black III (2012)

Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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