Comic Book Movies 101: Men In Black

Ok, let’s cut to the chase: how mega is Men in Black? It’s just super; the film, the song, the aliens, Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and the cute squid-like child that is born in the back of the car. Brilliant. Shame the same can’t be said for the sequel. Men in Black 2 isn’t a bad film, it’s just not as memorable and fun as the first one. I guess, that’s the case with most sequels though isn’t it?

Just in case you’re unaware of the premise behind Men in Black, they’re a secret government body that protects the Earth from “the scum of the universe”. Many of our alien visitors live amongst us happily going about their business but there are the odd few that step out of line and need the MiB to protect us.

The pairing of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith as the experienced agent and the enthusiastic (though not at first) young rookie is a match made in Hollywood heaven. The pair bounce off each other superbly and when added to the straight man, head of the agency Rip Torn, whom nothing fazes, it’s superb casting.

Of course Will Smith was at the height of his “Hi, I’m Will Smith and I’m black” fame. Seriously – I’m not sure what the relevance of him mentioning the tone of his skin had to do with anything? But he did it a lot back then, and nervous white audiences laughed along regardless.

But knocking away the serious side there is plenty of fun and detail in these films. Look at the design of the MiB offices; everything has a circular design from the egg-shaped seats to the circular pattered ceilings. The main floor area has a wonderful few skits about various technologies that have come into our grasp, as well as a very funny wall of CCTV monitoring of certain stars who are actually aliens (Hello Sly, hello Danny DeVito!).

There are plenty of decent supporting roles in both as well – Vincent D’Onofrio’s bug-in-a-man-suit baddie from the original, with wonderfully jerky movements as he roams around trying to find a way off the planet; or Johnny Knoxville playing second fiddle to Lara Flynn Boyle’s temptress in the second movie.

Both Men in Black films are proper family movies with something for everyone: action, adventure, comedy and (more so in the second film) a talking pug. What more could you ask for? There are laughs a plenty, especially if you have a childish sense of humour like me. And there are plenty of post-viewing quotable lines, many of which will be lodged firmly in your head for years to come, as I discovered when re-watching them in order to write this. (Also, if you ask me nicely and buy me a drink I’ll sing you the theme tune to the first movie, of which I remembered all the words and know the dance routine that goes along with it. Yes, I’m that cool.)

It really is impossible to find a bad word to say about either of these films; maybe it’s because I’ve never read the comic book they were taken from and I’m missing something; or maybe it’s just because they’re brilliant. Even 13 years after the first film was released I enjoyed as much as I did on my first viewing, if not a little bit more due to nostalgia. I dare you to find something bad to say about these films, but if you do you’ll be wrong. I guarantee it! Plus, with Men in Black 3 being slated for release next year, ten years after its predecessor we can only hope it hits all the highs of the original.

Laura Johnson

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