film & game reviews, the retro way.

REVIEW

MEN IN BLACK

DIRECTOR

Barry Sonnenfeld

WRITER

Ed Solomon

CAST

Will Smith

Tommy Lee Jones

Rip Torn

Linda Fiorentino

Vincent D'Onofrio

David Cross

Tony Shalhoub

Science-fiction comedy Men In Black was released in 1997 and, although it did boast a hefty budget, it was a significant box-office hit spawning sequels, an animated TV series, a hit song and a reboot many years later.  

The film sees a secret government organization dealing with actual aliens, who have been living on and traveling to and from Earth for some time, many of them having taken on human form. The Men In Black make sure that good relations with the many different alien species are kept, that criminal aliens are caught and, of course, that the human population stays oblivious to all of this. When a flying saucer lands on Earth and the alien creature steals a farmer's skin before going on a brutal search for information about a certain hidden galaxy, it becomes up to the MIB to track him down before he causes any more damage and recover the galaxy before a rival alien ship destroys the Earth for failing to protect its royalty, who were one of the nefarious alien's first victims.

Will Smith plays James, an NYPD cop who outruns a suspect only to find that he isn't exactly your typical criminal. The Men In Black soon reach him and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), seeing potential in him, decides to invite him for an assessment at the MIB headquarters. James proves himself very quickly and he is soon known only as J, the Men In Black's newest recruit in charge of assisting K in the apprehension of the aforementioned suspect. Along the way, J comes face to face with all sorts of aliens, rendered beautifully by Rick Baker and Industrial Light & Magic. The visual effects having aged extremely well even considering what CG is capable of nowadays, and the practical effects still just as impressive as they were watching the film for the first time back in the late 90's.

Men In Black is a relentlessly clever and fun blockbuster with thrills, style and laughs aplenty, two charismatic, instantly likeable leads, a simple yet creative story with some nifty twists and turns, gorgeous visuals, of course, all sorts of cool and bizarre gadgets plus, more importantly, lots of charm. It feels every bit as original and iconic as it aimed to be but it never takes itself too seriously, which is refreshing and appropriate considering the wacky plot. Will Smith has a great time in an early-ish career-defining role, Vincent D'Onofrio is hilariously unrecognizable as the grimacing antagonist, Rip Torn is his usual confident, direct self and Tommy Lee Jones makes the perfect straight man. Ed Solomon's script is sharp and funny enough to iron out whatever little inconsistencies the story might have, to make sure that the alien gimmick doesn't wear thin after a while and to keep things both funny and exciting throughout.

Revisiting Men In Black was a pleasure: it still looks great, it's still every bit the goofy, entertaining sci-fi ride you remember and it still feels like the rare kind of blockbuster where everything kinda just fits right all the way through. Barry Sonnenfeld, also known for the Addams Family movies, once again knocked it out of the park with this one.

Excellent.

TheRetroCritic

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film & game reviews, the retro way.