BlokeBusting The Essentials #41: Men in Black

I don’t think the title is obvious enough…

#41: Men In Black


Don’t Be A Menace To New York While Chilling With Aliens In HQ

There’s waaaaay too many Will Smith references that we could start this one off with. Nah, forget it. Yo homes, to the review!

First Impressions

I recall going to see this film with a friend of mine, my family and his. We took the train there (since that’s a thing that you can actually do if you live in the UK), we watched the film and I’m moderately confident that I spent the majority of the train ride back talking about various things from the film. So I think it’s fair to say that I enjoyed this film the first time. Did it hold up? Let’s find out…

The Characters

  • Agent J/James Darrell Edwards III: Will Smith

    So here’s the thing. There was a show called The Fresh Prince Of Bel Air. It starred a young, fairly unknown guy (at least in TV/Film-land) called Will Smith. Then he basically managed to become known as the king of Blockbusters by starring in Bad Boys, Independence Day and MIB. Was his character in this fairly similar to what we’d seen before? Yep. Does that matter? Not at all. Will Smith can play these characters perfectly, and does so here too. He’s shown to have the right kind of thinking but also has that overconfidence that is kinda fun to see burst by the genuinely experienced K as he’s being shown the ropes. He’s also amazingly charismatic, which always helps! And besides, the two other main choices for this role were Chris O’Donnell and David Schwimmer. Yeah, THAT would have been something to see…

  • Agent K: Tommy Lee Jones

    Do I really need to explain just how good this character is? Not only does he manage to balance Will Smith’s presence on screen, he’s able to PERFECTLY counterweight everything that is Agent J. And TLJ is so much fun to watch here. His delivery is brilliant, his facial expression (for there is only one) is on point and he’s clearly been around for a loooong time. Yeah, he’s great!

  • Edgar/The Bug: Vincent D’Onofrio

    Yeah, this guy. For starters, D’Onofrio is a bloody chameleon. I’ve seen him in several roles now and I can never recognise him without looking up who plays the role. And Edgar is just great to see on screen. You’d think it would be difficult to portray something 3 times the size of you wearing your skin, but he manages to pull it off. It’s actually astounding that he’s not been given more accolades. But anyway, he’s as much fun to watch as you can have watching a giant bug wearing a human skin!

  • The Rest

    There’s too many other characters to give them their own sections, so let’s just do a quick run-down here:

    – Zed: Rip Torn. He’s delightfully dour here!
    – Dr Laurel Weaver: Linda Florentino. Not bad, but I feel like she wasn’t given that much to do. Though she does get the kill-shot!
    – Jack Jeebs: Tony Shaloub. “Do you have any idea how much that stings?” Enough said.

The Setting

If you don’t know the film by now, welcome! I’m glad you got this far! Sorry about that spoiler in the previous section…

Anyway, this film starts off perfectly. It sets the tone, it gives you just enough to know that the MIB are clearly both well equipped & well connected and it lets you know exactly who the main two characters are without a lot of exposition. Honestly a lot of modern films could learn a lot from this one. And the style works really well even now, so the film doesn’t really look or feel dated (outside of the obvious leap in technology since then). And I was unaware that this was based on a comic book until relatively recently, so bravo for managing to pull off a successful CB film in the 90’s!

The Effects

Ok, the CG is outdated. Anything that’s bigger than a dog REALLY looks bad compared to today’s graphics. But that’s to be expected. Everything else actually holds up really well. There’s plenty of practical effects that still look fantastic (looking at you, opening scene!) and the coffee aliens are always brilliant. Honestly the worst effects are when The Bug is actually out on screen. And, as I said, that’s no surprise. It’s a GIANT alien bug walking around on Earth in a film from the late 90’s. It was NEVER going to look realistic! So there.

Ok, now it’s time for Bubba to put on his suit and lay it all out for us. Take it away Agent B!

I watched this again pretty recently after the latest rebootquel Men in Black International came out on home video so I could make a list of top 10 aliens in the Men in Black series. There’s just so much that this film has going for it right out of the gate. It creates this world within our world full of aliens in plain sight. The chemistry between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones is palpable and there cannot be enough said about Vincent D’Onofrio’s performance as Edgar. He just has this amazing physicality and voice that captures something completely otherworldly and not at home in its own skin.

While some may call it a stretch to call this a superhero movie, there’s no denying its importance in film history. It was a box office juggernaut with a massive $589M worldwide, it spawned two sequels, a cartoon, and a reboot, there were talks of a combined franchise with 21 Jump Street though that never materialized. It was ingrained as a part of Will Smith’s overall rise as the king of the summer blockbuster. It was a comic book movie that didn’t sell itself as a comic book movie, and it’s actually technically a Marvel movie. It was loosely based on a Malibu comic book series shortly after the Malibu brand was bought out by Marvel comics. It’s still typically regarded as the best of the four movies and it’s just all around fun.

So true Mr Wheat, so true. And now we must move into the last section of the review. Our big three questions. And for anyone suffering from a Neuralyzer blast, those questions are:

  1. Would I recommend this film to others?
  2. Does this film deserve to be on the list?
  3. If so, where does it appear on the list?

And in true MIB fashion, I shall answer them in the order received.

1) Hell yes. And not just for nostalgic purposes, this film is genuinely well made, well acted and just plain fun!

2) Despite the fact that I do think it’s stretching the definition of “superhero” a little past where it usually falls, yes. Because what is a superhero really, if not someone/something that does all they can to fight evil, right wrongs and protect the innocent? I’ll tell you what, a no good bum, that’s what!

3) Well, let’s see where it landed in our list:

  1. Hellboy
  2. Captain America: The First Avenger
  3. The Crow
  4. Men In Black
  5. Dr Strange
  6. Dr Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  7. Batman: The Killing Joke
  8. Superman 3
  9. The Wild Wild World Of Batwoman
  10. The Meteor Man
  11. Supergirl
  12. Howard The Duck
  13. The Fantastic Four (1994)
  14. The Punisher
  15. Batman & Robin
  16. The Amazing Spider-Man
  17. BvS: Dawn Of Justice

    Potential Substitutions:

    Wonder Woman (replacing The Death Of The Hulk)
    X-Men: The Last Stand (replacing Catwoman)
    Turbo Kid (replacing The Incredible Hulk)

Yeah, I think it’s that high. This film managed to do several things so well in a time when doing any of them is a tall order. It helped cement Will Smith’s legacy as a screen legend, it was a HUGELY successful comic book film and it managed to use a lot of CG in a way that honestly works WAY better than you’d expect from that time. So into number 4 it goes!

Well, that’s me done for another couple of weeks! And so, I should probably get out of here before Agent J realises that I took his Noisy Cricket. I’m sure that hole in the wall will patch itself right up…..


About Hurricane Hawk

I'm a Brit in the US. Yes, my accent is real. No, I'm not from Australia. Oh yeah, I have 2 film podcasts!

Posted on October 21, 2019, in 90's movies, Blokebusting the Essentials, Marvel and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 1 Comment.

  1. Tommy Lee Jones was also the best part of Captain America, just a couple movies ago. And he’ll pop up yet again in Batman Forever. He’s been in a lot more superhero movies then I realized.

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