Marvel Movie Madness! Part 26: Men in Black

Saving the planet from alien scum.

Enter Marvel Movie Madness, wherein Rotten Tomatoes watches all of the significant Marvel movies ever made. Full Marvel Movie Madness list here. Tune in! We give you our thoughts, and you give us yours.


Part 26: Men in Black (1997, 91% @ 68 reviews)
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Rip Torn, Vincent D'Onofrio

Ryan: For me, Will Smith is most tolerable in small doses, which is unfortunate, because he's usually one of the biggest stars - if not the biggest star - of any movie he's in. In Men in Black, he gets to share the spotlight with Tommy Lee Jones, and much to my delight, their great chemistry really works wonders for Smith's likability. Since that was probably the biggest hurdle I faced going into this movie, everything after that was gravy.

This movie is pure, silly fun. There are some good laughs, the pace is pretty brisk, and the costumes and special effects are really effective, thanks to the hard work of Rick Baker and the good people at ILM. Seriously, they put together some brilliant stuff to make this hidden alien subculture spring to life, and that goes a long way towards immersing the audience. And as far as the acting is concerned, Smith and Jones do their thing, but they're also backed up by a pretty solid supporting cast, including an absolutely possessed Vincent D'Onofrio, who makes me laugh every time he stutters and twitches his way onscreen.

There were a couple of teeny tiny issues (Will Smith is a badass NY cop, but there's no mention of his family, his friends, or the likely three girlfriends he had to leave behind to join MiB), but the good things about the movie were so good that they never threatened my enjoyment. Really entertaining summer popcorn flick, if you ask me.


Jeff: Yeah, it's easy to plead Will Smith fatigue in the post-Wild Wild West era, but Men in Black makes it easy to see why he was the king of the July 4 box office -- he's got a ton of charisma, he's a believable action hero, and as you said, Ryan, he has a gift for feeding off his talented co-stars.

For me, this movie's appeal boils down to a couple of things: One, it's just plain fun to watch Smith and Jones together, and two, Barry Sonnenfeld played with killer special effects without making them the focal point of the movie. The whole thing has a quirky, scruffed-up vibe -- it's almost like a Joe Dante picture.


Luke: Yep, pretty solid, entertaining stuff. Will Smith's arrogance actually works to his character's advantage here, and as Jeff says, that braggadocio plays perfectly off Tommy Lee Jones' world-weary, deadpan wit. A great casting choice. Barry Sonnenfeld finds his ideal rhythm after The Addams Family movies and Get Shorty, and gets the balance between effects and humor right -- it's not exactly Ghostbusters in that sense, but it might be as close as the '90s came to it. The script's also funny and buoyant, with great throwaway lines ("Elvis isn't dead -- he just went home") and a nice satirical spin through UFO mythology -- I always liked that scene where Agent K picks up the tabloid because that's where the real news was reported. And Ryan, I think D'Onofrio could well be the star of this movie -- his twitching, writhing, performance completely nails what it must be like for a superior being to be trapped in an irritatingly incompetent human body.

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