I remember going to see Men in Black at the cinema. Or at least I remember my friend being obsessed with the bloody cow at the beginning. She’s a bit of a weirdo. But I do remember enjoying the film. I would have been 9 so the silliness will have appealed. And we all know that the 90s was peak Will Smith time, right? Thanks to a bunch of underwhelming sequels, the first Men in Black film has become something of a classic. People have started to view it through rose-tinted glasses. In my review of the latest installment of the franchise, Men in Black: International, even I did it. So, after all these years, does Men in Black really stand up? Or have we all just been hit with a huge wave of nostalgia? There was only one way to find out. And it meant me having to put off starting Stranger Things until I’d watched it. Which now means I’ll stay up way too late watching season 3. The things I do for the sake of this blog.
Do you know what the best thing about Men in Black is? The opening scene. That sequence with the fly that leads you on a whole journey to nowhere. It’s an amazing sequence with a fantastic twist. It starts the film off with the perfect sense of silliness. A silliness that makes this film so good. The combination of Will Smith’s bouncy and loud Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ straight-faced Agent K is much better than it should have been. Both men serve up their own brand of comedy and, for some reason, it works. They have weirdly good chemistry and the whole film sticks together because of them. And considering the nature of this film, it needed to have something strong to keep it grounded.
As it’s our first introduction to the secret government agency for dealing with alien beings, there is a lot of introducing to do. The lead up to the film goes on a bit on further viewing but we’re used that this shit now. It’s still quite a thrill when we first see the reveal of the MIB headquarters. A lot of the visuals and CGI have aged quite badly but the look of the film is still on point. As is the make-up. I mean these still look pretty flawless to this day. Look at Vincent D’Onofrio’s face when he’s been taken over by the bug. It looks great over 20 years later. D’Onofrio might even look better as an alien wearing human skin that he does now. I don’t know. I’d have to google it.
This film also still stands out for its music. The score by Danny Elfman is fantastic and works incredibly well with this film. I mean it all does work really well. The cast are on good form, the whole film has that kind of 60s TV show vibe to it, and the whole alien conspiracy vibe is really fun. It’s just, after the latest viewing, it all feels a bit thin. The character development is rushed and the plot is thin. There are moments that no longer feel worthwhile and a lot of the funny bit feel like gimmicks. And, at only 90 odd minutes long, there was no excuse for keeping things so short. There was plenty of time to give more background and depth to everything. But instead, it feels like this film was always trying to rely on comedy over everything else. It’s something that seemed fine in the 90s but, in 2019, it’s not quite the film I always remembered it to be.