Men in Black (film)
|Men in Black|
Theatrical release poster
|Directed by||Barry Sonnenfeld|
|Produced by||Walter F. Parkes
|Screenplay by||Ed Solomon|
|Story by||Ed Solomon|
|Based on||The Men in Black
by Lowell Cunningham
|Starring||Tommy Lee Jones
|Music by||Danny Elfman|
|Editing by||Jim Miller|
|Distributed by||Columbia Pictures|
|Running time||98 minutes|
Men in Black is a 1997 science fiction action comedy spy film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, produced by Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald and starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. The film was based on Lowell Cunningham's The Men in Black comic book series, originally published by Aircel Comics. The film featured the creature effects and makeup of Rick Baker. The film was released on July 2, 1997, by Columbia Pictures and grossed $589,390,539 worldwide against a $90 million budget.
An animated series based on the film, titled Men in Black: The Series, ran from 1997 to 2001 on The WB. A live-action sequel, Men in Black II, was released in 2002. This was followed by Men in Black 3 in 2012. The success of the film inspired Marvel (who, by 1997, owned the property) to option other properties for development, later collaborating with Columbia Pictures to produce Spider-Man amongst other projects.
Men in Black (M.I.B.) is a secret non-government agency that polices extraterrestrial alien refugees. The agency operates from an underground base at a Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority ventilation station in Battery Park. MIB members use neuralyzers to erase witness's memories of alien sightings. MIB is monitoring about 1500 aliens around the world, most of them in the vicinity of New York City.
One night, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and his partner, D (Richard Hamilton) intercept a truck containing illegal immigrants and an extraterrestrial disguised as a human. The alien starts to run and K is forced to destroy it. D, feeling too old, asks K to neuralize him into "retirement". Later, the MIB leader, Agent Zed (Rip Torn), suggests that K should search for a new partner.
Meanwhile, James Darrell Edwards III (Will Smith) is a New York police officer pursuing a man on foot. While chasing the incredibly fast and agile fugitive over the rooftops, Edwards sees the man's eyes change, and realizes he must be an alien. K arrives at the precinct station, questions Edwards before neuralyzing him, and leaves the cop an MIB business card. Later, Edwards goes to the secret headquarters and competes with several others to qualify to join the MIB. After the tests, K takes him aside (while the others are neuralyzed) and offers him the position. Edwards accepts and his identity is erased, becoming Agent J.
Suspicious of why extraterrestrials are suddenly leaving the planet, the M.I.B. investigate a farmer named Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio), who has been acting strangely after an alien craft crashed on his farm. Edgar has been killed and his skin used as a disguise by a "Bug", a member of a giant cockroach-like species that are at war with several other alien races, including the Arquillians. An Arquillian prince hiding in Brooklyn who is disguised as a human jewelry store owner is attacked, and tells J as he dies that "the galaxy is on Orion's belt".
M.I.B. informant Frank the Pug (Tim Blaney), a Remoonian disguised as a small lapdog, explains that the missing galaxy is a massive source of energy housed in a small jewel. The Bug figures out the galaxy is hanging on the collar of Rosenberg's cat Orion, which refuses to leave the prince's body at the morgue. Orion has been taken care of by Dr. Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino). J arrives at the morgue just as the Bug kidnaps Weaver and grabs the galaxy. The Arquillians deliver an ultimatum to M.I.B. to secure the galaxy within an hour, or they will destroy Earth.
The Bug arrives at the site of two disguised flying saucers, the observation towers of the New York State Pavilion at Flushing Meadows. K and J are close behind and destroy one saucer. The Bug sheds Edgar's skin and swallows J's and K's guns. K tells J to stop the Bug from getting onto the other ship, then taunts the Bug until K too is swallowed. J infuriates the Bug by crushing cockroaches and saying they are his relatives.
The Bug is blown open from the inside by K, who located his gun in the Bug's stomach. As J and K sit on the ground covered in slime, the insect tries to attack again, but is destroyed by Weaver, using J's gun. The three return to M.I.B. headquarters and K tells J that he has not been training him as a partner, but as a replacement. J neuralyzes K, using a coma cover story to allow him to return to his civilian life and the young woman he left behind. A few days later, it is revealed that Weaver also joined M.I.B. and is now J's new partner, Agent L.
As a humorous coda, the camera rapidly pulls back, showing that Earth and the Milky Way galaxy are also inside an alien marble being used in a cosmic game.
- Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K / Kevin Brown: J's grizzled and humorless mentor. Clint Eastwood turned down the part, while Jones only accepted the role after Steven Spielberg promised the script would improve, based on his respect for Spielberg's track record. He had been disappointed with the first draft, which he reportedly said "stank"; he felt it did not capture the tone of the comic.
- Will Smith as James Darrell Edwards III / Agent J: A former N.Y.P.D. member, newly recruited to the M.I.B. Smith was cast because Barry Sonnenfeld's wife was a fan of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Sonnenfeld also liked his performance in Six Degrees of Separation. Chris O'Donnell turned down the role because he found the role of a new recruit too similar to Dick Grayson, whom he played in Batman Forever and Batman & Robin. David Schwimmer also turned down the part. Like Jones, Smith said he accepted the role after meeting with Spielberg and cited his success as a producer.
- Vincent D'Onofrio as Edgar the Bug: A giant alien insect who eats a farmer and uses his skin as a disguise. He comes to earth to kidnap the Galaxy and use it to destroy the Arquillians. John Turturro and Bruce Campbell were both offered the role.
- Linda Fiorentino as Dr. Laurel Weaver / Agent L: A deputy medical examiner who has had a few run-ins with the M.I.B. in the past.
- Rip Torn as Chief Z (Zed): The head of the M.I.B.
- Tony Shalhoub as Jack Jeebs: An alien, posing as a pawn shop owner, who deals in illegal weapons.
- Siobhan Fallon Hogan as Beatrice, the wife of the Edgar.
- Mike Nussbaum as Gentle Rosenberg, Arquillian Jeweler: Guardian of the Galaxy, which he has attached to his pet cat's collar.
- Jon Gries as Van Driver
- Sergio Calderón as Jose
- Carel Struycken as Arquillian
- Fredric Lehne as INS Agent Janus
- Kent Faulcon as 2nd Lt. Jake Jensen
- Richard Hamilton as Agent D: K's partner at the film's start, he decides he is too old for the job and has K erase his memory so he can retire.
- David Cross as Newton the Morgue Attendant
- Tim Blaney as Frank the Pug (voice): A smart-talking pug-like alien.
- Patrick Breen as Redgick
- Sean Whalen as Passport Officer
||This section needs additional citations for verification. (December 2011)|
The film is based on Lowell Cunningham's comic book The Men in Black. Producers Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald optioned the rights to The Men in Black in 1992, and hired Ed Solomon to write a very faithful script. Parkes and MacDonald wanted Barry Sonnenfeld as director because he had helmed the darkly humorous The Addams Family and its sequel Addams Family Values. Sonnenfeld was attached to Get Shorty (1995), so they approached Les Mayfield to direct, as they had heard about the positive reception to his remake of Miracle on 34th Street. They actually saw the film later and decided he was inappropriate. Men in Black was delayed so as to allow Sonnenfeld to make it his next project after Get Shorty.
Much of the initial script drafts were set underground, with locations ranging from Kansas to Washington, D.C. and Nevada. Sonnenfeld decided to change the location to New York City, because the director felt New Yorkers would be tolerant of aliens who behaved oddly while disguised. He also felt much of the city's structures resembled flying saucers and rocket ships. Production designer Bo Welch designed the M.I.B. headquarters with a 1960s tone in mind, because that was when their organization is formed. He cited influences from Finnish architect Eero Saarinen, who designed a terminal at John F. Kennedy International Airport. Being the arrival point of aliens on Earth, Welch felt M.I.B. HQ had to resemble an airport.
ILM provided most of the special effects. Rick Baker led the film's special effects, which was the most complex in his career to date. He had to have approval from both director Barry Sonnenfeld and executive producer Steven Spielberg: "It was like, 'Steven likes the head on this one and Barry really likes the body on this one, so why don't you do a mix and match?' And I'd say, because it wouldn't make any sense." Sonnenfeld also changed a lot of the film's aesthetic during pre-production: "I started out saying aliens shouldn't be what humans perceive them to be. Why do they need eyes? So Rick did these great designs, and I'd say, 'That's great — but how do we know where he's looking?' I ended up where everyone else did, only I took three months."
Filming began in March 1996. Five months into the shoot, the crew realized their ending was unexciting. It was originally meant to be a humorous existential debate between Agent J and the Bug, and five potential replacements were discussed. One of these had Laurel Weaver being neuralyzed and K remaining an agent. The change to a fight sequence annoyed Rick Baker, as their animatronic Bug had to be replaced with computer-generated imagery. Further changes were made during post-production to simplify the plotline involving the possession of the tiny galaxy. The Arquillians would hand over the galaxy to the Baltians, ending a long war. The Bugs need to feed on the casualties and steal the galaxy in order to continue the war. Through changing of subtitles, the images on M.I.B.'s main computer and Frank the Pug's dialogue, the Baltians were eliminated from the plot. Earth goes from being potentially destroyed in the crossfire between the two races into being possibly destroyed by the Arquillians themselves to prevent the Bugs from getting the galaxy. These changes to the plot were carried out when only two weeks remained in the film's post-production, however, the film's novel still contains the Baltians.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (December 2011)|
Two different soundtracks were released in the U.S.: a score soundtrack and an album, featuring various songs. In the U.K., only the album was released.
Danny Elfman composed the film's score, making use of his usual combination of orchestra and electronics. The score also makes prominent use of jazz for the M.I.B. theme, which consists of an ostinato, usually played on lower instruments. In the trailer, it played "Confronting The Chief" by Elliot Goldenthal from the film Demolition Man.
|This section does not cite any references or sources. (December 2011)|
Galoob released various action figures of the film's characters and aliens. An official comic adaptation was released by Marvel Comics. The official Men in Black game is a third-person shooter developed by Gigawatt studios and published by Germlin Interactive. Released to lackluster reviews in October '97 for the PC and the following year for the PlayStation. Also a very rare promotional PlayStation video game system was released in 1997 with the Men in Black logo on the CD lid. Men in Black: The Animated Series was created by Sony Pictures Television, and also inspired several games. Men in Black was the inspiration behind the Men in Black: Alien Attack ride at Universal Studios Orlando, in which Will Smith and Rip Torn reprised their roles. A Men in Black role-playing game was also released in 1997 by West End Games.
Will Smith released a single concurrent with the film, also called "Men in Black".
Men in Black won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, and was also nominated for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score and Best Art Direction. It was also nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy.
The film received overwhelmingly positive reviews from critics, having a 91% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes film critic website. On Empire magazine's list of the 500 Greatest Movies of All Time, "Men in Black" placed 409th.
American Film Institute Lists
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Laughs - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Heroes and Villains:
- Agent J & Agent K - Nominated Heroes
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Songs:
- Men in Black - Nominated
- AFI's 100 Years...100 Movie Quotes:
- "You know the difference between you and me? I make this look good." - Nominated
- AFI's 10 Top 10 - Nominated Science Fiction Film
- "Men in Black (1997)". Box Office Mojo. Retrieved 2007-12-14.
- David Hughes (2003). Comic Book Movies. London: Virgin Books. pp. 123–129. ISBN 0-7535-0767-6.
- "Summer Movie Preview". Entertainment Weekly. 1997-05-16. Retrieved 2007-09-17.
- Steve Daly (1997-07-18). "Men in Black: How'd they do that?". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved 2007-09-17.
- Donnelly, Billy (May 25, 2012). "Things Get A Bit Heated Between The Infamous Billy The Kidd And Director Barry Sonnenfeld When They Talk MEN IN BLACK 3". Ain't It Cool News.
- "Men in Black (1997) — Awards and Nominations". Yahoo!. Retrieved 2007-09-17.
- "Men in Black". Rotten Tomatoes. Retrieved 2009-11-16.
- "Empire's 500 Greatest Movies of All Time". Empire Magazine. Retrieved 2012-05-28.
- Jane Tallim (2002). "And Now a Word From Our Sponsor... Spend Another Day". Media Awareness Network. Retrieved 2008-10-14.
|Wikiquote has a collection of quotations related to: Men in Black (film)|