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Men in Black

Theatrical poster
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Produced by Walter F. Parkes
Laurie MacDonald
Steven Spielberg (Executive)
Written by Ed Solomon
Lowell Cunningham (Comics)
Starring Tommy Lee Jones
Will Smith
Linda Fiorentino
Vincent D'Onofrio
Rip Torn
Music by Danny Elfman
Cinematography Donald Peterman
Editing by Jim Miller
Studio Amblin Entertainment
MacDonald/Parkes Productions
Distributed by Columbia Pictures
Release date(s) July 2, 1997 (1997-07-02)
Running time 98 minutes
Country United States
Language English
Budget $90 million[1]
Gross revenue $589,390,539[1]
Followed by Men in Black II

Men in Black is a 1997 science-fiction-action film directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith and Vincent D'Onofrio. The film was based on the Men in Black comic book series by Lowell Cunningham, 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 over $587 million worldwide against a $90 million budget. It is currently the 49th highest grossing film of all time. It was followed by a 2002 sequel, Men in Black II, and an animated series titled, Men in Black: The Series.

Contents

Plot

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Setting

The MIB, a top-secret agency that polices, monitors and directs alien activity on Earth, has established the Earth as an apolitical "neutral zone" for alien refugees (as Agent K explains, like Casablanca with no Nazis). MIB agents have no identity or any public record of existence, and the MIB agency answers to no government. The funding for their agency comes from the patents they own on technology confiscated from aliens, such as velcro, microwave ovens, and liposuction. Any memory of MIB activity upon "mustering out" of the MIB is erased and a new identity is created for the departing agent. Into this strange world is ushered the initially skeptical Det/Sgt James Edwards (Smith), an NYPD officer, as he becomes Agent J, one of the newest MIB personnel. Tommy Lee Jones plays K, a senior MIB agent who recruits and guides J as he learns the ropes.

MIB agents wear sunglasses and dark suits, and appear at UFO landing sites, similar to paranormal reports of real-world Men in Black. Since the MIB are a secret organization, no evidence of their existence can be left. Instead of intimidating or threatening witnesses, the MIB use devices known as "Neuralyzers" to wipe witnesses' memories of what they have seen, and replace the memories with more mundane explanations, such as swamp gas or weather balloons. Neuralyzers are also used on agents who leave the organization for any reason. The MIB's sunglasses protect them from the effects of the neuralyzer. K and J drive around in a seemingly inconspicuous black car, which J initially identifies as a Ford 'POS' (piece of shit), a 1987 Ford LTD Crown Victoria[2], which, with the press of a red button on the gear stick transforms into a high-speed rocket-propelled car.

Story

The main plot of the movie revolves around a "Bug" (code word for a member of an alien species that is similar in many ways to a very large cockroach) searching for a miniature galaxy which is also a vast energy source. Upon landing on Earth, the Bug kills a farmer named Edgar (D'Onofrio) and uses his skin as a disguise to aid in the hunt. A member of an alien royal family, masquerading as a diamond merchant, has concealed the galaxy on his cat's collar. When he is killed by the Bug, his government prepares to destroy the Earth rather than let the galaxy fall into the Bugs' hands. During their mission, J and K investigate a morgue where they meet Dr. Laurel Weaver (Linda Fiorentino), a cynical deputy medical examiner. Eventually, the agents kill the Bug (with Laurel's help) and recover the galaxy. K then has J erase his memory so he can retire, and Laurel joins the MIB and becomes Agent L, J's new partner.

In the final scene of the film, the camera pulls back into the sky through space past our solar system, past millions of stars, ultimately revealing that our galaxy is contained within a circular container resembling a marble. The container is then picked up by an alien hand which throws it, hitting another 'marble' which also contains a galaxy, in what resembles a game of marbles. Both marbles are then picked up by the hand and placed into a bag full of galaxy-containing marbles.

Cast

Production

The film is based upon the comic book The Men in Black by Lowell Cunningham. 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.[3]

Much of the initial script drafts were set underground, with locations ranging from Kansas to Washington DC 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 MIB 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 MIB HQ had to resemble an airport.[3]

Rick Baker led the special effects of the film, 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."[5]

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 of the war and steal it to continue the war. Through changing of subtitles, the images on MIB'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 to prevent the bugs getting the galaxy.[3]

Soundtracks

Two different soundtracks were released in the US: a score soundtrack and an album, featuring various songs. In the UK only the album was released, but the score is readily available for import.

Danny Elfman composed the score for the film, 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.

Promotion

The official Men in Black game is a third-person shooter developed by Gremlin Interactive and 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 roleplaying game was also released in 1997 by West End Games.

Reception

Men in Black won the Academy Award for Best Makeup, and was also nominated for Best Original Score and Best Art Direction. It was also nominated for the Golden Globe of Best Motion Picture - Musical or Comedy.[6]

The film received an overwhelmingly positive response from critics, having a 91% rating on the Rotten Tomatoes film critic website.[7]

Following the film's release, Ray-Ban stated sales of their Predator 2 sunglasses (worn by the organization to deflect neuralyzers) tripled to $5 million.[8]

References

External links

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Independence Day
Saturn Award for Best Science Fiction Film
1997
Succeeded by
Armageddon &
Dark City

Quotes

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From Wikiquote

Men in Black is a 1997 science fiction comedy action film, starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith and Vincent D'Onofrio. The film was based on the comic books of Lowell Cunningham.

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. Written by Lowell Cunningham and Ed Solomon.
Protecting the earth from the scum of the universe.

Contents

Agent K

  • A person is smart; people are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it.
  • Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat. And fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you'll know tomorrow.
  • Human thought is so primitive that it's looked upon as an infectious disease in some of the better galaxies; that kind of makes you proud, doesn't it?

Agent J

  • You see this? Huh? NYPD means I will "Nock Your Punk-ass Down!"
  • You know what the difference is between you and me? I make this look good.
  • Well, well. Big, bad bug got a bit of a soft spot, huh? What I can't understand is, why you gotta come down here, bringing all this ruckus! Snatching up galaxies and everything. My attitude is: don't start nothing, won't be nothing.

Zed

  • You'll dress only in attire specially sanctioned by MIB Special Services. You'll conform to the identity we give you, eat where we tell you, live where we tell you. From now on, you'll have no identifying marks of any kind. You'll not stand out in any way. Your entire image is crafted to leave no lasting memory with anyone you encounter. You're a rumor, recognizable only as déjà vu and dismissed just as quickly. You don't exist; you were never even born. Anonymity is your name, silence your native tongue. You're no longer part of the System. You are above the System. Over it. Beyond it. We're "them." We're "they." We are the Men in Black.

Dialogue

Edgar: I go out, I work my butt off to make a living. All I want is to come home to a nice clean house with a nice fat steak on the table, but instead I get this. It looks like poison. Don't you take that away — I'm eating that, damn it! It is poison, isn't it? I swear to God, I would not be surprised if it was, the way you skulk around here like a dog that's been hit too much or ain't been hit enough, I can't make up my mind! You're useless, Beatrice. The only thing that pulls its weight around here is my goddamn truck! [The Bug's flying saucer smashes into Edgar's truck. Edgar comes out of the house to look at the damage.] Figures.
Beatrice: What the heck is it, Edgar?
Edgar: Get your big butt back in the house. [Beatrice goes back inside. Edgar grabs a pump shotgun and stands over the smoking crater where his truck was parked.]
The Bug: [inside the crater] Place projectile weapon on the ground.
Edgar: You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers.
The Bug: Your proposal is acceptable. [A long arm with long, bony digits grabs Edgar, pulls him into the crater and consumes him.]

See Also

External links

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