Men In Black

Director Barry Sonnenfeld Starring Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Vincent D’Onofrio, Rip Torn, Tony Shalhoub,

List as many successful films loosely based on short-lived one-shot comic series as you can. I’ve got the time because there’s only one: Men In Black.

M.I.B is a secret organisation that monitors extraterrestrial activity on planet earth operating in near plain sight in New York City. On the search for a new partner Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) contacts NYPD’s James Edwards (Will Smith), who, after demonstrating his abilities is recruited to M.I.B. His identity erased he becomes Agent J. Their first case together involves Edgar the Bug (Vincent D’Onofrio), a species that is at war with another alien species, the Arquillians. When Edgar kills an Arquillian prince then steals a great source of power known as ‘the galaxy’ it’s up to Agent’s K & J to save earth from imminent destruction.

The script for Men In Black is a perfectly well-paced and toned blend of comedy and action. The dead-pan delivery of Jones and straight man Smith works brilliantly while the supporting cast, in particular D’Onofrio as a giant cockroach and Torn as M.I.B’s head agent Zed, are hilariously entertaining. The overwhelming and deserving critical and financial success, as well as the drawing power of both Jones and Smith, all but ensured a follow-up…

MRD 8 of 10

Men In Black II

Director Barry Sonnenfeld Starring Tommy Lee-Jones, Will Smith, Lara Flynn Boyle, Johnny Knoxville, Rosario Dawson, Tony Shalhoub, Rip Torn

… So five years later Agent J, now one of M.I.B’s top agents, is tasked with foiling a plot to steal the Light of Zartha by the plant-like Kylothian Queen Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) and her subordinates Scrad and Charlie (both Johnny Knoxville). In order to unravel the mystery surrounding the events between M.I.B and the Zarthans J enlists the long-retired Agent K, who purposely wiped his memory of the inciting incident but has left himself clues that will give them the answers they need. They also have until midnight or the Light will explode, destroying the entire planet.

Unfortunately this follow-up is simply a point-by-point retread of the first film, which is disappointing. But what really brings this film down is the role-reversal of the now straight-man Jones and the comedic Smith, which has no chemistry due to the inferior script. The film is severely lacking in quality and the performances are held back because of this. It would be a long time before anyone dared to revisit the series again…

MRD 3 of 10

Men In Black III

Director Barry Sonnenfeld Starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jermaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg

… But fortunately, when they did, it was worth the ten-year wait. When the Boglodite Boris “The Animal” (Jermaine Clement) escapes his prison on the moon he targets planet earth to take revenge on Agent K. He travels back to 1969 before the agent can capture him, which will lead to a Boglodite invasion of earth. Agent J must travel back in time in order to stop Boris which will save K and earth (again).

Men In Black III is very smartly written by bringing the series full circle but leaving the door wide open for more instalments. It’s plot is bizarre and it doesn’t deliver the same quality comedy and action like the original but it is a very heartfelt film that puts the time-travel plot to great use. Smith is excellent throughout, his abilities having come along in leaps and bounds in the ten years that followed the second film, while Brolin’s role as a young Agent K is the one he was born to play. Overall, in an industry where threequels are aplenty but not necessarily warranted Men In Black III may not be perfect but it justifies its place in sequence.

MRD 6 of 10