Thursday, February 27, 2014

Men in Black (1997)

Note:  This is a review I originally posted on Epinions.  With the closing of Epinions, I’ve decided to repost many, if not all of my reviews here, on my blog.  I’ve made some minor modifications to reflect any changes that have occurred since first reviewing the movie.  With any luck, I will be doing this at least once per week.

One way of writing an alien movie is the alien-in-disguise, humanity-doesn't-know-the-truth way.  Aliens live among us, but we don't know about it because aliens either look human or can fit into an inconspicuous disguise.  In Men In Black, the title organization protects us from alien threats because, well, no one else is authorized to know that aliens even exist.

The movie starts with agents K and D on a mission.  D decides that it's time to quit.  He misses looking up at the sky and not knowing the truth.  That leaves K to find a new partner.  People are recruited from all manner of organizations, mainly military.  It's James Edward, a New York City police officer, that K seems interested in.  When James becomes Agent J, we get to find out all about the various things that let the MIB stay in the shadows.

To become J, James can  no longer exist.  His fingerprints are removed.  All files are erased.  Anyone that knew James has their memories of him erased with a device called a neuralyzer.  (This device also comes in useful for covering up major incidents.)

Meanwhile, a big bug crashes on Earth and kills Edgar to take his appearance.  You'd think something like this would get out.  Yes, the ship crashes in farmland, but someone has to have seen something.  It has to have made it into a newspaper.  That's where tabloids come in.  We all think they're full of crazy half-baked hoaxes, but they're really the best investigative journalism around.  J and K go to Edgar's house and talk to his wife, Beatrice.  After the interview, she's neuralized and the agents are on their way.  Around the same time, different aliens show up demanding The Galaxy.  The MIB have a galactic standard week (one hour) to find and deliver it.

The movie was based on a series of comic books.  From what I've read, though, there were more than a few changes.  The comic version hat the MIB investigating all sorts of things and could protect their identity however they saw fit.  I don't know how well that version would have done, mostly since I've never read the comics.

It's still a very dark movie.  There are a few scenes that aren't going to be appropriate for children.  For instance, when The Bug takes Edgar's skin as a disguise, you don't see The Bug actually killing Edgar, but you know what's going on.  Also, as the movie progresses, the skin deteriorates.

I remember liking this movie when it first came out.  For some reason, this is one of two movies that I can recall where the sequel seems to get more TV airplay than the original.  (Ghostbusters is the other.)  I'd like to watch it again, but I don't know that I want to rent it.  Two sequels have been made, both of which I‘ve subsequently seen.  I'd still love to get my hands on a neuralyzer.

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