Thursday, August 11, 2016

Men In Black: A Classic

    Men in Black (1997) [D: Barry Sonnenfeld. Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith, Linda Fiorentino, Rip Torn et al] I think this is the fourth time I’ve watched this movie. Maybe the fifth. It holds up well.
     It’s inspired by a comic book series that seems to be a rather rambling, unfocused mess. The movie delivers a coherent story, with witty dialogue, well-done riffs on stereotypical characters, a superlative storyboard, and actors who know that to make a fantasy work means hinting at the backstories that animate their roles. The whole crew obviously had fun making this ridiculous story work. Competent photography, well-executed special effects, direction that keeps the story moving fast without ever losing the audience, music and sound that rarely intrude, sly allusions to the tropes of the genre. What more can you ask for?
     It’s the actors that make this fantasy above average. Jones has the world-weary look of a pro who has seen it all, but hangs in there because a) it’s his job; b) he’s good at it; and c) it’s necessary. He’s moderately patient with recruit Will Smith, who delivers his standard smart-ass character, a wise guy who has trouble with authority, but takes the job seriously. All the secondary roles are done well, even the tow-truck driver has a history, hinted at when he reveals a gun tucked into his waistband.
     Movies like this are often underrated. They’re slick, live-action fantasy comic books after all, and what can such a genre teach us about real life? A lot, actually. That loyalty matters. That the cranky outsider is essential precisely because he’s a cranky outsider, and sees things that others miss. That life demands sacrifice. That with luck, a bit of talent, and damn hard work, you can exceed your own expectations. That the universe is a mysterious, dangerous, and wonderful place. And that a movie crew that believes in the project can deliver a classic. ****

1 comment:

pferk said...

I am particularly impressed by the miniature galactic travellers.