Quick-witted, fast-paced with the human hands and alien hooves to match, “Men in Black” is a classic. Over 20 years have passed since the film’s initial premiere in 1997 and the movie still shows no signs of being outdated, It’s confident charm as old and long-lasting as the quips from its coffee-loving, slug-like characters.
This personality, this zeal for audience appreciation and box office greatness can be unearthed when looking at Men in Black’s balance of story elements. Characters are never on-screen or off for longer than they need to be, nor do scenes wallow on-screen for too long or too short. While the story of Men in Black takes place in a world where aliens exist, Robert Zemeckis and crew are distinctly aware of the audiences’ existence and need to be entertained.
Obviously (but also not so obviously), Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith make this possible as agent K and agent J. K is the experienced leader, J the cocksure recruit. J’s desire to learn is balanced by K’s infinite wisdom, their personalities and viewpoints traveling in opposite directions faster than a city-wide, blackout inducing super ball. They’re two actors aware of not just their strengths but just how much of their strength is needed.
Again, its been over 20 years now, the greatness of Men in Black is already an established fact. But what only gets better is that sense of surprise, when you discover it after your last viewing a couple of years ago, thinking its going to feel outdated or like some late 90s-relic. Still, somehow, even without iPhones or Facebook, heck even with the twin towers still standing, this movie feels very much present, an unintentional meta-commentary of current times in our world from a cast of characters who belong to another. The story effectively functions on the fact that the majority of people know nothing, that the galaxy-shattering events of the film are only beholden to a select few. Normally, this type of exclusivity would be frowned upon, but the fact that this movie doesn’t want us to know but just wants us to think and feel, means that Men in Black can only be greeted with a smile.