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Men in Black video sleeve graphic Men in Black

Starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones

Reviewed by Leigh Kimmel

Men In Black was a nominee for the 1998 Best Dramatic Presentation Hugo award. This movie is the story of the secret agents who protect humanity from the nasties of the galaxy while at the same time allowing thousands of alien refugees to live among humanity without anyone being the wiser. One of the neat things about it is the way that the good guy/bad guy dichotomy is at right angles to the human/alien dichotomy -- the Bug isn't evil because he's alien, but because he loves carnage and cruelty and everything else nasty. And even the Bug has a bit of good in him -- a fondness for the tiny insects that we crush without a second thought.

J, the streetwise former NYPD cop with an attitude and K, the weary MIB who has been in the business since he stumbled onto an alien contact while a teenager in the late 50's, are a pairing of aging Boomer and up-and-coming member of Generation X. J got into the business after he ran down a disguised cephalapoid in what had seemed to be an ordinary arrest. K brought him in, and after some skepticism, he decided to join. Within hours of joining, he is sucked into the hunt for the Bug, a giant cockroach that is coming to capture a "galaxy," which is apparantly from a universe that is infinitely tinier than our own (especially if one takes the rather curious bit at the end) and which is an enormous power source needed in some terrible alien war.

As he goes about learning his business, he shows his differences from K. When K is going to implant some pretty standard "your husband abandoned you for an old girlfriend, you go to your mother's for a while and decide it's for the best" stuff in the mind of the widow of Edgar, the unpleasant man who was taken over by the Bug, J instead gives her a more empowering memory of having kicked Edgar out of the house, along with instructions to go into town and get a makeover, then hire an interior decorator. In the tunnel scene, K reveals his fondness for Elvis, another intergenerational bit.

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Review posted December 1, 1998

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