Reflecting on the First Two Men in Black Movies

Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures
May 17th, 2012

Reflecting on the First Two Men in Black Movies

--With the third installment in the film series "Men in Black" due out soon, one's mind naturally turns to the first two Men in Black or MIB movies. The first film, released in 1997, quickly became a huge hit. Starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Rip Torn, Vincent D'Onofrio and Tony Shalhoub, it was based on the comic book series originally created by Lowell Cunningham. Notable makeup and creature effects were the work of Rick Baker. The film was first released on July 2, 1997 and grossed nearly $600 million.

Tommy Lee Jones appears as Agent K, a member of MIB, an elite secret agency without any government ties. The goal of the agency is to ensure Earth remains a neutral zone for aliens, who live in New York City disguised as humans. The agency maintains secrecy through the use of a device known as a neuralyzer that is used to wipe clean the memories of individuals who encounter either extraterrestrials or MIB agents. The memories of former agents are also wiped clean upon retirement. The group operates from an underground base located at the Triborough Bridge and Tunnel Authority. It supports itself by patenting for alien technologies.
The movie begins when Agent K's former partner enters retirement. K begins to search for a replacement and finds what he is looking for in NYC police detective James Darrel Edwards III, played by Will Smith. Edwards is put through a battery of tests and subsequently offered the opportunity to join MIB. After his former identity is erased, Edwards becomes Agent J and begins his MIB orientation.

Things quickly become interesting when the agency receives a warning that an Arquillian fleet is orbiting the Earth and an alien Bug is on the search for an object referred to as the Galaxy. The limitless power of the Galaxy could provide the Bug's grotesque species with the advantage it needs in the war it is involved in with numerous alien races. In order to keep this from happening, the Arquillian fleet is all too willing to destroy the Earth. MIB has only hours to secure the Galaxy before the fleet blows up the planet.

In their search for the Galaxy, Agents K and J come into contact with a coroner at the city morgue, Dr. Laurel Weaver, who is played by Linda Fiorentino. She has discovered a small Arquillian that is barely alive inside its "human" robot. Agents K and J arrive just in time to receive a critical message before the alien dies. Before leaving the morgue, the agents quickly wipe the doctor's memory. Only after leaving the morgue do they realize something critical about the message they received and quickly hurry back to the morgue, but not in time to save Laurel, who has been kidnapped by the Bug. Meanwhile, the Arquillian deadline is looming closer. Agent J recalls a crucial piece of information and they make their way to a disguised spacecraft.

Complete with an action-packed finale, "Men in Black" was a huge hit. It was followed by a sequel in 2002, "Men in Black II." This film also starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, together with Johnny Knoxville, Lara Flynn Boyle, Tony Shalhoub, Rosario Dawson, Rip Torn, and Patrick Warburton.

"Men in Black II" begins five years after the events of the first film. Agent J has now become a top MIB operative and works primarily without a partner. During a routine investigation, he uncovers what appears to be an evil plot by Serleena, an alien disguised as a lingerie model who is portrayed by Lara Flynn Boyle. In order to put a stop to Serleena's plans Agent J must try to convince Agent K to abandon his civilian life and return to MIB, as he is the only remaining operative with the knowledge necessary to locate the Light of Zartha, Serleena's ultimate goal. Unfortunately, Agent K has had his memory wiped and remembers nothing about MIB.

Originally, the climax of the movie was scheduled to take place at the World Trade Center in New York City. However, after the towers were destroyed during the attacks on September 11, 2011, that ending had to be changed. The day after the attacks, a studio spokesperson stated that the film's ending would need to be re-filmed. Some of the final scenes in the movie take place in the New York subway system and reach their culmination in a Grand Central Terminal locker.

"Men in Black III" is scheduled to be released on May 25, 2012.