Directing a movie has been compared to being a general, and that becomes even more true when directing a summer blockbuster. The demands of studios and stars, rewrites, special effects, and marketing! marketing! marketing! all come into play and somehow all these demands have to be managed and balanced. And if you want to make a lighthearted, fun movie on top of all of that, good luck to you–exactly how many military campaigns get called “lighthearted, fun”?
Somehow, Barry Sonnenfeld brought it off with Men in Black. He had his background as director of photography with the Coen Bros. to help, and some great performances too: a never-more-charismatic Will Smith, a never-gave-less-of-a-shit Rip Torn, and the utterly unsurprisable Tommy Lee Jones, with an Oscar in his pocket for The Fugitive and a pro in every scene. (“He said. . .your world’s gonna end.” “Did he say when?”) The story of an alien invasion (well, actually, several of them) and the bureaucracy that deals with that kind of thing, in Sonnenfeld’s hands, is quick, funny, and inventive; you can think of this as the anti-Independence Day. All this and Vincent d’Onofrio as an insect-occupied gun fetishist. What more do you need?
Men in Black streams free on Amazon Prime through the end of the month.