Reviews - Men in Black

Review #1 by the Groovy Yak

There's only one person in the world who could write a decent score to a movie that features an evil, gigantic bug, a talking dog, a cute alien baby, and a car that can defy gravity. That person is, of course, Danny Elfman. However, Men In Black was not a difficult feat for Elfman, anyway. It was only a year ago that he scored a film about secret agents (Mission: Imossible) and it was only a half-a-year ago that he scored a film about aliens (Mars Attacks!). Men in Black is basically the elements of Mission: Impossible and Mars Attacks! pushed together. That theory definitely holds true in Danny's score. However, Elfman adds another style into the mix. He brings in the Henry Mancini-Peter Gunn spy bass line. It consists of 16-notes (8 tones) and is rather simplistic. Yet, it has to be simplistic in order to be catchy- and it is. The bass-line, alone, is the main theme. It's the Men in Black theme. There is a secondary theme too. It makes its first appearance at the beginning of track 2. While the MIB theme has an "alien-butt-kicking" sound, the secondary theme is quite the opposite. It sounds more sentimental and reflective.
So now, Elfman has composed two great themes. How does he incorporate them into the score? The answer is, sadly, he doesn't. The MIB theme shows up only a few times in the score and only in passing. Elfman never really dwells on the spy motives and sounds that he could of worked with. He definitely could've done more. The secondary theme appears from time to time, but only by itself. There are no variations on the theme. He also uses the same instrumentation- an acoustic guitar playing the melody. So, if the themes are used sparingly, what is the listener left with? Dissonance. Lots of it. Men in Black is Danny's most dissonant score to date. The action cues move from melodic idea to melodic idea faster than you can blink with always something dissonant popping up. I, for one, love dissonance, but I feel that if you aren't familiar with Elfman (or any other modern composers) the dissonance will really turn you off.
However, Elfman's score does has some redeeming qualities. There's a great combination of orchestra, percussion, synth, choir, and rock instrumentation in this score. Elfman's music is like looking down at a city at noon. There are so many unrelated events going on that you can't see them all at once. Elfman's music is so texturally rich that it is impossible to hear all of the musical lines without actually singling out instruments with your ears. Parts of the score are fast paced and exciting, others can be slow. The cues that are played in the MIB Headquarters (Tracks 6 and 7) are grand, and exciting. The end battle with the gigantic bug could've been extremely exciting, like the final tracks of Mission: Impossible, but are generally disappointing. There is one cue, though, that is worth the price of the CD. Track 15, Finale is one of the coolest cues that Elfman has ever written. The cue starts with main theme and is quite slow and sentimental until the final minute when there is a gigantic crescendo with choir and orchestra until the MIB theme appears in the final seconds. It will, I assure you, knock you out of your seat. Trust me, it is THAT cool. So, all in all, Men In Black, is a decent score, and I do recommend it. (Mainly for the Opening Titles, Chase, Finale, and End Titles) However, I feel that it could've been so much more. Let's hope that if there is a sequel, Danny gets to score it and develop what he did with this score.
Rating: * * * 1/2

Review #2 by Josh James

I just purchased MIB: The Score not long ago and I think it is superb - classic Elfman! He relies more on rock-related elements for MIB, but he does it flawlessly as usual. The opening theme is a wonderful blend of bass guitar, other rock elements, and a pounding orchestra. The MIB theme is definitely catchy. I've already listened to it at least 25 times. The repeating MIB orchestra theme echoes of the melody used in Scrooged. But here, Elfman transfers that higher pitched choir sound to a deeper string sound. Beautiful!
Also, there are many slow sections that I didn't really catch when watching the movie. The slower themes are almost more interesting than the relentless MIB theme we hear throughout the movie. As usual, Elfman blends his themes to suite each character and their characteristics - just like the finale of Batman that ends with a huge climactic sound but just at the last second returns to the dark Batman theme.
MIB is just another good example of Elfman's signature style which, I think, continues to be just as original and exciting as it always has.

Review #3 by the Texas Ranger (click to read)

Back to the Score Profile