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Men in Black
  • Composed by Danny Elfman
  • Sony Music Soundtrax / 1997 / 42:41

With its sharp wit and strong production values, it’s no surprise the original Men in Black was a big hit.  It was a well-made film, with good performances from its leads, Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.  Director Barry Sonnenfeld turned to Danny Elfman for the score, a wise move considering the composer’s success at integrating wacky elements into his unique rock/orchestral sound.  The composer’s score – unbelievably, the first to earn him an Oscar nomination – is cut from the same cloth as the two scores either side of it in his filmography, Mars Attacks! and Flubber.  The one key difference comes with the main theme – whereas those two scores have wonderful main themes which merit repeated listens but don’t contain quite such interesting music in between the opening and the finale, this one doesn’t quite have that.

The theme is, in fact, a bit of a non-theme – it starts off all promisingly, the string lines get more urgent, the percussion more and more complex – the theme will start any minute… must be coming now… here it is, surely!… oh, the track’s finished.  It’s actually still a groovy piece of music (did I really just say something’s groovy?) but always leaves me thinking there’s something missing (did they forget to turn the mike on next to whatever soloist was playing the melody?)  The underscore afterwards is a bit chaotic – but there’s always something interesting going on, so it never gets dull.  Elfman’s after a complex combination of feelings – style, humour, some thrills and occasionally chills – and generally finds what he’s looking for.  There are hints throughout of the secondary theme, which turns out to actually be a real theme – and it’s a strong one, the guitar piece finally getting fully revealed in the brief “K Reminisces” before an expansive version for the score’s finale.  The album as a whole is just too flittish to be considered a true Elfman essential; the highlights are still strong enough to make it a worthwhile listen.  *** |

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  1. the Ink Slinger (Reply) on Wednesday 23 May, 2012 at 00:34

    Good review, as usual. I like the main theme, but have never bothered with buying the rest of the album. I was, however, looking at Elfman’s scores for Alice in Wonderland and Wanted. I saw you gave them both 4 stars, but I was wondering… do you prefer one over the other in any way?

  2. orion_mk3 (Reply) on Thursday 24 May, 2012 at 04:17

    Is this a first step to reviews of all three Elfman MiB scores (his first trilogy)?

  3. James Southall (Reply) on Wednesday 30 May, 2012 at 10:08

    That’s my intention!