Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Physical Effects Supervised by Peter M. Chesney

Visual Effects Produced by:

  Visual Effects Supervisor: Eric Brevig
  Visual Effects Producer: Jacqueline M. Lopez
  Director of Animation: Rob Coleman
VISIONART, Supervisor: Joshua Rose

Jump to stills from MEN IN BLACK, or read the review below.
The Aliens

Humans as Aliens

The Crash

The Rest

The Aliens - Humans as Aliens - The Crash - The Rest

Nominated for two 1997 VFX HQ Awards: Best CG Character Animation and Best Miniature Pyrotechnics.

MEN IN BLACK features almost 250 visual effects from Industrial Light & Magic and makeup and creature effects supervised by Rick Baker. The film stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as top secret "immigration" cops chasing aliens on Earth.

The film contains a generous helpings of CG character animation, bluescreen composites, miniature work, wire and rig removals, and an immense amount of live-action creature effects, produced by Baker's Cinovation Studios, Steve Johnson's XFX, KNB EFX Group and ME*FX.

Things kick off quickly with the opening sequence; the camera tracks a small, alien dragonfly zipping around the desert at night, only to be slammed against the windshield of a passing van. The bug animation is wonderful to look at, especially as the camera follows it against the moon--the nearly three minute sequence produced by Autumn Light Entertainment is quite pretty.

The audience is immediately introduced to Mikey, an alien posing as an illegal alien. Mikey takes off his disguise, revealing an enormous, ugly, multi-handed extra-terrestrial, realized both by an elaborate, on-set suit, and as an ILM computer generated character. The CG model of Mikey is highly intricate, and was used for full motion shots of Mikey attacking a trooper. Especially nice was the detail created and animated in Mikey's mouth and jaws.

A spectacular shot, one the most riveting of the film, occurs as Tommy Lee Jones blows the head off of Jeebs (Tony Shaloub), a jeweler who is actually an alien posing as a human. The transformation is remarkable--a small, stubby head appears and morphs and melds itself into Shaloub's normal-sized head in the amazing seven second shot. Tony Hudson at ILM supervised both the modeling and animating tasks of this sequence.

Perfectly illustrating the visual differences between on-set puppets and CG animation are the "worm guys," four tiny, slimy aliens that assist the MIB unit. In an early sequence, the aliens are depicted as Rick Baker rod puppets, but later in the film, they show up as ILM CG effects. The difference? In the rod puppet scene, the aliens' movement is quite limited. Sure, the camera has complete freedom in the puppets' case, since no digital manipulation of the shot is required. But the two later ILM CG shots of the "worm guys" walking around the headquarters are much more dynamic and visually interesting.

ILM's CG unit succeeds once again as an alien disguised as a small pug dog, who has a conversation with Tommy Lee Jones. In much the same way Rhythm & Hues used CG animation to make animals talk in the Academy Award winner, BABE, the dog's lower jaw was digitally removed and replaced with a fully CG jaw, synched to the alien's lines. The articulation of the mouth is superb.

The character receiving the most of ILM's treatment, however, is Edgar, the nasty bug-like alien whose intent is to allow the Earth to be destroyed. With the aid of some excellent makeup and CG effects, the huge alien hides inside a human's skin. Early in the film, with the skin sagging on his face, Edgar (Vincent D'Onofrio) pulls back his skin in a distinctively unhumanlike manner. The effect, an ILM creation, is mind-blowingly effective, reminiscent of ILM's dazzling mask work in MISSION: IMPOSSIBLE.

Edgar finally reveals himself at the end of the film as a huge, fifteen foot tall alien. Cinovation designed and produced a full-scale animatronic Edgar-alien; however, because of script and design changes, the entire sequence was handed to ILM to be executed as CG animation in post production. The character animation shines in this final sequence, with background plates taken from moving cameras that dolly, crane, shake, rattle and roll... and the CG creature was match-moved perfectly. Director Barry Sonnenfeld's trademark frenetic camera movements were not dulled down for the extensive CG sequence. ILM's achievement in animation and match-moving can now allow directors to shoot in the same style they would shoot a non-CG sequence, giving the director full creative control over a scene, instead of the technology dictating the creative decision, as it has done in the past.

The film ends with an absolutely incredible shot--the ultimate zoom out. Starting from a closeup of a N.Y. city street, the camera pulls back revealing the Earth, the solar system, the galaxy, revealing that our own galaxy is just a game to another race of aliens. The extraordinary shot has to be seen to be believed. The sequence, overseen by ILM's Scott Farrar, contains an enormous amount of CG elements, and although it seems a bit synthetic at times (especially with the alien hand that rolls the marbles), the shot should be remembered as one of the most incredible closing shots in movie history.

The Aliens

Humans as Aliens

The Crash

The Rest

The Aliens - Humans as Aliens - The Crash - The Rest

Check out Cinefex 70.
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