The best part of adapting a pre-existing story into a movie is that you've already got a whole bunch of fans who are pretty much guaranteed to buy tickets (yay!). The worst part is that you have to stick to the ideas that already existed in the original story (boo!).
Ha! That's funny because I'm fucking lying to you. People who make movies don't care about staying consistent with some starving artist's vision -- they have cocaine fountains and whiskey pools to pay for. And to be clear, I don't necessarily think that this is a bad thing -- I mean, a cocaine fountain sounds like it'll cause problems, but most of the movies I'm about to talk about are actually pretty good. I just think it's funny that they (seemingly intentionally, in at least one case) are out to piss off the people who came up with the story in the first place.
Men in Black is the 1997 sci-fi action comedy platform that Will Smith stood upon when he shouted to the world, "People of Earth! Make me your celebrity God-King, and in exchange, I will rap out a pop-song explanation of the premise of every movie I ever appear in." We agreed, and his eventual betrayal of that promise is the greatest disappointment our people have ever faced.
Imagine what he could've done with Seven Pounds.
Anyway, Men in Black. Odds are you didn't even realize that it was a comic book, but now you do, because I just told you. So naturally you're assuming that the comic was the same kind of odd couple buddy-cop comedy the movie is, right? Probably not, because you also read the title.
In the Source Material ...
Yup, the comic and movie are pretty much identical -- as long as you cut out all the "I make this look good"s and "It just be rainin' black people in New York!"s and replace them with a whole bunch of murder.
"Now that's what I'm talkin' ab- oh, God."
The whole point of the comic is that the Men in Black -- like the modern urban folklore that they take their name from -- are the brutal enforcers of a secret fascist state that controls every detail of modern life. I seriously cannot impress upon you what massive dicks they are. Remember the "neurolyzer" device that Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) uses to convince a housewife that the alien she saw was swamp gas refracting off of Venus, and then Will Smith gets to be charming and convince her to hire an interior decorator because damn? In the comics, they still have neurolyzers, only K uses them to convince teenagers to kill themselves.
And suddenly the scene where Will Smith gets the job after shooting a little girl in the face makes sense.
The tagline of the movie -- "Protecting the Earth from the scum of the universe" -- only applies to the Men in Black of the comics if you imagine that "scum of the universe" refers to "thinking, feeling human beings." And also you need to change "protecting" to "controlling." And then cut out "from" and replace it with a period, and the beginning of a whole new ... this isn't working. My point is that the Men in Black were originally meant to be significantly more horrifying than David Christopher Bell could ever imagine.
Also, that fucking hair.
Of course, it's not all cynical -- while the humans of the books are way more violent and Nazi-esque, the aliens (and demons, because there are also demons for some reason) are actually way nicer. One bit of dialogue the movie copies directly from the comic is this bit:
"You can have my gun when you pry it from my cold dead fingers."
"Your proposal is acceptable."
Except in the book, the aliens don't eat the dude and kick off a wacky story -- they just ... fly away. It turns out they're participating in an interstellar scavenger hunt in an attempt to escape slavery, and they need a primitive weapon to win their freedom. They took the guy's offer literally: They thought he was bequeathing them his possessions. Like, as a will. Maybe I'm weird, but I find that super endearing. Like I wanna have those aliens over and teach them how to play Settlers of Catan.
Since this is such a common complaint, I'm going to get one thing out of the way right off the bat: I don't care that the Star Trek series has been turned into mindless action movies. I don't feel betrayed or misled, because a) that's a stupid thing to feel and b) I'm not really a huge Star Trek guy anyway. I like the movies because I have a soft spot in my heart for films where things explode and pretty people punch things and space ... just spaces. Space doesn't actually need to do anything for me to enjoy it. I just really like it, so any time it's in a movie, I'm on board, man.
You had my curiosity, but now you have my throbbing nerd-erection.
But there's something of a problem in the latest one, Into Darkness, which pits Captain Kirk against the corruption and bureaucratic failings of Starfleet, personified by resurrected super soldier Benedict Kahnberbatch. Admiral Peter Weller wants to use him to start a war to fund his intergalactic meth ring or something, and Kirk is the only captain who's enough of a straight-shooter to stop him, which we learned right away with a shot of him blatantly disobeying an order and violating the Prime Directive. This is a problem becauuuuse ...
In the Source Material ...
The entire point of the original Star Trek series is that human society has achieved perfection: There's no more hate, greed, jealousy, money, farting, light beer, or vaguely worded text messages from your girlfriend -- just space adventures that took oh God so long to get going.
Three whole minutes just to launch a spaceship? I thought this was the future!
That doesn't make for great storytelling, but hey, that's because Gene Roddenberry's point wasn't "I'm going to systematically make a movie that will have a broad appeal"; it was "I want to depict a utopian future, and I am willing to compromise narrative convention to accomplish that." He wanted to give the kids watching his show an idea of a peaceful world to try to make happen one day.
But there's one thing Roddenberry never considered: Star Trek got super popular, and Roddenberry got super dead, so there was nothing stopping future writers from turning all the upper echelons of Starfleet into corrupt slug monsters. By the time Deep Space 9 rolled around, we had an episode where the hero lies, forges legal documents, indirectly murders a public official in order to trick an entire empire into going to war with his enemies, and then spends the entire episode justifying his actions to us, which is way better than watching Kirk punch lizard monsters, thinks no one in the world. Hell, we even learn about "Section 31" -- a secret part of Starfleet that spends its afternoons plotting genocides. By the time Into Darkness rolls around, the entire plot is about evil RoboCop waking Sauron up from hypersleep so he can fight Sylar while young Jack Ryan watches, masturbating.