Monday, June 18, 2012

Blogorium Review: Men in Black 3

 It turns out that when I said that "I'd rather write a review for Men in Black 3" rather than discuss Prometheus last week, I may have been overstating the case. You see, there isn't really a lot to say about Men in Black 3, a movie that is, at best, adequate. Provided that you haven't seen Men in Black in a while or don't mind what feel like blatant character contradictions, you'll probably have fun watching Men in Black 3, walk out of the theatre, and promptly forget everything about the movie. It's a cinematic Neuralizer (tm), so to speak.

 There may have been a better movie about Agent J (Will Smith)'s and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones)'s frosty relationship after working together for 14 years, but this isn't it. I don't really remember Men in Black 2 because I haven't seen it in ten years, but Men in Black opens on a light, goofy note as K deals with an alien trying to smuggle himself across the border. After a moon prison escape for Boris "The Animal" (Jermaine Clement), Men in Black 3 opens with the preparations for the funeral of Zed (Rip Torn) and K's eulogy. J is irritated that he still doesn't know anything about K after being his partner for a decade and a half, and K's brief statements about Zed only make him angrier. On top of that, there's an indication that Agent K and the new head of MIB, Agent O (Emma Thompson) have a history, but the only answer J gets is "don't ask questions you don't want to know the answer to."

 The visibly disinterested Tommy Lee Jones isn't in much more of the movie as Boris travels back to 1969 and helps the younger version of himself kill K and erase everything the Agent accomplished between then and now from history. That way his species, the Bogladites, will be able to invade Earth rather than being wiped out. J is the only person who remembers history changing, and with the help of Jefferey Price (Michael Chernus), the man who gave Boris a time machine, he jumps back to 1969 to prevent the time tinkering happening.

 Men in Black 3 picks up when the notably subdued Smith arrives in New York circa 1969, where J meets the younger Agents O (Alice Eve) and K (Josh Brolin). Brolin's version of Tommy Lee Jones is uncanny, and at times reminds you of the Agent K that enjoys his job in Men in Black. It livens up Smith and the surly, frustrated J begins to disappear, and before you know it Men in Black 3 is more fun than somber. That won't last, but we can enjoy the middle of the movie anyway. Rick Baker's alien makeup and costumes are fantastic, Bill Hader breathes some life into a superfluous Andy Warhol cameo, and Michael Stuhlbarg's Griffin, an alien who can see multiple realities at once, brings a sense of wonder back to the series, something we've been missing since the first film.

 For a while, the movie almost works. There's a sense of fun, a more mature Will Smith is comfortable not delivering wisecracks every other line (there's a great moment where J meets two racist cops and has to explain that while, yes, he did steal the car he's driving, that doesn't mean they should assume he did), and Brolin gives us hints of K before he "shut down" emotionally (this is why I recommend not watching Men in Black too closely to 3, because the character of K doesn't make much sense from one film to the other). Stuhlbarg is a lot of fun as the innocent Griffin, although he never serves much more of a purpose than to say "oh, this is the one where _____ happens, unless it's the one where ____ happens." He's really a convenient plot device to get J and K where they need to be at the end of the film that happens to have a great actor elevating the role. On the flipside, Clement doesn't have much to do as Boris (in either iteration) than look like an alien Hell's Angel that shoots spikes at people. It's not clear why bringing in a member of Flight of the Conchords to play the villain and then not use any of his comic timing, but a lot of this movie just seems to happen for no reason.

  But it can't really last because shoehorned into the J and K relationship in the present is the suggestion that something happened to K, something that hasn't happened yet when J meets the younger version. So we know it's going to happen during the climax at the launch of Apollo 11, where Boris and future Boris are trying to thwart K. I guess if you thought the Men in Black series needed more pathos, you might buy into what director Barry Sonnenfeld, writer / mirror universe "Coen brother" Etan Cohen and how ever many other uncredited script polishers came in during the production hiatus, had in mind. But keep this in mind, the end of Men in Black suggests we're no more important than a bag of marbles in the cosmic sense.

 Well, that's as much as I can really wring out of a review of Men in Black 3. Considering that the only thing I remember about the second film was not liking it, then certainly is successful. What it succeeds at is up for debate, but it's the kind of movie that isn't going to offend your sensibilities for 90 minutes, will probably make you chuckle a little, and then let you go back to enjoying your summer. It's adequate, which really shouldn't be enough, but then again I said the same thing about Dark Shadows. Compared to some of the garbage out there, if you REALLY need to see something and want to bring the whole family, this is definitely a movie.

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