Wednesday, May 30, 2012
Men in Black 3
"Men in Black" as a franchise has never exactly been a huge cultural game-changer. Much like franchises like "Mission: Impossible", "Men in Black" is a series the largely exists for studios to plop out new movies every half a decade to drum up some easy quick money. Are there really "Men in Black" fans? Would anybody be particularly offended if "Men in Black 3" were to fail? Is there any vested emotion in this movie's release? I mean, I was a fan of "Men in Black 1", it ran through my VHS player a lot when I was the kid. Was it a movie I loved? Not really. And I didn't care when "Men in Black 2" came out. "Men in Black 2" sucked by the way, I rented it three years later, and it was just a total waste of everybody's time, including mine. Even mentioning it in that last sentence was too much respect for that completely pointless movie. However, "Men in Black 3" is one of those rare cases where the studio actually managed to think up a decent script, had some good ideas for a new story involving these characters, and made a rather good movie. This is easily the best "Men in Black 3" that could ever exist.
Still, let it end here. Do I want a "Men in Black 4"? Heck no. For all the good this movie has managed to accomplish, it pretty much shows there's no future here. Tommy Lee Jones had to be replaced for 90% of this movie's running time with Josh Brolin playing Tommy Lee Jones playing Agent K. Can Will Smith handle the franchise on his own? I have my doubts. This is easily the most emotional "Men in Black" movie yet, managing to get past the typical silly alien stuff and uncover a real heart at the end. It wound up being more than just a Its a feat I doubt the movies will manage to repeat. Please, don't embarrass yourself, go home. But aside from misgivings about this franchise's future, "Men in Black 3" may be the best "Men in Black" movie yet.
You'd be surprised to see "Men in Black 3" turn into a good movie if you only watch the first twenty minutes. The opening to this movie is really weak. Tommy Lee Jones looks old. I don't know where the spark of life that led Tommy Lee Jones to such great super-animated performances in "Under Siege" and "Batman Forever" disappeared to, but its truly gone here. Maybe the sad ending to "No Country for Old Men" got to him. But Tommy Lee Jones seems pale and defeated, to the point that his face can't even bother keeping up the battle to stop sagging to the floor. Will Smith is doing his typical brand of non-threatening Blackness, the same role he's been playing for two decades now. Throw out a few generic street slang words every few lines and say "damn!" a lot, that's the Will Smith way. Will Smith is acting twice as manic in these first scenes, since Tommy Lee Jones is nothing but a energy black hole. So one guy is annoying and the other is dead*, this was not looking good.
Then we find out why Rip Torn is not in the trailers. His character was killed off for no apparent reason, so he's been replaced with Emma Thompson. There goes my hopes that Emma Thompson was actually Rip Torn's character after a much-needed sexual reassignment surgery. Oh well. The way they send off Rip Torn's character is pretty abysmal too, Tommy Lee Jones gives a super short speech and he's never mentioned again. Again, not looking good.
However, in walks Josh Brolin, who saves the show in a big way. Josh Brolin has mastered a spot-on perfect Tommy Lee Jones impression, which is amusing to see in of itself. Its a shame the real Tommy Lee Jones can't play Tommy Lee Jones anymore, but "Men in Black 3" had to work with what it had, and Josh Brolin made for a great replacement. Will Smith manages to play off Josh Brolin much better too, together they save the movie in a big way.
The plotline for "Men in Black 3" involves time travel, which is usually a terrible sign. Time travel is the kind of plot point you only include in a franchise that's already completely run out of ideas. But this time, they managed to make it work. The plotline is that Jermaine Clement from "Flock of the Conchords" is an alien prisoner named Boris the Animal who has escaped his lunar jail and is jumping through time to get revenge on the MIB agent who took his arm and killed his entire species, Agent K. So Tommy Lee Jones gets erased from the timeline, which means that now an armada of giant Metroids is invading Earth. Will Smith has to leap back in time, join up with Past-Agent K, and defeat the combined power of two Jermaine Clements. Don't think that just because Jermaine Clement is a nice Kiwi singer that he won't eat you, he manages to put together a very spirited performance as the big villain here.
Luckily for a time travel plotline, there is very little Timey Whimey crap. Will Smith, for example, doesn't learn that he's a Seeress and doesn't drop dead at the last second of the movie because he had a vision of the future while Jermaine Clement devours the entire world with Chaos**. Most of the time weirdness is embodied by Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays an alien who can see every alternate timeline and thus can lead our heroes to victory. Stuhlbarg is constantly smiling under many layers of clothing, he's an innocent wise creature, who helps move this movie beyond weak alien gags into a much more sentimental and impressive third act. The jokes and time paradoxes take a back seat to great character development. I won't spoil any of that, but I give this: by the end, my sister was crying. It was an amazing moment, something far beyond anything that I expected of a "Men in Black" movie.
I didn't cry though. Do I look like a girl?
"Men in Black 3" is a movie that gives its all to make itself more than just a collection of alien gags and moments for Will Smith to say "damn!". And for that, its commendable. It starts slow, but it manages to find its place, and create a surprisingly memorable movie. And that's awful. "Men in Black 3" was supposed to be the sequel to my "Battleship" review! I was supposed to have a double wammy of fun stupid alien movies that are so easy to make fun of. And instead I got a good movie. By what right do you have to be good, "Men in Black 3"? WHAT RIGHT? How dare you!?
I'm going to kick this movie's ass. Then it will learn to never entertain me again.
* I really would not be surprised if Tommy Lee Jones passes away before "Men in Black 4" ever gets created. Which is a real shame, since I love him as an actor.
** Yes, I'm still sore about FFXIII-2. Why do you ask?