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Saturday, November 10, 2012

Men in Black 3 - A Review

When it comes to movies there is nothing I can’t stand more than a sequel, that is, unless it fulfills two specific requirements.

1. The story arc encompasses all subsequent movies. In other words the story might need three movies to tell the whole story as in Lord of the Rings, the Star Wars Trilogy or even Star Treks II, III and IV.
2. A good length of time has passed between those movies for a decent script to be written and to ensure the right director is given the job of directing it, as in the Back to the Future Trilogy or the Toy Story movies…

When it came to Men in Black I wasn’t sure what to expect. The first movie was legendary, the second movie was clearly riding the cash splashing success of the first one and then… there was nothing…

For almost ten years.

When I first heard that Part Three was “coming soon” I had a nostalgic sneeze, blew my nose and forgot about it. But then I heard that the movie was going to be about one of my all time favourite movie fantasies – Time Travel. Instantly I was willing to lay aside my qualms regarding sequels, after all, a significant amount of time had passed and I was ready for the worst.

I think secretly I was hoping that the powerful forces involved in the magic of making the movie would somehow have Will Smith’s Agent “J” travel back to scenes in the previous movies to undo some paradox or other, in very much the same way as Michael J. Fox did as Marty Mcfly in Back to the Future II, when “old” Biff goes back to November 5th 1955 to give “young” Biff the Sports Almanac.

The kind of movie I wanted this to be can only be explained by the Deep Space Nine episode – “Trials and Tribble-ations” when, thanks to the CGI of the day, Actors from the then Modern incarnation of Star Trek were able to be inserted into “The Trouble with Tribbles,” an actual episode of the Original Series. Why no one has done this as a feature I have no idea! This was the fantasy I harbored for a long time over MIB3.

Well, I was half way there at least. Agent “J” Did indeed have to go back in time to fix a paradox… but we’ll get to that…

Having finally convinced my wife that MIB3 would be a good way to whittle away a Wednesday evening we hired it, watched it, stayed awake through it and actually liked it! (Actually, I have to confess that the main reason I wanted to see this movie in the first place was because I had just finished watching Seasons One and Two of Flight of the Conchords, and thirsty for some more sarcastic Kiwi dramatics and realizing that Jemaine Clement was in it I thought, “what the heck?”)

This was a very different addition to the MIB universe. It was like coming to an old heritage listed building and attaching a bouncy castle to it… and I mean that in a good way. While it had all the usual features the first two movies dished out, the quirky extraterrestrial reality behind normal everyday life, the Men in black suits, the stone cold Agent “K”, played by Tommy Lee Jones, it had the unexpected advantage of maturity.

Will Smith has truly shed the skin of the Fresh Prince in this installation. He’s not so much the Hip Awesome Cool dude (good grief, how old do I sound) of the first two movies, but, well, more of an adult; comfortable in his job, a professional, a grown up.

The movie starts on the moon in a top security prison where the villain of the tale, Boris the Animal (played convincingly despite the heavy make-up and CGI, by fellow Kiwi Jemaine Clement), the last of the now extinct Bogladites, escapes with something sinister and other worldly in mind – revenge on the Man in Black who put him there in 1969. If you’ve guessed the agent in question is Agent “K” then collect $200 passing “Go”.

Agents “K” and “J” meanwhile are attending the funeral of “Z”, the character formerly played by actor Rip Torn. The tension between “J” and “K” is evident after “K” gives a seemingly heartless mono-sentenced eulogy at the funeral and “J” begins to wonder what “K” might say were it his funeral.

Boris shows up at a Chinese restaurant that night, a lot of aliens are killed and the tension between the two agents is intensified when “J” realizes something is up with his partner and Boris has something to do with it. However all of “J’s” efforts to uncover “K’s” past are thwarted by his new boss, “M”, portrayed, Brittishly, by Emma Thompson.

The next day “J” discovers his partner died 40 years ago, history has changed around him and a massive invasion of Bogladite ships has arrived to destroy planet Earth.

“J” must convince his organization that he isn’t insane, drink a lot of chocolate milk, jump off the Empire State Building in order to travel back in time, convince Josh Brolin’s younger “K” that he is his partner from the future and prevent future Boris and present day 1969 Boris from killing him and thus saving the world once again.

And there you have a cleverly entertaining 106 minutes.

Agent “J” however discovers the younger version of his congenially challenged partner to be actually quite cool, laid back and actually rather pleasant. The quest, apart from saving the world, is on to find out “what on Earth” could have happened to Agent “K” to turn him into the grumpy old man from his future.

Should I spoil the movie for you? No, I don’t think so. But suffice to say there is a twist, and it somehow manages to complete a circle you never knew was there… turning the grumpy old Agent into the “Father” (but not really) the younger agent never knew he had. That’s all I’m going to say without completely destroying the movie!

I suppose the thing I loved the most about this installment is the story wasn’t burdened with a love interest. The focus was entirely on the two agents and their relationship with each other. Barry Sonnenfeld did a good job at creating believable bond between the two main characters that leaves you at the end of the movie a teeny bit teary eyed and maybe thinking about not taking so much for granted…

And I suppose that could be the moral of the story, don’t take anything for granted. Especially the implausibility of time travel!

Yeah, there were a lot of holes in the time-travelology but I’m choosing to ignore them.

I give this movie a modest 6 out of 10 for just being entertaining and for not completely ruining my expectations.

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