Smell of Popcorn

film reviews & musings by Max Lalanne

REVIEW: I did see Men in Black 3 – and then went home and watched Men in Black for the first time!

Posted by Max Lalanne on May 26, 2012

Okay, so before Men in Black 3 opened nationwide yesterday here in the States, I was unfamiliar with the entire MIB series of moves, something that I really shouldn’t admit but, hey, it’s remedied now. But seeing as circumstances presented themselves the way they did, I said, “Why not go into MIB3 unknowleadgable about the whole Will-Smith-zaps-aliens-and-is-funny-and-cool-at-the-same-time shebang, without having seen the first or the second movie, and see how I like it?” As the title suggests, I did exactly that and then went home and watched MIB for the first time.

But let’s not time-jump too much here. I sat down to enjoy Men in Black 3 as if I knew what was happening in front of me. I watched – and these are minor spoilers from the first ten minutes –  in rapt and unbelieving fascination as Nicole Scherzinger’s “Girlfriend” character skimpily sauntered into a high-security Moon colony prison with a big pink cake that actually contained a little buggy alien that will be used to free a…well, big ugly biker-dude alien named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) with no left arm. Yes, really. Wow, are the whole MIB movies like this? (Answer: Thankfully no, but I didn’t know any better back then.) I watched as back on Earth, Tommy Lee Jones’s Agent K and Will Smith’s Agent J entered a rickety noodle restaurant and forced a Chinese chef to reveal that he actually had alien fishies and other unsavory probably very savory extra-terrestrial beasties which he was serving up to unsuspecting humans. And then…turns out Mr. Wong’s an alien too. Whoa, was I missing out here. And really, on the whole suspending-belief thing went on for the whole movie.

But I didn’t want to write up a decent review for Men in Black 3 without saying a little bit more about Men in Black, the 1997 hit that’s directed by Barry Sonnenfield, with makeup effects by Rick Baker and music by Danny Elfman…so, you know, basically the same cast and crew like its sequel 15 years later. After watching Men in Black 3, I really had to see how the outlandish spawn compared to the mommy alien. Before watching MIB I liked MIB3 fair enough, but it was far from unsensational and even a little…well, unecessary. After watching MIB, I didn’t like MIB3 that much anymore, it was really far from unsensational and really unecessary. Watching the first explained a lot – ohhhh, that’s why they know aliens are among us! Okay, thanks and confused me a lot more too. Mainly, why is it so hard to follow up on a great movie? Why isn’t MIB3 simply better than it is right now?

Here’s the basic problem, if it can be described: We all agree that MIB is simply enough, a fantastic sci-fi comedy in the vein of Ghostbusters that’s smart, witty, hilarious, and gives audiences a great time watching. The story was simple, the budget was considerably smaller, and its a joy to watch. And MIB3 does not have a simple story, instead a convoluted and far-fetched one that involves time-jumping back to 1969 to save the young Agent K – and the world – from the aforementioned Boris the Animal. There, the action gets bogged down by distracting supporting characters like Griffin (Michael Stuhlbard), a very weird alien guy and even weirder character dressed in camping layers, beanie and all, who can predict the entire future and who occupies an annoying amount of screentime for a 1-hour-45-minute film. Oh yes, and others like an useless Andy Warhol (Bill Maher) that prompts a few chuckles in the first few seconds and then quick yawns in the next minute. Somehow, MIB3 feels more dated and out-of-place than MIB, and that should seriously be a problem.

There’s one good thing that came out of MIB3 going back in time, and that’s Josh Brolin. Playing the younger Agent K, and therefore a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones’ character, he infuses the movie with just the right amount of poker-face seriousness that we’ve come to expect and adds some refrained dry wit and humor into the mix. It’s not that we need someone else than Will Smith to make this movie entertaining, no – okay, maybe yes. Smith looks and is older now, yet he still plays his character the same way he did 15 years earlier, with the same well-worn “relatable funny guy” schtick that’s still laugh-inducing and likable, of course, but just doesn’t evolve into something more like I expected it too. Back when he did it in MIB, he was utterly fantastic. When he does it now, it’s slightly underwhelming just because we know it so well.

Oh yes, one last thing. Rick Baker’s alien creations are way too underused in MIB3, now that I’ve marveled at MIB‘s giant, amazing cockroach villain and even all the other little guys running around the airport and such. They weren’t very important characters, but they were all a great part of MIB‘s universe – so is Boris the Animal really the best and the only thing they can do in this year and age? Come on, don’t be lazy.

MIB3 before having seen MIB: B

MIB3 after having seen MIB: B-

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