Digital Digressions: Men in Black 3

Paul: I don’t know about you, but Men In Black has been one of my favorite movies since I was a kid. To this day I will rewatch the first one multiple times if I’m bored.

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Nathan: I’ve often said it’s the “Ghostbusters” of the 1990s. Probably prefer it though, just hit at the perfect time for me.

Paul: So it’s probably not too far a stretch to assume that we were both expecting a pretty good time from Men in Black 3.

Nathan: Well, my vague memories of MiB2 being kind of a let-down had me cautiously optimistic at best. I was hoping for nothing more than a fun time and it was that, for the most part. I think we need to put a number on this one just to get a sense of how each of us felt about it. I’m suspecting you enjoyed it more than I did.

Paul: Most likely. Hell, I’ve been watching YouTube videos and reading some reactions from people who’ve gone to see it this weekend and I think I’m among the few outspokenly excited for this movie. I mean, it wasn’t near the quality we got in the first MiB but it’s probably one of the funner moments I’ve had in a theater for a few weeks now.

Nathan: So what’s your score out of 10?

Paul: Barring a rewatch in a couple of months from now when it’s less fresh, I’d say probably a solid 7.

Nathan: Okay, I guess that’s where I landed too. The first is a 10 for me, this one was fun and fast-paced with good supporting performances (more on that later), but the whole concept is just not as fresh as it was fifteen years ago and I think I was expecting…more from Will Smith? Saying this role wasn’t a stretch for him is an understatement, and saying it “looked effortless” doesn’t quite describe it either. Lazy? Maybe that’s harsh but it gets at how I felt about him in this movie. And no song at the end? WHAT IS THAT?

Paul: Well yes, the concept of Men in Black isn’t nearly as fresh but I think where they went with the time travel was decent and the idea of a being that is basically omnipotent, being able to see multiple timelines at once, was great… so I find it hard to swallow the sentiment that the concept wasn’t there. Will Smith, however, was totally just playing Will Smith in this movie and I don’t even think  he was acting so much as he showed up on set to get his picture taken multiple times. And you’re 100% right about the song at the end. Pitbull? Really?

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Nathan: I did like Griffin quite a bit, so I don’t mean the whole premise is sucked dry but it just seems the deck was stacked against this movie being anywhere near as interesting as the first. But no one’s saying it’s better, so I can stop harping on that. I also liked Jemaine Clement quite a bit as Boris, which is why I wanted to give some mention to the supporting players. While I felt Smith was kind of phoning it in, everyone else really threw a lot at it, which made up for it. Josh Brolin as well, really glad they let him take over as K for most of the film. Tommy Lee Jones is looking OLD. No offense or anything but…damn, that is not a healthy looking 66. And yeah…Pitbull.

Paul: It also doesn’t help that after getting a whole lot of young K in Josh Brolin, and his performance really making you believe that he IS in fact a young K, seeing Tommy Lee Jones after is a rather sharp contrast when the character stayed very consistent between the two players.  Boris was great as this kind of creepy, disgusting and deadly alien but at the same time I feel he may have benefitted from some sort of character development? I don’t really know, since he’s really just the catalyst for story events to unfold more-so than a fleshed out character in a story.

Nathan: I was kind of reminded of D’onofrio’s “angry bug” character from the first movie, just a homicidal alien with a chip on his shoulder. I guess the one hook they gave him was a personal beef with K, but yeah, not much to him. I was generally fine with that though, this isn’t really a series that is known for rich, multi-layered characters. I mean, K had a lost love thing in the first movie, and they gave him a relationship with O in this one for much the same purpose, but comedic antics are the first order of business here. I guess we could also talk about the one big character moment they give J in the movie but that’s more or less the one thing that could carry a SPOILER warning, so we can side-step it.

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Paul: Yeah, I’m thinking we’ll side-step that one mainly because what we’re going for here isn’t a full run down and that’s a somewhat neat little hook at the very end that ties the two together.  A big issue I had is that I loved the chemistry J and K had in the first movie which is also what made the second movie so hard for me to get into with K losing his memory and all.  With Tommy Lee Jones not being a driving actor in this movie and Smith kind of just showing up, it felt too much like the Josh Brolin show when it came to all the actual MiB business, which is fine I suppose but would like that “buddy-cop” vibe again.

Nathan: I think I see what you mean. There were some legitimately great little exchanges between J and K in the first movie, them talking in the restaurant before J is recruited for example. They talk about surrendering who you are for the good of the universe and such. It isn’t HEAVY, per se, but there is some measure of weight to it that makes you care a little more about the characters. This movie had maybe one moment that did that at all, and it was a Brolin moment. He did a great job, but yeah, the dynamic that worked so well in the first movie doesn’t really grow or evolve here.

Paul: Which is really too bad. I hate seeing Tommy Lee Jones as essentially a cameo in a movie series he helped make great to begin with. A strange thing also is that this movie takes place like, what, 14 years after the second one? Agent J has been doing this shit for roughly one and a half decades and he’s still somewhat incompetent…?

Nathan: I guess I hadn’t thought about that, but yeah, he definitely isn’t as professional-minded about the whole thing as K. Even young K is ready to roll with whatever absurd scenario is laid in front of him, where J just seems confused and overwhelmed the whole time.

Paul: I understand why they do that, trying to hold on to the dynamic between the two being on opposite wave-lengths when it comes to the job or whatever, but I think it would have been nice to see J showing that experience has paid off and he’s just as capable as K was in the first film. This doesn’t mean he has to be bitter or anything, just kind of a smooth operator.

Nathan: But hey, at least he was playing Mass Effect 3, so man has taste in video-games…

Paul: I found it weird that Sony wouldn’t have chosen a first-party game seeing as they basically own Will Smith… Oh well.

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Nathan: I think we’ve covered to core component of the film, let’s each highlight some other elements worthy of mention before we call it a day. We mentioned Griffin before, and I just want to say I think that character, with his kind of “optimistic Dr. Manhattan” perspective and ruminations on life was probably my favorite component of the film. That he was played by Larry Gopnik himself, Michael Stuhlbarg, was the icing on the cake.

Paul: Definitely. Griffin was a beam of light in some of the darker parts of the movie and Stuhlbarg was a joy to see in the role. One of the things I personally liked a lot is how true they stayed to how the past was, specifically in relation to J being black.  I didn’t know if they’d touch on that sort of thing and was pleasantly surprised to see they had a few gags in there relating to that. Also, giant neuralizer.

Nathan: I do love me some time-travel any day of the week, and yeah, they had a decent amount of fun with that racial tension of the time. Some decent historical ret-conning as well, though again, spoilery territory so I shan’t elaborate. And seeing some ancient MiB tech was a bit of a treat, though they didn’t delve too far into that stuff. There seemed to be analogs for all the major stuff we’ve become accustomed to in the series. Not that that’s a bad thing, just saying.

Paul: All things considered, Men in Black is still the best of the three movies, but I don’t have any problem with recommending that fans of the series should go out and pay full admission for this in theaters… probably not in 3D though.

Nathan: Well, we saw it in 2D and it seemed fine, but yeah, however you want to see it, I’d recommend it. If you are a fan of that first film, you’ll probably have a better-than-average time with this one. Will they make a sequel? Who knows? Not sure it’s necessary, but yeah, check it out. And if you’re a Rip Torn fan…might I suggest Airplane 2: The Sequel?