Friday, May 25, 2012

Men In Black II

It appears that not even a decade on the shelf can keep a franchise down, since today brings us a new, third installment in the Men In Black movie series, based on the Marvel comic book of the same name. As such, I have recently re-watched the first movie in preparation for it, followed by the second one, which I will be talking about here. While I liked the first movie better than I thought I did after another viewing, I'm not sure I share the same sentiment for this movie.

Before I continue, I would like to acknowledge that in the five year gap between these two films, there was a Men In Black animated television series that ran for a total of 5 seasons. I remember seeing advertisements for this show as a kid, although I never actually watched a single episode. Fortunately, based on what I have read, this cartoon is not required viewing in order to fully understand what happens in MIBII, though it doesn't seem too far off that the second movie was made to ride off the series' popularity, and fans of it may notice a few shout outs. If you are indeed a fan of the series, you may be happy to know that, likely as a way to promote MIB3, you can now obtain the first season on DVD.

The movie begins with footage of an episode belonging to a fictional TV show called Mysteries of History, where the host, in this episode, talks about the myth behind the Men In Black, mentioning them as a mysterious organization dedicated to protecting the Earth from aliens. Following this is a hilariously low-budget reenactment of a nonexistent case file from the organization, detailing a visit to Earth from Laurana, Queen of the Zarthans, to hide an artifact called the "Light of Zartha" with the MIB. Laurana is closely followed by another alien named Serleena, Queen of the Kylothians, who wants the Light for herself. The MIB however launch the Light into space, causing Serleena to chase after it and the Earth saved in the process. Cut to 5 years after the events of the first Men In Black, Agent J (Will Smith) neuralyzes his partner Agent T (Patrick Warburton) after an encounter with an alien worm in a subway. Meanwhile the villainous Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) returns to Earth to retrieve the Light of Zartha, and the only to stop her is with the assistance of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). The problem is, K had already been neuralyzed 5 years ago and J must bring him back into the fold.

The plot of the movie is easy to follow, what with a run time about 10 minutes shorter than its predecessor, though a few plot elements seem to have been rehashed from the first movie as well. For instance, both movies involve an alien from another world disguising themselves as a human being, albeit in different fashions, in an attempt to retrieve an alien artifact disguised as a piece of jewelry in an attempt for conquest. Granted, the Light of Zartha is revealed to be a person by the end and not an artifact, but the comparison remains.

However, despite these rehashes, the boss battle at the end of the movie is a bit anticlimactic compared to the first. Whereas The Bug at the end of the first Men In Black put up somewhat of a fight and there was a discovered way to weaken/distract him, the battle with Serleena seemed quick and easy by comparison and she didn't seem to do much to actually fight back. At least there was a final conflict, I guess.

The humor of MIB is retained here, leading to some really funny bits throughout the film, though all the best lines seem to come from Will Smith. A few times there were some bits of sexual humor that the movie could've done without, such as a tiny alien city in a locker room having a XXX theater and Zed (Rip Torn), mentioning the Kama Sutra. At least J reacts appropriately to these moments, pointing out how wrong/disgusting they are. Despite this, the movie can be a laugh riot when Mr. Smith is on screen.

Product placement is abundant in this movie, although it pops up in a place that doesn't really make any sense. Where is this place? MIB Headquarters. Yes, apparently the Men In Black have decided that a Duty-Free Liquor store, a Sprint Store, and a Burger King were great things to have in a top-secret facility. One could argue that these things exist in this particular locale because there are shops in airport terminals, but it seems odd for a private facility that's trying to stay hidden to have public shops in it and only really seems to serve as blatant advertising to the viewer.

Speaking of things that don't make sense, there's one error present in the movie that I honestly didn't notice in any of the times I've seen it for the past 10 years until now, and even then I had to have it pointed out to me by someone else watching with me. In the first MIB, they establish that the headquarters has a lift that you need to take to the floor of the main lobby whenever you exit the elevator. This continues throughout the sequel until a scene near the end where, for convenience to the plot, the lift magically disappears in favor of taking K and J straight to the floor and a hailstorm of bullets is fired by a robot disguised as a trash can. I'm sure there are plenty of other errors I could have pointed out here, had I noticed them, but this one really stands out.

Despite all the things I've just said, Men In Black II isn't a bad follow-up to the first movie, in fact it's a fairly decent flick, but after seeing it close to its predecessor, I can't say I like it as much I remember. It has some funny moments and most of the visual effects hold up after a decade, though as you see the movie more you may notice a few things that are off, such as the thing with the elevator. Still, MIBII is enjoyable in its own way and works as good preparation for the third film.

Now it's time to see how good MIB3 is.

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