Friday, May 25, 2012

Men In Black 3 - Time Has Helped The MIB

After overcoming another multiple of five years, 10 after Men in Black II as opposed to five after the original film, the Men in Black movies return to theaters with Men in Black 3, which just like another franchise covered here has switched from a Roman numeral to an Arabic one. I decided I wanted to see this installment, as I had already seen the others, and after an opening day matinee screening, I don't regret it like I thought I would. I admit that while I did end up liking it better than the second one, there are some things that keep it from having the same charm as the first.

The plot this time (pun intended) involves time travel. More specifically, an alien named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes from Lunar Max prison, aka space jail, in a quest for vengeance against Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). To accomplish this, he uses a device to travel back in time to assassinate him before he, Boris, can be arrested for his past criminal activity. Agent J (Will Smith) feels the effects that this event has on his timeline, in fact being the only person alive who knows that there is a difference. After his situation is understood by Agent O (Emma Thompson), he too travels back in time in order to prevent Agent K's death, while also trying to learn about his partner's past.

Time travel is a premise that I have usually associated with the point when a franchise runs out of ideas, save of course for franchises like Back to the Future that are explicitly about time travel. Initially of course I did associate Men in Black with this when I heard about this plot's involvement. As I watched however, I forgot all about that and just tried to appreciate this film's take on it, and it actually does it nicely. Elements of it did seem to be reused form other plots, but it adds somewhat of a different spin on this by requiring a time jump on top of another physical action, breaking a tiny laser beam on a small item, as well as the visual representation of going across time. I found the characterizations of characters in the past to be interesting, especially Past K (Josh Brolin), as well as new characters like Griffin, who can see all possible paths in time, a power which he humorously describes as a "huge pain in the ass". The performances from the actors were fun to watch and really helped to sell the world that they inhabit. There was also plenty of humor in the movie, mainly from Will Smith, which helped the presentation out a bit; an example of this would be a scene that involves a specific side effect of experiencing a time fracture: a craving for chocolate milk.

If there's one thing to comment on, it would be the special effects. It's not necessarily the quality of the effects, but the way they were pulled off. A little research told me that the aliens in the present were rendered in modern CGI, whereas the ones in the past were created with the more traditional methods of makeup and animatronics to give the movie more of a retro feel to suit the time period. This is a pretty clever way of marking the time periods and, although I admittedly didn't really pay attention for that, it's a commendable effort that shows just how well a traditional alien can look. On the subject of the CGI though, there is a master quality to it that make all the technology seem that much more cool to look at, also making some aliens like Boris appear all the more gross (though there is a distinct lack of slime this time around, not that I missed it).

While I do like some things about this movie, there is one really big issue about MIB headquarters that bugged me the whole time, specifically the changes made to the layout. To clarify, I don't hate the new look of the HQ, I actually kind of liked it and I understood that plenty can change over the course of ten years. What did bother me about it though was the effect that time travel had on it, specifically none. Even 40 years in the past the MIB had a sleek design in their building, resembling a combination of Apple and Vector's home in Despicable Me, rather than the rougher look already established in the previous two movies. It's a glaring continuity error like this that made it odd to look at their HQ while watching, briefly making me wonder if the crew even watched their own movies. Another, more minor, issue is the fact that just like the other two movies, the MacGuffin once again involves jewelry of some sort.

All in all, Men in Black 3 is a very solid entry into the franchise. The performances and humor work hand-in-hand with a somewhat memorable score to help create a rather enjoyable time travel movie that I would actually recommend those curious enough to watch at least once. If you can ignore the glaring continuity error present during the visit to the past, then perhaps you'll enjoy it even more.

Now let's hope that if they end up making a Men in Black 4, we won't have to wait 15 years to see it.

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