Trilogy Review: Men in Black

Men in Black

You know, when this came out in 1997 I loved it, yet shamefully I have not watched it for years; this film is great!

Based off a Marvel Comic (originally Malibu comics) Men in Black follows a New York cop who is enlisted into a secret organisation assembled to protect the public from alien invaders. Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) instructs the new Agent J (Will Smith) when a hostile bodysnatching Bug lands on Earth and threatens humanity’s existence!
The two actors are two of my favourites, and the film capitalised both of their talents while at the peaks of their careers; they have ridiculous amounts of on screen chemistry, almost every line is witty, memorable and very funny!

What’s also noteworthy is the creature design (it did win the Oscar award for best make-up) special effects (sure, they’ve dated, but this film looks pretty slick for 1997!) and even the score by Danny Elfman has its own personality without falling into “generic Elfman sound”.

I believe this film is embedded in my mind; even as I watch it I feel as though there is a laughter track after the jokes, as if I can remember the audience reactions. It is a unique and sometimes surprisingly adult science fiction comedy; there’s a lot of swear words here given its PG rating! But that makes me like it even more, it’s the last of an era in film were creators could be liberal and didn’t have to slap 12A on everything.

I love it, very, very close to Ghostbusters levels of awesome. It has great dialogue and humour that isn’t stupid, often intelligent, and is just an all around fun experience, recommended for all.

Additional Marshmallows: Did you know, Clint Eastwood was approached for the part of Agent K?

Men in Black 2

Five years later in 2002, the Men in Black return…  but they unfortunately leave behind the rich enjoyment in the previous century.
An experienced Agent J is now working alone; unable to find a new partner who can replace Agent K, but when an alien dominatrix arrives on Earth he needs the knowledge his old partner once had to stop her.
The film has a promising start. We see Agent J no longer a rookie yet angry from missing his old partner; many agents regard him with anxiety as he neuralizes most of his new partners. However, I’m sorry to say, the plot quickly becomes mindless when the liberated Agent K is awkwardly woven back into the story.

MiB1’s ending was bitter sweet, but gratifying. The sequel backtracks yet the script does not capitalise with these characters in the same way; the two agents spent most of their time arguing and complaining and the chemistry once shared feels lukewarm without the student/mentor relationship of the first film. Instead the jokes are dished out by the talking dog and the Worm aliens, who get repetitive quickly.

With a lacklustre villain, a throwaway romance, an illogical and seemingly transparent doomsday plot device, Men in Black 2 is sadly quite forgettable. Yes it has more aliens, and the occasional flare of class, but it stumbles around with too many toys to make it worthwhile.

Men in Black 3 (3D)

Ten years after a quite disastrous second act, the Men in Black return to the big screen with a time travel caper. On face value, it is even less promising, but in actuality… it’s an almost full recovery!

When an alien with a grudge against Agent K breaks from prison and alters time so he never existed, Agent J must go back to the 1960s and save his partner. He’ll need help though, and who better than the younger version of K himself?

I was very hesitant to see this, especially after reminding myself of MiB2, with time travel and Tommy Lee Jones only on screen for the beginning and end segments, but I was more than happy to see the film recovering the sense of humour in the first film, and actually having an understandable script! Plus, Josh Brolin plays the younger Tommy Lee Jones, and does a pretty fantastic job of it.

The creatures on show are as interesting as ever, the villain is much better than in MiB2. The 3D unsurprisingly isn’t necessary; there are one or two gimmick shots but nothing excessive. The plot, well when time travel is concerned there’s always problems. Agent K is erased from history, my first problem is… why is Agent J still with MiB if K wasn’t around to recruit him? There is a nice sting in the tail of this story though, which links with the original film… but again, time travel, paradoxes, aaaargh.

I was very pleased with the end result though. While it may have missed some beats that the original wouldn’t have, time travel is always hokey, and there’s little to no consistency with secondary characters throughout the films, it recovers the franchise nicely for one last hurrah.

We just don’t talk about the utterly… utterly horrendous song by Pitbull, right?

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