Josh: We have to see that.
Penguin: But it's going to be freaking stupid! It has TIME TRAVEL. Remember how you bitched about the time travel in Harry Potter 3? This will be like that, but with aliens! Which is so much worse!
Josh: We're going to see that.
Penguin: *Loud sigh* Fine. Okay. Whatever.
Josh: We have to watch the first two before we go.
Penguin: WHAT? Bull shit. No. I'm not doing it. I won't. Too much stupid. I can't-
Josh: We are watching them. I'm buying them, and we're watching them.
*Penguin looks for a weapon, finds only popcorn, and must therefor surrender. Reluctantly.*
And that is how I wound up going to see Men In Black 3 in theaters opening weekend. After watching the first two. Which means now my head is all full of aliens and secret government agencies that police aliens and freaking Will Smith, who is sort of sexy, and Tommy Lee Jones, who is so old it's kind of scary.
To clarify, as a kid, I really enjoyed the first Men In Black movie. I'm a geek. I like science fiction. What else can I say? The second one, however, was pretty bad, and I must have realized that even back then, because it left so little impression on me that watching it again was like watching it for the first time, and not in a good way. This reinforced forever the idea that sequels are usually BAD. But I digress....
Men In Black 3 was not a great movie, but it wasn't necessarily as awful as I expected. The basic plot, as shown in the trailer, is that a bad guy somehow goes back in time and kills Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) before he was ever Agent J's partner. Agent J (Will Smith) inexplicably remembers Agent K and their entire partnership, but everyone around him does not. Still with me? Okay. So Agent J has to go back in time, to 1969, to keep Agent K from getting killed and to make sure the world is saved and has this special world protecting shield...thingy.
Here are some things that worked about it:
- Younger Agent K is played by a guy who does a remarkably good Tommy Lee Jones impression. There's a great dynamic between the characters of Agent J and Agent K that is maintained well in this movie--with fun, snappy dialogue and lots of humor.
- There's an alien named Griffin, who can predict an infinite number of possible futures. I really enjoyed that concept and the breadth that it added to the story.
- Time travel is not easy to write, Slick. You pretty much need a brain that works in perfect flowchart fashion and keeps track of an infinite number of small details in order to not create inexplicable plot holes. AND you have to add limits and rules to the time travel so your characters won't be able to use it for every stupid problem, which will ruin the tension of your book/movie. AND you open up a can of worms in terms of philosophical questions. This movie? Yep, there's plot holes. There was a time when there should have been two Will Smiths but there was only one Will Smith, which by their own world building was WRONG. There are huge, unexplained questions about who remembers what and why they remember it and how that effects the time stream. It's just not good.
- A character warns Agent J that 1969 is not going to be a friendly place for a black man. Predictably, it isn't, and he has some run ins with a few cops early on. Later in the movie, we see another black character in a position of great power, on the launch site of the rocket bound for the moon, telling a bunch of people what to do. No explanation as to how he got into that seat of power. No comment on whether it's unusual. Nothing. It's just there. If the movie had not played up the racism angle earlier, I wouldn't have noticed it--but because they did, it becomes one more unexplained detail that bothers me.
- This movie made the 1960s look about as stereotypically 1960s as it possibly could. Everyone had Jackie O hair and go-go boots. Josh commented later that it would be like showing the 1990s with every single person wearing wind pants and bowl cuts. It looks like a costume party, not the real deal.