Hey, Hey (What Can You Do?)
Ten years or more down the road, when people look back on the Men in Black series with the same nostalgic eye now aimed at the Ghostbusters franchise, I believe that critics will talk very fondly of the first one. After all, it’s kept Will Smith fresh and current to a generation of kids who might only otherwise see him in reruns of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, or in a more serious sci-fi movie like I, Robot. The second Men in Black movie, I feel, will noted for being, as usual, not as good as its predecessor, but not entirely bad. It expands of the fiction and is serviceable in its own right.
But, what about this new sequel? Well, I don’t think history will be as kind. Not that it’s a bad flick, not by any means. It’s just forgettable. Forgettable in the sense of “Hey did you know that Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho had three sequels,” as well as “Did you know Speed had a sequel with Sandra Bullock that took place on a boat?” The movie is so forgettable that it might as well not exist at all.
Agents J and K, with the alien who makes time travel interesting; Griffin
How is “forgettable” different than “bad”? Simple. I believe that most of the people who worked on MIB3 did a good job. The special effects are sound, the actions sequences are finely choreographed, the acting is sound, and the concept of time travel is handled better than I expected. However, none of that means anything if it’s about as memorable as the 3D effects needlessly shoehorned in it.
I really can’t tell who this movie is for. The focus on the wacky aliens is reduced to a sideshow, and all the plot does is answer a few questions that a fan might ask after a two hour long panel at Comic-Con. The plot reminds me of something a mediocre fan-fiction writer with a decent grasp of characterization might write, because some details like why is Agent J the only one who realizes that K is missing are answered in the most asinine manner that I’m pretty sure some editor just pulled it out of their ass in time for the final script. Some fans will probably be pleased to see a 1960’s-era Agent K, but Will Smith’s decoy-protagonist status gets in the way too much for him to really shine.
Speaking of shining, I can tell you that seeing this movie in 3D is about as useful as smearing Vaseline over your eyes and only a little less painful. The lost of vibrancy is not in any way a reason to pick up the glasses. Just see it in 2D and save yourself some money. The sooner this upswing in the 3D trend dies down again, the better.
Josh Brolin makes a better Agent K than a George W. Bush
Now, I don’t know about you, but I like to hear and see how the general public reacts to movies. If they get excited, what their impressions are, and so on. For a few examples, after the trailers of Adam Sandler’s That’s My Boy hit televisions everywhere, I saw a near-universal backlash against it, with many seeing it as yet another travesty like Jack and Jill while the only defenders were the same people who liked that godforsaken movie as well. With The Three Stooges, I heard a lot of mixed things; some saying it looked good and was well casted, while other said it looked painfully dumb or that they never liked the original series in the first place. And for Prometheus, I found some excitement for that. My dad even told me how many stars it got in the local paper (three, if you’re wondering). But for Men in Black 3, I heard and saw nothing. Okay, I saw maybe one vaguely excited comment before it came out, and a lot of “ugh, you’re kidding, right?” comments when it was being made, but there was nothing about it come release day. I wasn’t even aware that it came out, until some friends wanted to go see it, hoping for the best.
Those may seem like pointless observations to you (I know, I probably just missed all the excitement!), but I feel that the public perception that a movie has around the period it releases dictates how the movie will be remembered. As a last example, I know a few friends that lamented how they couldn’t go see Moonrise Kingdom when it came out, because it was showing in a few theaters nowhere near us and later saw quite a few blog posts about it after it came out. This makes me suspect that it’ll probably get the same indie cred The Royal Tennenbaums did down the line and become another cult classic like (500) Days of Summer.
So what does that say when your big-budget, 3D-enabled, “long-awaited” sequel gets less notice than a movie being shown in a handful of theaters? Nothing good, that’s for sure. Do I wish there was a better fate for this movie than to be lost in oblivion? Absolutely. Like I said, it’s a solid movie. But the useless plot, the moves away from what made the first two movies so fun, and the odd timing of this sequel (I think real nostalgia might have set in if they waited about five years, and thus more willingness to see it), coupled with a non-existent public awareness will make it about as memorable as The Next Karate Kid, Psysho III, and Speed 2: Cruise Control. That is to say, not at all.
Oh, and P.S.: I am aware of the box office numbers. It’s made over $500 million worldwide. The thing is, why is no one talking about it? Because there’s not much to talk about.