Image copyright © by Marcus Trahan

Men In Black III


Every once in a while an SF movie comes along that shows us something new. It can be a new visual idea that, in no time at all, everyone is copying, like Alien. Maybe it’s just a new slant on an old story, but that’s good enough for me. The point is, it’s fresh. Men in Black was such a movie. Everybody loved the idea that not only have the aliens already landed, they are lowlifes, and we have this huge agency whose function is not to learn from them, a la Roswell and Area 51, but to keep this intergalactic scum from running wild. We all loved the interplay between the battling buddies—don’t we always? See Lethal Weapon—the old pro and the rookie. It made a lot of money, and so we naturally got a sequel. And it was okay. But the problem is with a movie that shows us something new is simple: It can never show us that new thing again. It can only work variations on a theme. So while the sequel may be good, even great, Aliens is not the movie Alien was. I’ve said it before but it bears repeating: 1000 aliens are not scarier than one alien. In fact, 1000 aliens are not scary at all, they are only exciting. Nothing to sneeze at, but the sequel showed us nothing new.

So now, 15 years after the first and 10 years after the sequel, we get the third one so many people have been hoping for. And it’s okay. Just okay. In a month I’ll have forgotten all about it, but I had fun. The technology has come a long ways since 1997, but so what? They did a fine job with what they had back then, and back then we still had the gosh-wow factor we no longer have. Most of the good stuff here comes from Josh Brolin, I thought, doing a spot-on impression of Tommy Lee Jones as a young man.

A word about 3D, of which I still haven’t seen a lot. 3D improved Avatar, to the point that I wouldn’t want to see the 2D version. It enhanced Hugo, but I wouldn’t mind seeing it flat. Here, it hardly mattered at all. I noticed that, for me, the least interesting uses of 3D were the vertiginous swoops in space, and the quick cuts where my eye barely had time to register the depth. I believe that directors are still learning their craft where 3D is concerned, just as silent directors had to learn to shoot with sound. Maybe as the years go by we will see some original thinking, but for now it remains largely a stunt.

(P.S. I wrote this without re-reading my review of Men in Black. I just did that, and am bemused boy how closely I replicated that review here. At least I’ve been consistent over the years, haven’t I?)