Sunday, June 09, 2013

Men In Black - Skyfall

Welp, it was bound to happen sooner or later, but the spectre of old age and Death has finally hit the Men in Black franchise.  Even though Rip Torn's still alive, they killed off Zed and give him a funeral at the beginning of the movie... SPOILER ALERT.  And frankly, K's looking a bit like he's about ready to stare at the stars a bit, try as he might to keep looking hip.  And, in one of several nods to the Coen brothers, Tommy Lee Jones seems to be acting a bit like he did in No Country for Old Men.
I will say up front that Men in Black 3 was more like the first installment than the second... and I couldn't help but notice that they all but skipped over Men in Black 2 in the making-of documentaries.  Surely, they could've at least showed the part with Putty?  The point being, as long as I don't think about it too much, I got good vibes off MIB3, no question.  And I should probably just end the review now.
That being said, I didn't hate it as much as the Village Voice guy did!  SHEESH!  But back to the plot.  Will Smith, aka Agent J, is having a tougher time than usual in this installment.  He finds out that, even though he's been working at MIB for quite some time now, there's still that glass ceiling that a brutha has a hard time getting through, and he usually hits it when he has to clean up one of K's old messes.  The mess is Boris the Animal, a Hannibal-esque inmate of Lunar-Max prison on the moon.  Spoiler alert: he escapes when his girlfriend pays him a visit with a cake more jiggly than she is.  Maybe I'm getting old and cynical, but as I watched Nicole Scherzinger in the making-of documentaries, Don Rickles came into my mind, and he was saying "Aw, isn't that cute?  She thinks she's the star of the picture!"  Nice to see that Sonnenfeld is not as deep into Russ Meyer territory as he used to be.  Boris escapes, kills Terry from Miller's Crossing in the process, makes his way to Earth somehow, gets a hold of a time travel device, and travels back in time to initiate a proper invasion of Earth.  And as in Timecop, J finds that MIB headquarters is a little bit different when he goes into work the next day.  And as in Back to the Future Part II, J has to travel back in time to the day before Boris does in order to foil his evil schemes.  In the film's most visually impressive sequence, New York is beset upon by several giant squid-like spaceships as Will Smith makes his jump back in time.  Almost as impressive is the process of travelling back in time.  Maybe not 2002's The Time Machine impressive, but close.  All the eras are represented: the Jurassic, 1929... but really, what more do you need than that?
As we find out, 1969 is not all fun and games.  Agent J steals a nice car and gets pulled over by 1969 cops, who are suspicious of a black man in a nice suit.  Fortunately, the neuralyzer pacifies them enough so that J can make his escape.  J eventually finds a younger K, and he does a terrible job of following the advice of the wicked fat dude that gave him the time travel device: J is not to interact with K... for fear of altering the future, or the past, or the space-time continuum as we once knew it, something like that.  Young K gets this suspicious black man back to MIB headquarters and puts him into an old giant neuralyzer... but stops at the last second.
Oh!  I know what's wrong with this one.  Nobody poked anything and said "What's this?"  The first two had that.  Also, no final visual setpiece: no giant bank of alien lockers, no view of the universe as a marble in some big-ass alien's game.  But J does run afoul of some trash cans again, so there you go.  At least one consistency between the whole trilogy.
J and young K finally team up to get Boris.  They stop at a Big Lebowski-esque bowling alley and bowl an alien's head until he agrees to talk.  They eventually locate Boris's target: an alien named Griffin played by A Serious Man's Michael Stuhlbarg.  I don't remember his eyes being that blue!  Strange.  He plays a neurotic alien that holds the key to Earth's extra-terrestrial defences: ArcNet.  The deployment of ArcNet is something that K is lovingly credited with at MIB.  Griffin is able to see into several possible futures at once... just not quickly enough to get grabbed by Boris.
As with the Batmobile in The Dark Knight, the Men in Black's car gets totaled.  But just like the Batmobile in The Dark Knight, the car is able to transform itself into a smaller transport: a monocycle just like in the second generation of Star Wars movies.  The chase is on.
When the chase ends, it's not over, of course.  We need a big finish.  MIB has a lot of exotic tools, but apparently nothing that can leave the Earth's atmosphere.  Not good for a secret organization that monitors alien activity on earth.  So how to get that damn ArcNet into space and have it deployed?  Simple.  Get it on board the iconic Apollo 11 mission to the moon... but that's in six hours!  Fortunately, the ArcNet device is very, very small, and all they have to do is practically stick it on to the rocket like a Post-It Note.
Okay, here's the one nitpick I'll share with you.  SPOILER ALERT: At a crucial moment in the big fight sequence, J uses his time travel device like the Omega 13 device.  Am I right, nerds?  Dirty pool!  Other than that, I laughed (a little girl confuses J with the president), I cried... and I couldn't help but notice that there seems to be an awful lot of extra footage that didn't make it into the actual movie itself.  Fer instance, there was a scene where Emma Thompson is speechless and confused, at least in the trailer... but I didn't see the same sequence in the movie!  Oh, and Griffin looks into the camera at the end and addresses the audience directly... just like the Stranger in The Big Lebowski.  And finally, the Geneva Conventions don't apply to certain races of aliens, like the Troglodytes... I mean, Boglodytes.  But again, to reiterate, they got the vibes right.  It's a return to movie form for Sonnenfeld and company.

-so sayeth The Movie Hooligan

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