Friday, May 25, 2012

Men in Black III [2011]

MPAA (PG-13)  CNS/USCCB (A-III)  Roger Ebert (3 Stars)  Fr. Dennis (3 Stars)

IMDb listing
CNS/USCCB review
Roger Ebert's review

Men in Black III (directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, screenplay by Ethan Cohen and others, based on the Men in Black comic book series by Lowell Cunningham [IMDb]) continues the highly imaginative and highly successful franchise (MIB [1997], MIB II [2002]) about a "super-secret U.S. government agency" responsible for managing the various needs, eccentricities (often wild) and, often enough, bruised egos of a truly "sky-is-the-limit" variety of extra-terrestrial visitors making their way, passing-through, and even residing on earth, all the while keeping earth's human population oblivious to all these extraterrestrials' presence.

It's not an easy job -- for either the "men in black" in the story or for the films' creators!  Indeed, coming to this third installment -- and I confess that I have been a HUGE FAN of the previous two MIB films as well as Douglas Adams' Hitchhikers' Guide to the Galaxy [Amazon] book series that IMHO shared a similar imagination -- I wondered how the film would go.  After all, how does one put-together a coherent enough story (and do this for a third time) when the story's fundamental worldview is one in which truly _anything_ is possible?

Indeed, I sort of wonder what God (after all, we Christians/Catholics believe that we were created in God's image [Gen 1:27]) would think of these films' creators' "God-like" imaginations.  Would God be a fan? ;-) ;-) Or would God be saying "No, no, no you have the physics (or biology) all wrong.  If it were really the way you present things, then 'this or this' would happen.  So I'm sorry, it just doesn't work." ;-) ;-) Or would God say "Hmmm, I wish I had thought of that! ;-)  [Me], I just love these people!" ;-)

So clearly, I'm just a huge fan of the imagination present in the MIB series, and certainly one who as encouraged people (and especially the young) to live with an attitude of wonder: "The heavens are singing the Glory of God ..." (Psalm 19:1-2, St. Francis Canticle of the Sun [Marty Haugen hymn]).

But do the film-makers pull it off?  Do they put together a coherent story in a world where truly anything is possible?  Happily, I believe that they do ;-).

So what is the film about?  The film begins with Galactic archfiend Boris the Animal (played by Jemaine Clement, Russian viewers of this film may not particularly like that the film's primary villain, extraterrestrial though he is, has such an obviously Russian/East Slavic name ...) breaking out of a super-secret (and presumably super-secure) prison (on the moon) with thoughts of both revenge and saving his own people.  Finding his way back to earth, he shakes down a human-looking alien working at a somewhat seedy "electronics store" somewhere in New York for a time traveling device, which though oddly shaped turns out to be basically the size of a small ipod/smart phone of today ;-).  With that device, he seeks to go back some 40 years in time (to 1969) to kill MIB's Agent K (played in the present by Tommy Lee Jones and in younger 1960s form by Josh Brolin) and thus allow keep Agent K from "saving the world" from invasion by Boris' planet devouring people (hey they have to eat too ... ;-).  When Agent K's partner, Agent J (played by Will Smith) wakes up one morning to no reference to the existence of Agent K (except that he had died 40 years previously), it becomes clear that Agent J must "go back in time" as well to save his future partner (and thus the world).  Much ensues ...

Among that which ensues is, (SPOILERS FOLLOW but probably worth the read ... ;-) among other things, a racial profiling that Agent J (played, after all by the African-American actor Will Smith) _as well as the audience_ is no longer used to.  He finds himself having to explain to two skeptical NYPD cops (white): "Hey, just because I'm black, dressed in nice clothes and driving an expensive car doesn't mean that I stole them!" (It turns out that he _did_ steal the car ;-), but only "on police [MIB] business" to get quickly from Chrysler Building in New York's Manhattan to Coney Island where he knew from police reports that he read in OUR TIME that Boris was going to kill an extraterrestrial victim).   Agent J as well as the younger Agent K also attend a party hosted by Andy Warhol ... which given Warhol's legendary eccentricity actually makes "a lot more sense" in world of the film than in ours ;-) ;-). 

The climactic scene (OBVIOUS SPOILER...) takes place the scaffolding at the top of the launch tower of Apollo 11 in the closing minutes before its launch with Agents J and K fighting it out with Boris.  I mention the scene here because it is priceless.  The countless millions of people around the country and around the world watching the launch, all dressed in characteristic 1960s summer-clothes and sitting in front of their big wood framed 60s-era television sets, are of course completely clueless of fight taking place at the top of the launch tower.  The crew of Apollo 11 sitting in the space capsule on the other hand sees everything.  But as they look on, one of the crew members (Neil Armstrong, "Buzz" Aldrin or Michael Collins?) says to the others "Hey, I'm not calling this in. [If I do...] they're gonna scrub the launch ..." :-) So they let the two "men in black" and the odd space alien (teamed also with his second time-traveling incarnation) fight it out.

The launch of course takes place (SPOILER?) The world is saved (SPOILER?) And we learn a few more things about the characters of Agents J and K as well (SPOILER? ;-).

Who could not love a movie like this?  PARENTS NOTE that the CNS/USCCB review mentions that some of the language is not particularly suitable for minors.  To be honest, I didn't catch this.  But (1) I've missed this before, notably last year with Super 8 [PG13-2011] and this year with Cabin in the Woods [R-2012] where I found myself blushing after having initially recommended the films to parents and teens with minimal (in the case of the the first movie) or some (in the case of the second) reservations.  The language in the first movie and the drug use/references in the second were far greater than I initially remembered. Still (2), Roger Moore, author of a a column "Parents Guide to Movies" that gets printed in the Tribune company's papers (Chicago Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Orlando Sentinel, etc) noted that Men in Black III's PG-13 rating is entirely appropriate with only a smattering of perhaps a "half a dozen or so bad words."  But parents take note.  And also keep in mind (3) that questions regarding language do vary regionally.  The language used here in the neighborhood of my current parish, Annunciata on the South-East side of Chicago, is, well, that which you'd expect of a parish/neighborhood that feels very much like that of a Everybody Loves Raymond [IMDb] episode or John Candy film.  But the language used here in Chicago is probably "saltier" than want one would expect in California or the Southern United States ...

In any case, some Catholic/Christian parents may find the language in the film occasionally troublesome for youngsters/teens.  Still, on the whole, I found the film "very, very cool" ;-) -- and especially for the young and young at heart ;-) ;-).

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