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(Spoilers ahead)
The Men in Black are men with knacks
For stopping alien attacks.
Unknown to all, unseen, unheeded,
Wiping memories when needed,
They guard the earth from cosmic slime,
Quite often in the nick of time.
When Agent K hears tell one day
How one cop kept up with his prey,
He gives this James a valued chance
To prove his monster-fighting stance.
Though James is different from the rest,
He outshines all the best of the best.
A bug from space then steals a face
To blend in with the human race.
He seeks a galaxy to spoil
And kills an otherworldly royal.
The new recruit, who wants to shoot,
Investigates this “Edgar suit.”
A visit to the morgue presents
A corpse’s worrying contents.
Then, tit for tat, they all learn that
The galaxy is on a cat.
The bug takes it with hostage too
And plans to bid the earth adieu.
But J and K force him to stay
And make him angry, by the way.
K has to dig down deep inside
To leave the insect liquefied.
They’ve saved the earth, for what it’s worth,
But no one knows to offer mirth.
J now can face this world so vast,
And K can now retire at last.
The Men in Black are back in black
To stop another space attack.
A worm in supermodel guise
Desires a Light that’s cloaked in lies.
When Agent J is told that K
Alone knows details few can say,
He jogs K’s memory with haste,
Which earlier had been erased.
Serleena, who a young K knew,
Ensnares the MIB HQ,
And J and K must follow clues
To find the Light that she pursues.
It is opined a girl they find
Is not in fact of humankind.
The two must fight Serleena’s might
To rescue Laura, who’s the Light.
She must depart but waits to start,
And her migration breaks J’s heart.
They blow Serleena from the air
And get back to Earth’s watchful care.
The Men in Black again are back
To keep the timeline on its track.
When Boris gets some help to break
From lunar jail (don’t trust the cake),
He tries to kill K in the past,
Which changes history quite fast.
Since somehow J remembers K
And Boglodites are on their way,
J time-leaps with a strange device
Which proves surprisingly precise.
The ‘60s K considers him,
Although J’s evidence is slim.
They’re soon aware of when and where
Their foe will strike before he’s there.
They meet one Griffin, who can see
Each future possibility.
From him they get the prized ArcNet
To save Earth from invasion’s threat,
But now it must get into space
To activate and save our race.
The moon launch grants the perfect chance;
To Cape Canaveral they advance.
Both past and future Boris try
To stop the duo once they’re high.
The black-clad men from now and then
Succeed in saving Earth again;
The Borises and Boglodites
Fortuitously lose their fights.
A tragedy J gets to see
Confirms K’s latent sympathy.
Returning home, J’s glad to find
The friend with whom he saved mankind.

What can I say about the Men in Black films? They’re funny, weird, frequently gross, action-packed, mind-blowing, occasionally touching, and overall the best sci-fi/comedy/buddy movie mash-up I’ve seen. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith make a perfect straight-man/funny-man team, and their differing reactions to all the bizarreness they encounter are priceless.

The first film was a huge success, both critically and commercially. Contributing a lighter tone to the Marvel/Malibu-published comic book on which it was based, the film lets its two leads bounce off each other effortlessly, fueled by a golden script. Their odd-couple chemistry is matched only by the amazing special effects and Oscar-winning make-up from Rick Baker. The first Men in Black is the most difficult to critique because it’s the closest to being downright perfect. The performances are infectiously fun, the villain (Vincent D’Onofrio) is brilliantly wicked and disgusting, the comic one-liners and hilarious situations are now classics (that rocket car scene with Elvis especially), and the whole film is simply inspired, from the way Siobhan Hogan pronounces “Eggar suit” to the straightforward method K uses to retrieve his swallowed gun. It’s also intermittently shocking in its gooey violence, particularly with Tony Shalhoub’s head-shooting scenes. (By the way, minor Lost alert: Fredric Lehne, the INS agent whom Mikey the alien charges at the beginning, played U.S. Marshall Edward Mars on my favorite show.)

The second film, released on the heels of the animated television show’s cancellation, is sorely lacking in several regards. The villainess is an alien-turned-lingerie model, whose gross scenes are more squirm-inducing than intimidating, and K’s supposed happy ending is dissolved by the lazy explanation that his wife left him. Likewise, there is more of a focus on the worm guys and Frank the pug, potentially irritating characters that are better taken in small doses, as the first film did. Beyond that, many of K’s clues to himself seem rather arbitrary, and by the end, when the fate of the world depends on Laura launching away, both J and K can do nothing but stare regretfully at her. All that’s not to say that the second one is without redeeming value. I loved the scenes with Jeff the giant subway worm and Agent M’s cameo, and Rosario Dawson is naively beautiful as Laura, though it’s unclear what her ultimate fate is when she returns to the home planet she’s never visited. Overall, Men in Black II felt like a direct-to-video-quality effort that didn’t need to be made.

Still, without MIIB, we would never have gotten MIB3, which breathed some new life into the franchise, though whether it paved the way for another sequel or served as an agreeable conclusion is still undecided. I’ve made no secret about my love for time travel, and throwing this device into the plot was genius. Though I once thought that no one could fill the shoes of Smith or Jones, Josh Brolin is incredible as a younger version of K and smoothly inhabits the stoic persona Jones wore so well. It’s not quite as funny as the first film, but Jemaine Clement’s Boris the Animal is a worthily nasty MIB villain, and the finale that works in the 1969 moon launch is outstanding, as is the emotional twist absent from the other two films. As with any time travel story, there are details to quibble over, but that’s for another post maybe. (Though I do wonder why they needed to use Apollo 11 to get the ArcNet into space. With all the aliens already on Earth, did the MIB really not have access to a spaceship of some kind? Also, the question of what made K “this way” is never fully answered, but it seems obvious from the second film. He became grumpy and emotionless most likely because Serleena killed the alien monarch he loved, but maybe that’s too obvious.)

Men in Black didn’t need to be a trilogy, but despite the weaknesses of the second, I’m glad it was, if only for the timey-wimey third film. The original movie remains a high point in modern science fiction, and a lesser staple of pop culture.

Best line from MIB: (Beatrice, Edgar’s wife, when two FBI agents come calling) “You here to make fun of me too?”
(deadpan K) “No, ma’am. We at the FBI do not have a sense of humor we’re aware of. May we come in?”
Best line from MIIB: (Laura, after a fight) “Half the time you were on your back!”
(J) “That’s how I fight.”
Best line from MIB3: (Griffin, played by Michael Stuhlbarg) “A miracle is something that seems impossible but happens anyway.”


Artistry: 7
Characters/Actors: 9
Entertainment: 10
Visual Effects: 10
Originality: 9
Watchability: 10
Other (language, violence, sexual dialogue): -5
TOTAL: 50 out of 60

Next: #124 – Ghost

© 2014 S. G. Liput

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