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MIB3 (Teaser)

Back in 1984, there was a film called Ghostbusters. And it kicked ass. It was funny, it was scary, it had phenomenal special effects, and it had great action. What’s more, it hit that elusive PG-13 sweet spot where it’s just mature enough that adults can enjoy themselves while kids can feel grown-up for watching a film with the occasional curse word. It was a great film then, and it’s a great film now.

That said, the film came out three years before I was born. Sure, I have a ton of baby pictures in which I’m wearing a toy proton pack, but only because the franchise was so unavoidable back then. As much as I love the movie, I just wasn’t in a position to have any fond childhood memories of it.

But then, just before my tenth birthday, there was Men in Black.

Instead of ghosts being hunted by men acting like roach exterminators, we now had aliens being hunted by men acting like bureaucrats. Both movies took paranormal subject matter and approached them from a mundane perspective, bringing them down to a more human level while somehow maintaining a sense of wonder. Both movies had a perfect blend of comedy, action, and horror, though MIB threw in a bit of satire as well. Both movies were implicitly about how small humans really are in the big scheme of things, but MIB explored that subject to far more interesting results. Last but perhaps more importantly, MIB used breathtaking special effects to deliver a menagerie of living, breathing aliens, every bit as wonderful and varied as the masterfully crafted phantoms of Ghostbusters.

Men in Black came at a perfect time in my life. Though I don’t recall buying any of the toys, I did watch the movie countless times and I regularly watched the awesome Saturday morning cartoon continuation. This was a film that I was able to hang some childhood importance on, in much the same way that young Ghostbusters fans probably did back in the day.

And also like Ghostbusters, the franchise took five years off before coming back with a sequel. The difference is that Ghostbusters II was a mild disappointment, and MIIB was an abject failure. The special effects were still amazing, but the plot meandered, none of the monsters were scary, precious few of the jokes were funny, and it was all capped with a tacked-on ending that was basically a carbon copy of the original’s ending, only more stupid.

And yet — again, just like Ghostbusters — the makers of Men in Black just couldn’t let the damage lie. They had to spend several years in development hell on a third film, with the certainty that they were somehow capable of washing out the bitter taste left by the last movie. Never mind that budgets have inflated, the cast has visibly aged, and the franchise is primarily relevant as a thing of nostalgia.

Alas, while the Ghostbusters III continues to stall, MIB3 just came out with a teaser.

*heavy sigh*

First of all, I could swear some of that footage was recycled from the second film.

Secondly, did you laugh at Smith’s Kay impression? Did you laugh at that alien encounter at the beginning? Did anything in that teaser get you anywhere close to laughing? No? Good, me neither.

Anyway, you may have noticed that Emma Thompson is in this film, here playing an MIB agent. In the past, this character is an MIB secretary played by up-and-coming knockout Alice Eve. The teaser put such a heavy emphasis on Thompson’s presence that I can only hope this character plays some pivotal role. That said, I sincerely hope that Eve won’t be positioned as a love interest for Will Smith or Josh Brolin, but I’m unsure if the filmmakers are smart enough not to do so.

Speaking of Brolin, his casting as young Kay was a rare source of optimism for me about this film. I’ve been a fan of Brolin since No Country for Old Men, and I’ve got absolutely nothing against the guy. He’s a wonderful actor and a fine choice to play a young Tommy Lee Jones (also of No Country, funnily enough). Having said that, did they dub Jones’ voice over Brolin’s? If the filmmakers seriously thought that wouldn’t look the least bit disconcerting, then God help this movie. Then again, if the actor is simply talented enough to sound exactly like Tommy Lee Jones, then God bless Josh Brolin.

I don’t know what happened to Barry Sonnenfeld, Will Smith, and Tommy Lee Jones. I’m sure they meant well in continuing the franchise, but something went just plain wrong after the first one. Maybe it’s meddling from studio execs. Maybe it’s the egos and salary demands involved. Maybe it’s just that the last two films have had six writers between them, none of whom were Ed Solomon, the first film’s sole credited writer.

Whatever the reason, there’s no denying that this franchise is broken. I’m skeptical that MIB3 can fix it, but time will tell when the film comes out next May 25th.

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