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Saturday, May 26, 2012

Review: MEN IN BLACK 3

I’ve put forth a theory before that the "Hollywood alien movie" is the most reflective genre of America’s military-industrial complex. In short terms: when the federal government nears a zenith of trust and efficiency (1960s, 1990s) alien movies are routinely about government employees saving the day. And when people are feeling rather low on their government (1970s, 2000s), alien movies are more personal, civilian and disaster-prone. This is the difference between “Independence Day” and “Men in Black” verses the post-9/11 counterparts, “War of the Worlds” and “Signs.” While the third “Men in Black”—in a rather inconsistent trilogy—offers nothing new cinematically, it at least hypothesizes that the nation has turned a corner in the last eight years.

Political polls be damned, “Men in Black 3” is about high-level government officials competently carrying out their duties with tact and professionalism. They are the good guys because they shoot the bad guys and clean up their own messes. Beyond that, in this newest edition to the MIB saga, our public service officials seek the solutions to modern problems by traveling back to the 1960s and involving themselves in one of the largest tax-payer projects of all-time: the moon landing. “States’ rights” nothing; I didn’t see Georgia land on the moon and plant one of the dumbest state flags there.

It’s not the laser guns blowing people’s minds, it's the political metaphors.

An injured, one armed alien ex-con demanding universal healthcare.
Do I need to draw you a map?

That the ringleader of the federal bureaucracy is played by Will Smith, baring a slight resemblance to President  Obama, and missing his father while searching the 1960s for solutions to save the world in 2012 is just gravy on top of all the (let’s just say unintended) symbolism. Ultimately, the world isn’t destroyed, but just stays on the verge of annihilation from the fade in to the ending credits.

Cultural significance aside, MIB3 is a safe two hours to waste. There’s nothing as surprising as the first film or anything as moronic as the second film. Granted, the trilogy--when taken as a whole--has gaps you could fly a spaceship through, but this third installment holds together well enough; not unlike that thinning “lazy Saturday” t-shirt still in your closet after all these years.

Because I don’t want to write a 500-word plot summary, it should suffice to say time-traveling is involved but not with any extraordinary explorations. It doesn’t completely avoid certain paradoxes, but it hurdles enough to keep clipping along. I’ll give it a 7 out of 10 on my paradox meter. Equally impressively, a four-dimensional being is represented in our three-dimensional world with clarity not far-removed from the likes of Futurama.

Josh Brolin does a fun Tommy Lee Jones impersonation. Tommy Lee Jones plays a bored man. Will Smith goes almost the entire length of the film without getting teary-eyed (a feat not pulled off since 2005’s “Hitch”). And Rip Torn is nowhere to be seen—thanks to his 2010 career-halting crime spree.

What’s left is a movie that has no more revelations than what can be pulled from the two-minute trailer. That is, unless you accept the political ideology of a movie that showcases the second breakout from a maximum security, Earth-orbiting, prison in as many months. I know I do.

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