Oct 26, 2012

[Movies] Men in Black II (2002)

I have a natural aversion to movie sequels. As much as I love a certain story, it doesn't automatically translate to me wanting to see another movie made in an effort to continue it. And I only feel this way since more often than not, Hollywood disappoints us all by presenting some pretty horrible crap that they try to pass off as a narrative exercise.

This sequel to Men in Black definitely falls under the category of movies that I wish hadn't been made. They decided to embrace only those elements that they thought were "successful" with respect to the first movie, and thus repeating them would somehow guarantee the same result. But if movie-going audiences have taught us anything is that you can't compute "success" like some scientific endeavor. People will like what they like and we won't ever have a clear understanding of why this is so. But simply having repeated elements from one movie carried to another is not a clear assurance of success. Plus it can get pretty annoying.

This movie just seemed to have us staring at Will Smith too much. Or something else that I can't quite place my finger on. Regardless, it wasn't that happy an experience to get through and in the end you're better turning your brain off in order to get the most from this movie.

Synopsis: Men in Black II is the 2002 sequel to the 1997 original movie. It was directed by Barry Sonnenfeld with a screenplay by Robert Gordon and Barry Fanaco. As before, the entire franchise was based on the original comics by Lowell Cunningham.

Five years after the events in the first movie, we now find out that Agent J (Will Smith) has managed to rise up the ranks and is pretty much the top agent at MIB these days. The only quirk is that he seems to have difficulty retaining a partner after Agent L (Linda Fiorentino from the first movie) decided to return to civilian life. And with a new shapeshifting alien (who eventually resembles Lara Flynn Boyle) on Earth desperately searching for an artifact known as the Light of Zartha and killing everyone in her way, J needs to find a way to stop her.

And unfortunately, only the former Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) was alive at the time the Light was entrusted to its caretaker. Thus J now needs to track down Agent K - who is not a postman named Kevin Brown - and try to convince him to return to MIB to have his memories restored somehow. And all this needs to be done before the alien Serleena can track down the Light and use it for her own purposes.

There are so many different reasons why this movie is bad, but it's hard to figure out which one to discuss first. So when in doubt, I'll go for the villain.

For some reason, Lara Flynn Boyle fell into that classic acting pitfall of interpreting "alien" as "unemotional" or "stone faced". Throughout the movie she is pretty much a dead fish in clothes that are way too tight for her as she delivers her lines in a horrible fashion and convinces no one that she could possibly blend in with the rest of human society. And this is emphasized even further by the fact that the movie focuses a LOT on Will Smith as Agent J and thus we get him constantly cracking bad jokes, making dull puns and generally being annoying. Or just being himself, if you prefer.

And in a movement that tried to maybe up the comedy or gain greater appeal with younger audiences somehow, the movie had a lot more screen time for some CGI characters - namely the worms and of course Frank the Talking Dog (Tim Blaney). And while their rather limited appearance in the first movie was mildly entertaining  this time around it felt like they were hoping to elevate them to the level of supporting characters but didn't quite know how to write for them beyond being caricatures of themselves. And they're definitely the type of comedy that grows old pretty fast. Offensive stereotypes do not automatically lead to comedy gold!

And maybe for a moment the central mystery of where the Light of Zartha might be hidden was potentially interesting. But on the whole it felt too much like everyone was just forced to twiddle their thumbs until the principal characters could figure them out. And that can be pretty suck for the likes fo MIB as an organization and how it's all supposed to make sense to us viewers.

The one thing that this movie really had going for it was the even more diverse collection of aliens that Rick Baker had whipped up for this sequel. As always his make-up and design work was impeccable, thus resulting in some truly amazing and memorable creatures wandering around in the background. So yeah, sometimes it's more fun to ignore the boring humans and just look at all the colorful aliens around them.

Men in Black II pretty much added to the never-ending list of reasons why sequels are hack jobs designed by Hollywood to rake in more money. So despite the odd moments of entertainment with some of the chase sequences and aliens, I can only give this movie 1.5 "clues" that Agent J leaves for himself out of a possible 5.

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