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Logic alien concept problem in ‘Men in Black III’

5/31/2012 - West Side Leader
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By Craig Marks

Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones star in “Men in Black III.”
Photo courtesy of 2012 Columbia Pictures Industries Inc.
There are some movies that are so entertaining you forgive their logic problems. “Men in Black III” is not one of them.

Like the first two “MIB” films (the last one was in 2002), No. 3 is directed by Barry Sonnenfeld and stars Will Smith (Agent J) and Tommy Lee Jones (Agent K), two smartly dressed men who are members of a super-secret security force. They are charged with keeping tabs on New York City’s strange and spectacularly gross alien population, which comes in both evil and nonevil varieties. There are some aliens who are harmless and helpful, though they apparently draw the line when it comes to allowing agents to hitch a ride in their flying saucers. (We’ll get back to that in a bit.)

No ET is more dangerous than the one known as Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement of the comedy band Flight of the Conchords), who has deadly spider-like weapons and a grudge against Agent K. Boris, a prison escapee, carries out his revenge against K in proper summer-movie fashion — by going back in time to the groovy year 1969 to kill Agent K. I guess going further back in time and, say, knocking off Agent K’s great-great granddad would have been too easy.

As we know from the “Back to the Future” movies, there are consequences to time travel, and Agent J also will need to travel back to the 1960s to set things right. He’ll encounter a younger version of Agent K (Josh Brolin) and some of that era’s more far-out people, including artist Andy Warhol (Bill Hader). There’s fun to be had revisiting that wigged-out time, but the movie doles it out sparingly. We’re left with first-draft material such as Agent J throwing an alien’s head down a bowling alley.

Some parts of the movie work well. There is a lovely scene where a mysterious, melancholy alien named Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg) waxes on about the 1969 Mets. A sequence where Agent J falls from a building, while holding a time machine that causes his world to change around him, is exciting and funny. And Brolin gives it his all playing a younger, less-uptight version of Agent K.

You can throw in an effective ending, too, which ties up a story that contains elements similar to those of the 2011 “Impossible Astronaut” episode of the sci-fi program “Dr. Who.” (Same era, but it was the aliens wearing the dapper black suits.) But if “Impossible Astronaut” was an intricate 3D puzzle, “Men in Black III” is more like Today’s Jumble, a mild diversion.

And it’s a diversion that left me with a nagging question. [SPOILER ALERT] For our heroes to accomplish their mission, they’ll need the Apollo 11 moon rocket, which they see as the only vehicle that can leave the atmosphere and perform a needed task. Wait a minute … Even in 1969, friendly aliens were all around, and I’m assuming they didn’t arrive on this planet via Greyhound bus. Couldn’t one of the creatures offer Agents J and K the keys to the saucer?

The movie, currently in theaters, is rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence and brief suggestive content.

**-1/2 (out of four)

Craig Marks is a cartoonist and editorial, sports and entertainment writer for the West Side Leader.

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