Over the weekend, I had the pleasure of seeing not just one, but two movies crawling with odd and disgusting aliens looking to destroy our planet. The third rock from the sun, some might rightfully argue, contains some odd and disgusting beings of it’s own. Reality TV tends to give factual credence to this theory.
Alas, the two space alien flicks I viewed were that of Men in Black 3 and the recently released Aliens semi-prequel, Prometheus. Overall, I can proclaim without hesitation that for overall entertainment value, one movie was out-of-this-world, while the other struggled to leave the launching pad. Heck, even The Avengers – which was the last movie I saw (twice now) – contained an alien invasion plot. I throw in my thoughts on how all three compare below towards the end if you decide to read until the end.
While each film is completely different in terms of tone and seriousness, they also share similarities in that they are both connected to major movie franchises and they both have… well, aliens.
In addition, the latest installments of each do a bit of back-tracking in the story department to gives us some more insight into how things to came to be in each of their respective universes.
Reboots they are not, so all whom are tired of Hollywood reinventing ideas that have already been reinvented 932 times, can rejoice.
On that note, I have good news and I have bad news, so let’s just get the bad news out of the way first. (WARNING: Spoilers ahead!)
Oh Prometheus, how I wanted to love thee!
You had it all: aliens, big budget special effects, actual 3D cameras, Ridley Scott, Charlize Theron wearing nothing but wash clothes, theological questions of our existence, religion vs science, Charlize Theron running around in skin tight outfits, big bad-ass spaceships, a successful franchise to associate with, and several awesome butt shots of Charlize Theron.
But in the end, it wasn’t enough. They forgot the humanity. Despite Gladiator being one of my favorite movies to grace this universe, there wasn’t enough good will from Ridley Scott’s resume to fill a Prius, let alone make Prometheus an enjoyable experience… for me anyway. I digress and will explain more in a moment.
First, I will provide a little background on Prometheus for those unaware (only because I myself was unaware until my best friend Jerry and his Dad filled me in me about three minutes before the movie started).
For all intents and purposes, Prometheus is what you – and most of the self-associating nerd population – might call the prequel to the Alien movie franchise. I use the word ‘might’ with a light hand as per some of his interviews, Ridley Scott would have you believe this movie has little to do with any of those flicks involving Sigourney Weaver ripping multi-headed killer aliens limb from limb.
However, if you have ever seen an Alien movie, you will instantly notice that the only difference between those and Prometheus is the lack of a butt-kicking Ripley. There are literally tons of references and connections to the series, so why Mr. Scott is trying to distance this piece of work from those is a bit of a mystery.
Although on second thought, maybe it’s because it’s just not as good.
To be fair, I’m not an Alien super fan, nor am I of anything that results in my having to go to bed with all the lights on, all while snuggling a Care Bear and playing my Barney the Dinosaur CD in the background. Nevertheless, I do find the Sigourney Alien movies entertaining.
Prometheus on the other hand tries to be too much to all people. Mr. Scott shoots for more of a philosophical sci-fi film which enters the territory of explaining our own existence and how that intertwines with the Alien-esque creatures of the original series. Where the Alien series was heavy on horror and action, Prometheus is light… but in turn heavier on trying to explain the mysteries of the universe.
What starts off as an intriguing concept, quickly tailspins into a convoluted mess that resembles what you might get if you poured the acidic alien blood on the cast of Housewives of Orange County. (Although the acid might be an improvement there.) I couldn’t help but feel Mr. Scott was aiming for something like LOST in space. And no I’m not referring to the old campy TV series or the Will Ferrell remake, but the recent J.J. Abrams series that dealt with themes of science and religion all while asking more questions then it answered.
Much of this is not helped by the fact that I wanted to see every character in the movie die a gruesome death within 10 minutes of being introduced to them. I’m not sure if it was the casting or acting in general, but I found every person in the entire movie beyond annoying, with the exception of the cool and suave captain Janek (played by Idris Elba of Thor fame – Heimdall)
Also, am I the only one who couldn’t help but think of K-Fed while watching Logan Marshall-Green play the incredibly stubborn and annoying Charlie Halloway? Hell, I think K-Fed might have been an improvement.
The film wasn’t a complete disaster though. Since it was filmed with 3D cameras, seeing the movie in 3D proved to be an impressive experience and the effects were excellent as well (although not TF3 3D impressive).
Bottom-line: while die hard Alien fans may find this a fun and interesting ride, I couldn’t help but think there is life on other planets that could make a much better alien movie.
Now… on to the good news.
MEN IN BLACK 3
Where the above film failed to entertain, the third installment of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones alien law enforcement flick managed to nueralize any remnants of the Ridley film, and provide one of the best (if not the best) sci-fi films this year thus far.
I’m not kidding outlaws… while your mileage may vary, I’d be lying if I said I didn’t love this flick.
Again, I must be upfront in saying I do thoroughly enjoy me some Men in Black movies, particularly the original. This has much to do with the fact the series borrows kindly from the Ghostbusters franchise in premise and humor. Since I love Ghostbusters more than I will ever love my future first born, it’s easy to see where some of my bias comes in.
Story wise, the third go around for our favorite Men’s Warehouse-sponsored alien cop team finds Agent J (Will Smith) needing to bounce back through time in order to save the current Agent K’s (Tommy Lee Jones) life and prevent disaster from occurring to the original smooth sailing timeline. While the whole time traveling plot can sometimes be viewed as a cheesy way to change things up for a series, I’m a sucker for those types of flicks (a la Back to the Future) as I always like the theme, ‘the future is what you make of it’. That same theme is present here with its own slight twist.
In his travels back to an earlier time – when the main nueralizers were the size of orca whales and pocket nueralizers had to dial in via modem when on the road – Agent J runs into the younger Agent K, who is played brilliantly by Josh Brolin. In fact, in combination with his make-up, mannerisms and voice work, you would have thought somehow the producers truly found a Delorean to take back in time to get footage of a younger Tommy Lee Jones.
As has been with past MIB movies, the humor is top notch and I found myself laughing throughout almost the entire running time. Even the villain, Boris the Animal (who’s not fond of ‘the Animal’ addendum to his name) was played with some humorous quirks by the hilarious Flight of the Concords vet Jermaine Clement. The make-up and voice editing were so good, I had no clue it was him until my outlaw movie buddy Erika ‘The Spunky Destructor’ noticed it in the credits.
The pacing was also well done, as I never found myself checking to see when the movie might end or if I was better off leaving early to go do something more fun… such as a load of undergarment laundry. While the effects weren’t what many might describe as spectacular, they looked great to me and have that same colorful MIB comic book appeal that fits the style of the rest of the series.
All that being said, the most important thing this movie has – which Prometheus, and even The Avengers lacks – is heart. Barry Sonnenfeld (who mans the MIB helm again for #3) manages to create characters you truly care about… even outside our two main heroes.
While I don’t want to reveal too much for those that haven’t seen it, there is a reveal at the end that definitely tugged at the Outlaw’s heart strings. In fact, someone must have been slicing up a crate of fresh onions in our theater because I even started to tear up… quite profusely might I add.
Overall, the Will Smith tent pole was an unexpected treat – and unlike some other movies previously mentioned – MIB 3 knew what it was supposed to be: A buddy alien-cop action-adventure sci-fi flick that sticks to its humorous guns. In fact – and I know I may get crucified for this – I enjoyed it even more so than The Avengers. In my truly honest and possibly crazy opinion, MIB3 included all of the things The Avengers lacked with regards to humanity, heart, a great score, and even a little romantic twist thrown in for good measure as well.
Now, I’ll need you to ask you to look directly into this shiny little silver device…