I caught this movie in the Manila premiere last night. Here are some thoughts. Spoilers abound.
1. As with the first two movies in the franchise, the deceptiveness of size is an important theme in Men in Black 3. In this particular universe, very powerful forces are contained within small objects — think back to the tiny gun (The Noisy Cricket) that K gave to J, the galaxy contained in the pendant on the collar of the cat and the entire world of (relatively) little aliens living in the locker in Grand Central Station.
This time, the key to saving the planet from an alien invasion is a defense system locked inside a pocket-sized trinket. The time travelling machine isn’t a big telephone box or a Delorean, but rather a device no bigger than an iPod. Perhaps this dissonance between size and power emphasizes how little our world really is compared to the vast expanse of the cosmos, no matter how important we think it is.
2. The scene-stealer for me is Michael Stuhlbarg’s Griffin, a Watcher who can see all the infinite time-space possibilities at any given point in time. He is the personification of the butterfly effect (in fact in one scene, butterflies literally change the course of time). He is of course, neurotic (how can you not be when you can see all the possible events in history all the time?), but adorably so. He is quickly becoming one of my favorite character actors — if you don’t pay attention, you wouldn’t even know that he was the same guy in A Serious Man, Hugo or Boardwalk Empire.
3. Sartorially, Emma Thompson seems to be channeling Hillary Clinton. Thinly veiled metaphor for O as the Secretary of State? This isn’t a wild assumption to make, especially since they have already been more literal in making political analogies before. Remember the opening scene of the first MIB movie, where the alien K was looking for was disguised as a Mexican illegally crossing the border?
But in any case, this movie underutilized Thompson’s (and by proxy, Alice Eve’s) character. I mean, why even introduce the subplot of O and K being lovers if they didn’t show how they started or stopped being so?
4. For the most part, the movie was cheap, entertaining popcorn fare. Nothing too bad, but nothing great either…until that ending poured a bucket of cheese over the audience’s head. That was the moment — not when they showed the lunar prison, not when they introduced the time travel plot, not when the world was going to be invaded by a rogue alien species — when the movie crossed the line into the realm of unbelievability. When it was revealed that J’s father had to die in order for K to live, it was all too neat and convenient. Such a Hollywood ending.
That was also the moment when you realized that Steven Spielberg was involved with the production of this movie.
5. Food. Food seemed to figure a lot in this movie. Chocolate milk = a sign of a temporal fracture. Pie = helps J and K figure out Boris’ next move. A Chinese restaurant = haven for Alien criminals. Cake = transport for Boris’ alien limb. Maybe the amount of time we spend in the preparation of food and all the rituals we attach to it distinctly make us human, and would therefore be a great signifier of difference among species.
6. You can see how the Mad Men aesthetic has penetrated into the way we imagine the 60’s. The Men in Black office in 1969 was essentially a more sterilized, alien-filled version of the Sterling Cooper office. Plus there were two agents that specifically looked like Jon Hamm and John Slattery. Less neon, more dapper. I like it.