When Men in Black 3 opened in theaters earlier last week, I expected nothing less than a parade of bikini clad aliens heralding the youthful return of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones).
But all I got was a painful reminder of how old I am.
It isn’t a secret that Men in Black 3 had a painstakingly long gestation period. Script problems and production delays kept the black suits from hitting the box-office any earlier. But all things considered, Men in Black 3 feels like a natural progression of the franchise. The problem, unfortunately, is that the film is ten years too late.
In that same ten years, I’ve celebrated the end of high school and procrastinated my way through college. I‘ve been drunk more times than I remember, and I’ve been high more times than I care to admit. I’ve survived two relationships, a death of a dog and the near disintegration of my family. I’ve met some of my best friends and I’ve lost touch with even better ones. A good number of them have gone abroad, gotten married, and have started families.
Ten years, I realize, is a long time by any human measure. And unfortunately, Men in Black 3 is a film that fails to recognize any of that. To remember the last Men in Black is to remember a completely different time in your life – a bygone era when Will Smith wasn’t any year past forty and Tommy Lee Jones’ career didn’t need No Country For Old Men.
MIB 3 is largely a film about time travel; but the deep-seeded irony is that the movie itself implores that it isn’t possible. When Agent J travels back to the 1960s to save a younger Agent K (Josh Brolin), he realizes that there are just some things in the past that can’t be undone.
I watched MIB 3 alongside ClicktheCity critic, Philbert Dy and realized that when the last Men in Black movie had come out, I had just met him. And as I turned to him and asked if he still recalled the second film, he shrugged and told me that it didn’t matter.
It was a different time. It was a different movie.
And it was then that I couldn’t help but feel a lingering sadness in his words.
Where had the last ten years gone?
Watching Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones on screen again, I yearned for that exhilarating sense of nostalgia that comes with old film franchises being resurrected (for better or for worse). I wanted to laugh along with the cheesy punchlines and the ridiculous set pieces. I wanted to giggle at the silly costumes and the oddball humor.
I wanted my ten years back.
I largely blame Director Barry Sonnenfeld for using the same old tricks on the same tired material. But then, I just blame myself for being old. In the end, my criticisms of MIB 3 are just painful realizations of myself. Despite the seemingly limitless power of post-production and special effects, cinema is just as incapable of turning back the clock as any other medium.
Film is timeless, or so filmmakers like to think. But in reality, it is a haunting reminder that time exists. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are just as susceptible to the brutality of the years, and seeing both of them on screen make you realize that neither of them have aged well.
There is an aching tiredness to MIB 3; one that felt like its punchlines still belonged in the early 2000s and that its story didn’t beg the need for a dramatic comeback. But it’s an aspect that younger audiences – or at least those who are young at heart – won’t care to notice.
It’s been a full decade since the last Men in Black. And though most of us should still be able to remember the early 2000s, the film really does feel painfully old.
MIB 3 is by no means a horrible film, nor is it a boring one. But the film feels much like an old highschool friend you used to find funny. He still jokes about the time both of you filled the boy’s room with cigarettes and clogged the drainage for a week. But you’re not laughing anymore. You haven’t in ten years.
In the end, I realize that my criticisms of Men in Black 3 aren’t necessarily a blow to the film itself, but a sadly penetrating realization on my part.
And as I sat quietly among a packed movie theater roaring with laughter, that’s when I realized—
—I’m too old for this shit.
PARA SA TAMAD MAGBASA:
The film’s good fun. But I’m too old to have fun.