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The 3 Weeks Film Blog

Posted on by sam

The 3 Weeks Film Blog.

When Sam asked me to write a blog for his lovely film productions website, it set my inner critic ticking. Which film from my wholly respectable and disgustingly mainstream personal DVD collection can I rip apart and dismember with sparkling wit and genius for THE LOLS? Since it was the jubilee when he first mentioned it, my immediate thought was “I’ll do The Queen!” Thank god I didn’t say that out loud. I like the topical aspect so to keep with it, I’ve chosen a film that begins with a political refuge trying to escape into a Spanish-speaking community from the US authorities who he believes have an ulterior motive for wanting him extradited.

That’s right guys. Men In Black.

“I’m part of a bureau that licences, monitors and polices alien activity on Earth.” “Yeah, whatever”

Men In Black, in case you have been living under a rock for the last decade and a half is essentially a film about aliens, and the governmental organisation that handles them, the titular blokes in dark suits. But don’t let that put you off into giving it a rewatch (or a first watch) for more detail. I often consider this an all-friends-friendly film, something that nobody is going to mind watching, whether they’ve seen it a hundred times or not.

While it is on the face of it, an “aliens attacking the earth oh noes!” film, it’s also everything but; the computer graphics are seamless, (way above and beyond regular 1997-standards) and much of the genius of the film is that unless you’re looking, many of them fade into the background. The alien made mundane, even to the point that my younger sister believed so much she could close her eyes vertically that she’d squeeze her eyes at everyone trying to do so. But then, this is established as part of the MIB’s aim: that aliens live alongside the human race without much issue. That the Earth is, as Kay reveals, “an apolitical zone for creatures without a planet.” The idea is that an underfunded government agency with the “simple and laughable purpose of establishing contact with [another] race” actually has become very successful working behind the scenes, explaining the unexplainable and defining the undefinable.

“Everybody thought the agency was a joke, except for the aliens, who made contact March 2 1961 outside New York. There were nine of us the first night. Seven agents, one astronomer, and one dumb kid who’d got lost on the wrong back road.”

Despite the odd alien here, the unpronounceable sounding name there, and the technology straight out of a Bond film – the Batmobile reimagined, capable of jumping queue, the noisy cricket minuscule death ray, all the technology inside the official hub (“So who pays for all of this?” “We hold the patents on a few gadgets we confiscated from ‘out-of-state’ visitors. Velcro, microwave ovens, liposuction.”) – the strange thing is, is that it’s completely believable. Even Will Smith’s acting career makes sense in this film. There’s enough that’s approachable and accurate that the rest tags along with it, making the whole thing utterly comprehensible. Even Bond isn’t this much of the everyday. It hasn’t even showed signs of ageing, as the suits are sharp and any references broad and reliable. The haircuts are slightly awkward but there’s a limit of what you could do in the 1990s.

Much of the everyday comes from the script which entertains itself and the audience comfortably, without veering too much into either the comedy or alien gore fields - despite the scene where a living breathing human gets eaten alive and then worn as a dress, it’s still pretty safe on the eyes. There’s enough plot (aliens) and subplot (cats, I think) to keep people going and no emotional whiplash. The film rides a moderate but enjoyable wave throughout, sometimes throwing out less-than-one liners (“The dog owes my friend money!”), sometimes threatening mild violence (“Show us the imports Jeebs or you’re gonna lose another head.”). As a very young person when I first saw it, much of it originally went over me, but more than ten years later and there’s still enough to keep me and anyone else interested. If you’re looking for sugar water and tentacles, look no further! On the slightly serious side, there’s more to it than that. Even though this is a technically a sci-fi movie, its structure is founded in feelings so recognisable to every one of us: of putting in our all and failing; of missing, and hoping you’re being missed; of making hard decisions that might lead us where we want to go, if we know what we’re doing. It might be a light-hearted comedy alien flick but it also raises some of those big questions. Because what do we really know?

“Why the big secret? People are smart. They can handle it.” 

“A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky, dangerous animals, and you know it. Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody KNEW they earth was the centre of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody KNEW the earth was flat. And fifteen minutes ago, you KNEW that people were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll KNOW tomorrow.”

Pull it out, dust it off, dig it out the internets if you will. You’ll be surprised. Not at least with how cool the theme tune is.

Written by Laura @tinymattresses

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