Men in Black II (2002)

mibii IMDb

This movie was quite disappointing. It didn’t really capture the magic from the first film despite nearly everything good from the first movie returning for this follow up.

The film picks up a few years after the first movie. Agent J (Will Smith) is now a veteran MIB agent and not the rookie we saw in the original film. When a shape shifting alien named Serleena (Lara Flynn Boyle) turns up looking to destroy the earth, J must find K (Tommy Lee Jones), his old partner, and de-neuralyze him as he is the only person capable of remembering how Serleena was defeated the first time she tried to end the earth. K is now living life as a mailman, completely oblivious of his former life as an MIB agent. J must convince him of the truth and get his memories back before Serleena can destroy the world.

I can’t put my finger on exactly what goes wrong with this film. Smith and Jones still have terrific chemistry, the MIB weapons are still cool, and the aliens still look great. Maybe this just feels like a rehash of the first film, but doesn’t change things up enough to make it fresh. Lara Flynn Boyle feels like a weaker villain, and she is not helped by her two-headed sidekick played by who was the then flavour of the month, Johnny Knoxville. Rosario Dawson also feels wasted as the ‘damsel in distress’.

There was also quite a large gap between the first and second films. MIB 2 came out in 2002, five years after the first film. This is quite a large gap, considering how popular the first movie was. Maybe the first movie came out at the right time and by the time we saw the second film, audiences were over this secret organisation of alien cops.

Despite terrific chemistry from the leads, a generic story lets this sequel down somewhat. While the bar was high, Men in Black 2 never manages to reaches the highs of its predecessor.

Rating: C-

This is a disappointing sequel. It’s worth seeing once, but only so you won’t be confused when viewing Men in Black III. Otherwise, this is an unoriginal retread of its predecessor with less charm and fun.

Men in Black II picks up five years after the first movie ended. Agent J (Will Smith) is having trouble finding a suitable replacement partner after Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) retired and K’s replacement, Agent L (Linda Fiorentino), decides to go back to her old job in the city morgue. The first disappointment here was not getting to see Agent L in action. Her exit from the Men in Black is glossed over in order to establish that Agent J has been dealing with a string of duds, but I still wish we’d got to see her one more time. Just spitballing here, but maybe she gets injured or killed shortly after joining, and then we see all her lackluster replacements. Anything would have been better than simply explaining her disappearance with a single throwaway line.

Eventually Agent J must bring K back into the ranks to save Earth from alien peril. This is essentially the same plot as the first movie: Object of great importance to Alien Society A is hidden on Earth. Alien Society B, Society A’s mortal enemy, comes looking for this important object; Earth is placed in the crossfire. The only twist on the formula is that J is the more senior agent thanks to K’s memory loss. The repetition of plot wouldn’t be so terrible if the movie didn’t also try so hard to recreate other scenes from MIB. The most glaring example is the ending. In the first movie it’s revealed that our universe is contained within a marble owned by a alien. This time around it’s revealed that our world is contained within a locker in a larger alien train station. Not only does this not make sense, but it’s such a stupid riff on the original movie. It’s almost as if no original thought were put into this film at all.

There’s also a lot of product placement in this movie. I normally don’t care about such things, but it’s incredibly noticeable here. The most glaring example is the addition of retail shops and fast food restaurants to the MIB headquarters. The place looks more like an airport terminal than a secret government agency policing alien life on Earth. Seeing a prominently displayed Burger King sign on a New York City street– just fine. Seeing the same in MIB HQ– annoying.

About the only positive aspect of this movie is Smith and Jones’ chemistry. They’ve still got it, and it’s still fun to watch. I just feel sorry that they weren’t given a better story to showcase their talents. Rosario Dawson also seems wasted here. Her role amounts to little more than a damsel in distress. Lara Flynn Boyle plays the villain, and somehow manages to both terrible and forgettable.

I’d say that I’m happy this movie exists because it means we get the excellent third installment, but I don’t think it’s true. Had this sequel not been made I think MIB III would still have been made. The first movie was so excellent that it could have been a candidate for a late sequel on its own. But maybe they needed to get this crap out of their system first.

Rating: D

One thought on “Men in Black II (2002)

  1. Pingback: Men in Black 3 (2012) | From The Abyss to Zoolander

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