New ‘Men In Black 3’ trailer feels overly familiar and really expensive

I don’t think the new “Men In Black III” trailer looks any worse than many big anonymous blockbusters, but I’ll be honest… word on this one has been troubling so far, and this new trailer doesn’t really assuage those fears.

I’ve heard some remarkable figures tossed around as the final budget for this film, while I’m also hearing it runs under 90 minutes.  I’d love to know if this is the new winner for “most expensive film per minute,” but I’m guessing we’ll never really get an official figure on how much it’s going to cost Sony to get it into theaters.  What I’m curious about is who the audience is.  Sure, the first two films were blockbusters, but the second one was not particularly well-liked, and I haven’t sensed any real anticipation from anyone I’ve spoken with.

What I find most interesting about this is how it feels for the first time ever like Will Smith is making moves from a place of fear.  He is one of our last “real” movie stars in terms of commercial power and box-office draw, but he hasn’t made a film since “Seven Pounds,” and that one took such a commercial and critical beating that it dented the brand that could not be dented.  The last few years, we’ve seen his kids start to establish themselves, and the “Karate Kid” remake that Smith produced was a genuine hit, but maintaining a certain level of commercial superstardom is a trick that very few people have managed for decades in a row, and I think this is the moment where Smith either proves himself to be built for the long haul or becomes a guy tied to a certain era, a certain moment in Hollywood.

To be fair, Smith just did this Q&A for Yahoo! to offer up his own point of view on returning to the series, which you can read here.

The big gag in this movie is Josh Brolin playing the young Tommy Lee Jones, and you certainly get more of that in this new trailer.  But even at the end of a few minutes of film, my first thought is, “Is that all there is?”  It just doesn’t seem like enough of a hook to hang a third film on, and the scripts for this that I’ve read don’t really deliver anything else that’s new to the series.  There will be weird aliens and big special effects and a threat to the existence of Earth, and it all feels familiar and consequence-free to me so far.  I had hoped that this trailer would convince me that I’m wrong, but it all sort of looks like “Standard Sequel Playbook” material, like introducing a new car (or gyro-cycle, in this case) or new cast members or celebrity cameos.  My love of Bill Hader is at direct odds with my bone-weariness over ’60s pop culture references, and I’m wondering how many teenagers even know who Andy Warhol was at this point. 

All in all, this feels to me like the most exciting thing that could come from this film’s production would be for someone to write a detailed behind-the-scenes book about the development and the making of the film, because I have a feeling what happened off-screen was more exciting than what will happen on-screen.  I’d love to be surprised and take that all back when we finally see the movie, but so far, I’m just not feeling it.

“Men In Black 3” opens in theaters May 25, 2012.