Jacob Hall: Men in Black

The original Men in Black walks a dangerous tightrope over a gaping abyss – it’s a very silly comedy that also manages to build a coherent science fiction world that feels rich and compelling and exists beyond setting up jokes. The gags arise from the very serious characters entering bizarre situations, with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith approaching everything with a straight face. It really is a minor gem, one that holds up quite well 20 years later.

Of course, Men in Black II did a fine job of falling off that tightrope. The gags became too broad and the actual science fiction core dissolved in a tank of hacky jokes and bad comedy. Men in Black works because the threat at the heart of the movie feels real. The sequel lost that balance. And while Men in Black III was an improvement, it still failed to reach the heights of the original, trading in the glorious mundanity of “protectiing the earth from the scum of universe” for a bizarre “chosen one” story that undermines the first film in a major way.

Anyway, the time is right to bring back Men in Black. Audiences are more open than ever to genre-defying spectacles and a movie that stirs together crowd-pleasing comedy and rich science fiction together could be huge. Or rather, that’s my pitch to the studios. I just want another Men in Black movie, one that makes good on the promise of the first film. And no, it doesn’t need to feature 21 Jump Street characters.

A new movie is on the schedule for May 17, 2019. I’ll cross my fingers that this movie becomes more than a release date (and that it’s good).

Chris Evangelista: Dead Silence

This might be a bit of a cheat, but a “series” I’d like to see revived is something that was cruelly denied a series to begin with. In 2007, original Saw director James Wan released Dead Silence, a film in which the ghost of an old woman named Mary Shaw murders people with the help of her army of ventriloquist dummies. It was silly, stylish and spooky, and it’s a gosh darn crime that we were denied at least one direct-to-DVD sequel to the film. If the Puppet Master series could stretch on for ten whole movies (holy shit), there’s absolutely no reason there couldn’t have been a whole string of direct-to-DVD Dead Silence sequels. James Wan has a lot more clout now, having directed Furious 7 and the upcoming Aquaman. I humbly request he use that clout to revive the Dead Silence sequel, and bring Mary Shaw and her brood of puppets back from the grave yet again.

Hoai-Tran Bui: His Dark Materials/The Golden Compass

As you may have read me ramble about in this week’s Water Cooler, Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials trilogy is a series close to my heart. The series brilliantly weaves examinations of human consciousness, alternate universes, and original sin with the adventures of two scrappy children on the run from threatening forces. So I was more than a little devastated when Chris Weitz’s 2007 film adaptation of the first book in the series, The Golden Compass, was completely devoid of all those things. Instead, we received an uplifting children’s tale set in a mildly confusing fantasy world, heavy on exposition and light on the complex themes from the series.

The most tragic thing about The Golden Compass, however, was that it wasn’t the fault of the filmmakers, producers, or actors within the film. In fact, The Golden Compass was perfectly cast to a tee — Daniel Craig as the dashing Lord Asriel, Nicole Kidman as the austere and cruel Mrs. Coulter, Eva Green as a witch. The film had conducted extensive auditions for Lyra as well, with Dakota Blue Richards holding her own against her prestigious co-stars. It was well on its way to becoming a great young-adult fantasy franchise, that could have even surpassed the acclaim of Harry Potter (that’s right, I said it).

But the movie was neutered by intervention by the Catholic Church — an ironic turn of events considering the fact that an authoritarian church was the corrupt villain of The Golden Compass. None of the religious themes from the series were included in the story, and the movie became a hollow shell of the book upon which it was based. Bafflingly, the movie was also saddled with a truncated and optimistic ending, completely ridding The Golden Compass of its emotional climax and the fascinating introduction of alternate worlds. It’s funny that if this movie was made 10 years later, The Golden Compass would have kept its cliffhanger of an ending, because every blockbuster is the beginning of a cinematic universe regardless of its quality.

What’s frustrating about The Golden Compass‘ abrupt end and disappearance is that there was a great movie hidden in there. It had so much potential to be an engaging, unique fantasy film that would have challenged its viewers — and maybe caused a little controversy. Instead, the memory of The Golden Compass was shuffled off onto a pile of other failed fantasy movies that followed in the shadow of Harry Potter: Eragon, Inkheart, much lesser stories compared to The Golden Compass. The good news is, we’ve got an upcoming TV series that will adapt the His Dark Materials series and we’ll get another, hopefully less hobbled, go-around at The Golden Compass. But we really missed out on having Eva Green as a witch for three movies.

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