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MORIARTY Reviews Two Upcoming Sequel Scripts!! MIB2 and TREK 10 Details Here!!

Hey, everyone. "Moriarty" here with some Rumblings From The Lab.

Sequels are odd things.

When we see a film we love that introduces us to characters we love, it’s a natural response to want something else with those characters, some other story that gives us the same rush.

Yet we all know that more often than not, sequels suck.

For every GODFATHER II or BACK TO THE FUTURE trilogy, there’s a dozen ROCKY V’s and LETHAL WEAPON 4’s. So often, it’s creative alchemy that makes a film wonderful in the first place, and trying to reproduce it is next to impossible.

So when two big sequels showed up in my reading stack recently, I approached both with that mix of trepidation and hope that has become so much a part of the process with any follow-up.


The original MEN IN BLACK is one of those films that had a great high concept and an energetic cast and some memorable moments, but it never really gelled as a film for me. It felt like a 90 minute trailer for a better film. I remember walking out of the film with a strange dissatisfaction gnawing at me, wishing they’d pushed things just a little further.

In a case like that, I find myself actually hoping that the filmmakers will take the lessons learned on the first film and make a bigger, better sequel. Based on the evidence at hand in the draft I read of MEN IN BLACK 2 by Robert Gordon (the writer of the delightful GALAXY QUEST), that’s exactly what they’re trying to do here.

The film opens simply, with a group of tourists on a boat tour of New York. They see the World Trade Center towers and hear various statistics about the amount of wire used inside or the amount of glass. One little boy, bored, catches a firefly for a moment, then lets it go. We follow the firefly over to a flower that seems to be growing right out of the center of the East River, only to have the flower eat the firefly. The flower disappears underwater, and when we head underwater ourselves, we find two divers swimming along, using flashlights to search the river bottom.

The divers find the flower sticking out of the silt and begin to talk to it. One of the divers tries reasoning with the flower, which he oddly keeps addressing as "Jeff," while the other diver tries to bully the flower into talking to them. When the second diver makes the mistake of yanking on the stalk of the flower, we get our first look at "Jeff" in all his glory, a giant wormlike creature that heads for the surface of the river with the diver hanging on for dear life. There’s a struggle and the diver gets thrown onto the deck of the tour ship.

What ensues as the first diver pursues Jeff from the river to a drain pipe to a subway tunnel is a wild, crazed action/comedy sequence that reintroduces us to the one and only Jay, Will Smith’s character from the first time. There’s more punch packed into this opening than there was in the whole first film, in my opinion. At one point, Jay is racing through a subway train, mere feet ahead of Jeff, who is actually eating the train as he chases Jay. In some ways, this script seems to have taken its cues from the fairly imaginative animated spinoff show that’s been running since the first film came out.

When Jay hooks back up with his new partner Tee (Patrick Warburton), he’s in a reflective mood, feeling unappreciated. He’s got the same growing malaise we saw in Kay in the first film, and we learn that he’s been going through partners at a ridiculous rate. He neuralyzes Tee, then heads back to MIB headquarters, pausing only when someone (a shadowy figure we don’t see) snaps his photo and runs off. The film’s major storyline gets underway in Central Park when a small spaceship crashes into the ground and a neural root creature comes slithering out. It finds a newspaper on the ground and sorts through it, finally finding a Victoria’s Secret ad of a beautiful model in red lingerie. The creature divides into two creatures, then four, then over and over until there are thousands of them. They arrange into an undulating pile of creatures in a human shape, resolving into an exact duplicate of the model, right down to the red lingerie flapping in the breeze. This is SERLEENA (Famke Janssen), and when a huge sleazy biker dude tries to rape her, she eats him and takes his clothing, heading into the city on whatever mission she’s come to Earth for.

Her first step is to hook up with Scrad/Charlie, a two-headed alien being played by JACKASS star Johnny Knoxville. Turns out they were left on Earth by Serleena for a purpose, and in the time they’ve been there, they have gone native, falling in love with pop culture. She’s repulsed by his high definition TV and his stereo and his Internet and his Playstation 2 and especially by his ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY. He admits to Serleena that he completed his mission and that he has located something known only as "the light." He wants to wait until after FRIENDS to go get it, but Serleena forces him out the door.

When an attack is made on a local pizza place, Rita Vasquez (Rosario Dawson) narrowly escapes with her life. She sees Serleena rip open Mitch, the owner of the pizza place, revealing that he is a glowing starfish-like alien. Serleena interrogates him about "The Light Of Zartha." In these scenes, we’re convinced that Serleena is a real threat. She’s not played for laughs, leaving that for Scrad and Charlie. Instead, she’s menacing, vile, and freaky, and I can’t wait to see The Dutch Treat dig into the role. She’s my favorite bad girl on film right now, and this is yet another major role in a major franchise. Bond, X-MEN, MEN IN BLACK... let’s hear it for Famke.

Then it’s back to MIB Headquarters, where we catch up with Elle (Linda Fiorentino) and Zed (Rip Torn). There’s some clever celebrity cameos written in here as Zed scolds some aliens for being too visible, and we’re also reintroduced to one of my favorite characters from the first film, Frank the Pug. He ends up serving as Jay’s partner when he goes to check up on the events at the Pizzeria, and what they learn there starts the rest of the film into motion.

Yes, they end up going to bring Kay back into the MIB. No, it’s not just that easy to un-neuralyze someone. Yes, Rita is Jay’s love interest in the film. No, she’s not just an excuse for a little glib dialogue. In fact, the relationship that develops between her and Jay is one of the script’s key pleasures. Time and time again, this confounds expectation, upping the stakes not only for the characters, but for Earth. Serleena is a genuine threat, and that makes the film’s suspense seem more urgent. There’s also a lot of material that is genuinely funny, building on what we learned in the first time in a way that is surprisingly satisfying. Wait till you see where Kay’s been working, and who he’s been working with. Wait till you see some of the new gadgets they’ve created at MIB headquarters for Jay and Kay to use. Wait till you see how Jeebs (Tony Shaloub) makes his return. Wait till you see how much screen time the worm guys from the first film have this time around, and just how much fun they are in action. Wait till you see the Pink Nebula strip club or Locker 24 at Grand Central Station or how Leonard Nimoy figures into things or how the film’s beginning ties in cleanly to the big finish or what’s hidden in Deep Impound, levels 70 through 75.

Oh, wait... you have to keep your eyes closed on those levels. Otherwise you might go insane.

There were two alternate endings included in the script I read. One of them maintains the status quo, while the bolder of the two gives one of the franchise characters a graceful exit. I hope they go for the second ending. If this script proves anything, it’s that this franchise is powered by imagination, and as long as writers are able to play with the characters and situations as ably as they have here, it’s not about the movie stars. That’s a franchise worth revisiting, indeed.


Jonathan Frakes certainly has his work cut out for him.

Yes, it’s true. Number One is back in the director’s chair again with this, the tenth film in the seemingly endless STAR TREK franchise.

And before you decide whether or not you should read anything I have to say about the latest even-numbered entry in the series, know this: I’m notorious around these parts as the guy who doesn’t like STAR TREK. Not the original series, not the NEXT GENERATION, not DS9, and not VOYAGER. Overall, I think there are bright spots here and there over the course of what I’ve seen, and I don’t "hate" the shows. As far as the film series goes, I still think WRATH OF KHAN is the Gold Standard by which the films should be judged. THE VOYAGE HOME, a fan favorite, bugs me because of how jokey and deeply silly it is. I’d say my second favorite of the films is FIRST CONTACT because, like KHAN, it’s an adventure film first and foremost, and it doesn’t depend on a casual viewer’s total immersion in the arcana of the series in order to be enjoyed.

Having said all of that, I’m encouraged by the direction STAR TREK: NEMESIS seems to be heading. The screenplay by John Logan, from a story by Logan, Rick Berman, and Brent Spiner, is compellingly built, and if this turns out to be the last NEXT GENERATION installment in the series, as has been rumored, it’s a great place to leave these characters. There is a sense of closure for them, even if the film allows for an open ending.

The film opens with a credit sequence that sets up the film’s central mystery. We see molecules being manipulated, genes being spliced. We see a meeting of the Romulan senate, a three year old human boy standing before them, alone and scared. We see the surface of the Reman homeworld, sister planet to Romulus, cloaked entirely in shadow, where the boy is led down into the firey mines after one last look up at the stars overhead. The images are stark and simple, and when they pay off later in the script, I’d even describe them as haunting.

From there, we cut to Earth. Alaska, specifically, where the wedding reception of Will Riker and Deanna Troi is underway. Picard is serving as best man, and delivering the toast, wishing them "full sails and a clear horizon." All the regular characters are in attendance: Beverly Crusher, Geordi La Forge and his girlfriend Dr. Leah Brahms (from the episodes "Galaxy’s Child" and "Booby Trap," as noted in the script), Commander Worf, hungover from the bachelor party the night before. Data performs Irving Berlin’s "Blue Skies" with the band, an obvious toss to Spiner’s abilities as a song-and-dance man. In some ways, this scene is what bugs me about STAR TREK. Everyone makes their big entrance, and it always feels like they’re throwing the fans a bone. It feels to me like when Fonzie would make his entrance in HAPPY DAYS or when Ted Danson would walk on in CHEERS and the audience would applaud. The actors would take their moment, soak it up, and any sense of reality just evaporated. In an adventure movie, I don’t really need five pages where Beverly Crusher asks Worf "Do Klingons swing?" On the other hand, for hardcore fans, I suppose these introductory scenes are like family reunions, and that balance between servicing the casual viewer and the devoted fan is part of what makes certain films in the series work and others fail.

Back on the Reman homeworld, we learn just how much time has passed when we meet Shinzon, the film’s major villain. He and his Viceroy look up at Romulus in the sky above, a glowing point of light, and talk about how their plan is about to come to pass. It’s standard bad guy stuff, and it’s always the least interesting part of any film like this. Logan handles it quickly, though, and with economy, and that’s what makes the script snap.

Back onboard the Enterprise, they’re en route to Betazed for the actual wedding ceremony, which is to be held in the nude, much to Worf’s horror. Picard and Data have one of their patented conversations about a facet of human behavior. It’s fairly comfortable stuff until they pick up an electromagnetic signature in a distant system, an unusual one. Positronic. This seems particularly odd since such a signature could only come from an android like Data, and since there are only supposed to be two androids with such a signature (Data and Lore), it proves impossible for the Enterprise to pass without checking it out.

Picard, Data, and Worf take a shuttle to the surface, mainly so Picard can get a chance to drive a giant 24th Century military jeep. There are a number of moments in this film in which Picard seems to be taking joy in life’s simple things, like a man realizing he’s near the end of something, and it’s this characterization more than any other that makes the script work, I think. Patrick Stewart has always been, hands down, my favorite performer in any of the STAR TREK material I’ve seen, and he deserves this sort of role.

Instead of solving the mystery of the positronic signals, they find another mystery, even more confounding. The signals are coming from a perfect replica of Data that has been disassembled and scattered across the desert floor. As they pick the pieces up, they are attacked by a group of alien nomads, and a major action set piece unfolds. There’s a lot of comedy mixed in with the action, and it’ll be interesting to see if Frakes can blend the two with the deft touch required.

It’s especially tricky because it leads right into the real kick-off of the plot involving Shinzon. He and his Reman soldiers break in on the Romulan Senate and announce their plans to engage the Federation in a full-blown military campaign to take back the Neutral Zone. One of the reasons it seems like a perfect fit having John Logan write this script is because he brings the same energy to this material that he did to the political maneuverings in GLADIATOR.

The two seemingly unrelated storylines start to come together quickly as Shinzon manipulates the situation from Romulus and Data attempts to unravel the mystery behind his new "brother," B-9 (or Benign, as he’s called). Data’s disappointed because Benign seems to be no smarter than a child. There’s an odd relationship that plays out between these two beings that seem identical on the surface but are nothing alike inside. For Data, this is the defining moment in his quest to define his identity.

It shouldn’t come as a surprise that it’s the Enterprise that gets pressed into service when the Federation learns of the situation on Romulus. It’s certainly no coincidence. As soon as the Enterprise is in orbit above Romulus, it is engaged by Shinzon’s Romulan Warbird, the Scimitar, a ship that is at least twice the size of the Enterprise, armed with weaponry that the Federation is totally unaware of. Upon their first meeting, Deanna senses a deep rage from Shinzon that seems to be entirely focused on Picard. Scared for a reason he can’t define, Picard ends up talking to none other than Captain Janeway in a cameo role (she’s got two big scenes).

It’s page 52 when the film’s biggest bombshell is dropped, a plot twist that had Robogeek gasping in annoyance when I told it to him last week. I won’t give it away here, but I will remind you that Paramount has already confirmed that the film has something to do with cloning. The nature of Shinzon and his "brother" mirrors the storyline between Data and his, and it pays off in a number of unexpected ways. In both cases, one of the pair has a weakness that makes him somehow "lesser" than his twin, and in both cases, hard choices have to be made about what looking into this mirror image says about one’s self. Both of these twins were created for possibly dangerous purposes, and both are eventually brought to understand something about their better natures.

The rest of the film is a balls-out action film, unrelenting in pace, and should please audiences immensely as long as Paramount doesn’t pull their standard low-ball horseshit on the FX budget. Spring for ILM. You won’t have many more chances to please the fans, and if this delivers, you’ll be pleasing a much larger audience than normal. This could well turn into the largest crossover hit for STAR TREK since WRATH OF KHAN. There’s a definite echo in the ending of this film as one of the major players sacrifices him or herself in a very moving way, and the results of that play out over the last ten pages with real honesty. As long as they don’t undermine the move a la SEARCH FOR SPOCK, it should stand as one of the emotional high points for all involved.

If all sequels were approached with the sense of invention that these two seem to have been, then perhaps "sequel" wouldn’t be such a dirty word. Let’s just hope that the journey from script to screen for these projects is a successful one, and that they prove to be the enormous entertainments they look like at this stage.

"Moriarty" out.

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