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Saturday May 30th 2020

Men In Black 3 | 2012

Men In Black 3 filming location: Eldridge Street, Chinatown, New York
Men In Black 3 location: towing away the giant alien fish: Eldridge Street, Chinatown, New York

After the misfire of Men In Black 2, director Barry Sonnenfeld bounces back with a worthy sequel – which managed to survive the, usually fatal, lack of a completed script at the start of filming

The convoluted plot has monstrous criminal Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escaping from 40 years of confinement in the high-security LunarMax Prison on the Moon and travelling back in time to the 1960s in order to kill K (Tommy Lee Jones) before the agent can apprehend him.

Men In Black 3 filming location: Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel Ventilator Shaft, Battery Park, New York
Men In Black 3 location: entrance to the MIB HQ: Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel Ventilator Shaft, Battery Park, New York

Once again, the film is set in New York and again the Brooklyn-Battery Tunnel Ventilator Shaft on Battery Place supplies the entrance to the agency.

‘Wu’s Seafood restaurant’, where J (Will Smith) and K investigate alien seafood – and have their first confrontation with Boris – is a studio set at the Kaufman Astoria Studios in Queens but the crossroads where J neuralyzes a crowd of bystanders as the monstrous fish is hauled off, is real. It’s the junction of Eldridge Street and Division Street, at the entrance to the Manhattan Bridge in Chinatown.

The next day, J wakes up in an alternative timeline in which K has been killed by Boris back in 1969. There’s only one option, so Z’s successor, Agent O (Emma Thompson) points J in the direction of an unremarkable little electronics store where the owner is the only person who can supply him with (illegal) time-travel equipment.

Men In Black 3 filming location: Eighth Avenue, Theatre District, New York
Men In Black 3 location: the electronics store: Eighth Avenue, Theatre District, New York

According the excellent OnTheSetOfNewYork, the store is A2Z Convenience Smoke Shop, 711 8th Avenue at West 45th Street in the heart of the Theatre District.

In order to function, the device demands a fall from a great height and, though the Chrysler Building is not the tallest structure in Manhattan, it’s arguably the most photogenic and it’s from one of its stainless-steel eagle-headed gargoyles that J plummets into the 1960s.

Men In Black 3 filming location: Roosevelt Hotel, East 45th Street, New York
Men In Black 3 location: Agent J takes the car: Roosevelt Hotel, East 45th Street, New York

It seems the journey back to 1969 changes not only the timeline but the geography of Manhattan itself, as J exits the Chrysler by that wonderful deco door at 405 Lexington Avenue, to find himself directly opposite the Roosevelt Hotel, 45 East 45th Street at Madison Avenue a couple of blocks northwest.

Coincidentally, the Roosevelt Hotel is one of two locations MIB3 happens to share with Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman.

Posing as a parking valet, J takes a car from in front of the hotel and hares off to Coney Island, where he knows that Boris is destined to kill sideshow performer Roman the Fabulist.

Coney Island has changed little over the years and you can still see the Wonder Wheel and the landmark (though defunct) Parachute Jump – which has featured in films as disparate as Requiem for a Dream and Spider-Man: Homecoming.

J is not only too late to save the life of Roman but also finds himself apprehended by the younger Agent K (Josh Brolin).

Fortunately, K has no problem accepting J’s apparently preposterous story and a matchbook found on the body of Roman leads the two of them to ‘Cosmic Lanes’ where a little ‘head bowling’ is required to get the information for which they’re looking.

The bowling alley is Van Nest Lanes, 1756 Bronxdale Avenue, Morris Park in the Bronx – and this is where Frank Sheeran (Robert de Niro) and Russ Bufalino (Joe Pesci) go bowling with their families in The Irishman.

It’s here that the agents realise the factory they’ve been looking for is ‘The Factory’ – the crazy studio / event space of Andy Warhol (Bill Hader) in Manhattan.

Men In Black 3 filming location: Mercer Street, SoHo, New York
Men In Black 3 location: the Warhol 'Factory': Mercer Street, SoHo, New York

Warhol’s Factory was recreated at 11 Mercer Street, between Grand and Canal Streets, in SoHo – directly opposite the apartment of Sonny (Adam Sandler) in 1999 comedy Big Daddy.

From 1967 to 1973, the real Factory occupied the sixth floor of the Decker Building, 33 Union Square West, near East 16th Street. It was here that, in 1968, Warhol was shot by Valerie Solanas.

Among Warhol’s diverse party guests, they come across Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), a fifth-dimensional Archanan who possesses the ability to foresee multiple possibilities, and who also carries a piece of equipment vital for their mission.

When Griffin disappears in the middle of confusion caused by the sudden arrival of Boris, K announces, Twin Peaks-style, that it’s time for pie.

Men In Black 3 filming location: Relish Diner, Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn
Men In Black 3 location: J and K ponder the problem over pie: Relish Diner, Wythe Avenue, Williamsburg, Brooklyn

J and K’s destination is another of New York’s great retro diners, this time the Relish Diner, 225 Wythe Avenue at North 3rd Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn.  Sadly, like so many of its kind, it’s since closed and it’s due to be replaced by – guess what? – condos.

The pie strategy works, as a casually overheard conversation about the Mets flags up their home, Shea Stadium, as Griffin’s probable whereabouts.

The stadium, which stood in Flushing Meadows / Corona Park, was demolished in 2009 and had to be resurrected digitally for the film.

No sooner have they found Griffin again than he’s abducted by Boris.

Men In Black 3 filming location: Unisphere, Flushing Meadows, Queens
Men In Black 3 location: the chase from 'Shea Stadium': Unisphere, Flushing Meadows, Queens

The film’s choice of Shea Stadium as a location becomes apparent when the agents’ car is destroyed and they give chase on bikes through Flushing Meadows, past the giant Unisphere and its fountains in a nod to the original Men In Black, where this was the landing site.

Once rescued, the resourceful Griffin reveals he’s managed to keep his precious gift safe from Boris. It’s on the waterfront beneath FDR Drive at South Street Seaport, between Manhattan and Brooklyn Bridges, that he hands over the Arc Net Shield, Earth’s the ultimate defence against a future Boglodite invasion.

The last remaining problem is that, in order to be activated, the device must be launched into space.

It’s no coincidence that J transported back to July 1969. The next day, Apollo 11 is due to be launched to the Moon from Cape Canaveral in Florida, and the Arc Net needs to be aboard.

The 'Cape' launch site was recreated at Robert Moses State Park, 600 Robert Moses State Parkway, Babylon, in Suffolk County at the western end of Fire Island, off the  Long Island coast – where the entrance to the underground bunker was created at Field 4.