I, like a lot of other people, really, really enjoyed Men In Black. In fact, I still do. Unlike a lot of other people, I also really enjoyed the sequel. It wasn’t up to the high standard set by the first film but it was more good fun featuring characters that I liked spending time with.
When I heard that they were making a third movie I was happy but also apprehensive. By 2012 it seemed as if the MIB were already past their sell by date and Will Smith hadn’t been raking in those BIG box office dollars for a few years. It may not seem such a big deal but the Hollywood game relies on almost constant movement and bankability. Did Smith still have it? Then came the talk of a movie being made with no finished script. It didn’t bode well.
Thankfully, none of that matters once Men In Black 3 starts because it’s a film that easily deserves a place alongside the other two (yes, I’m still defending the second film). The one-liners may not be quite as sharp as they were before but they’re still plentiful and the film mixes the humour with some interesting ideas and a selection of great special effects, just like its predecessors.
The plot this time around involves Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) being wiped out by Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement). No, that’s not a spoiler. That’s the springboard for the main thrust of the movie. K is gone and nobody remembers him apart from Agent J (Will Smith). He’s not sure why but he knows that he must somehow find a way to travel back in time and repair whatever damage has already been done. A time jump is required, one that will take J back to the 1960s and allow him to save the life of the younger Agent K (played, to perfection, by Josh Brolin).
Considering the talk of problems actually getting the script hammered out and the film made, I must say that for a light slice of comedy and adventure this doesn’t do too badly with the time travel part of things. It’s not absolutely watertight, I don’t think any time travel movies are (are they?), but it actually brings things together quite nicely and stays within its own set of rules.
The direction from Barry Sonnenfeld is solid, he takes the same approach as he did with the previous two movies in a “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” style and I don’t have a problem with that at all. Some people may think that the film is just lazily walking in the footsteps of the other two movies but I felt it was carving out a new path while maintaining the spirit and characters of the series.
Etan Cohen hasn’t created a zinger of a script but he’s done a decent job, all things considered, and it’s saved by a great cast all doing their bit to add to the fun. Smith and Jones have had their double act perfected since they first met onscreen so their banter is a given but Josh Brolin, as everyone else on the planet has said before me, is absolutely brilliant in the role of the young K. Squint your eyes while watching the movie and it IS a young Tommy Lee Jones onscreen. Jemaine Clement is heavily made up but still just about recognisable as Boris The Animal though he’s, sadly, the weakest of the villains that the MIB have ever come up against. Emma Thompson is very good as Agent O, the new head of the agency, and Alice Eve is as lovely as ever while portraying the young O. The movie also has not one but two scene stealing supporting players. Michael Stuhlbarg is an okay actor but his character, an alien who can see all possible variables and timelines at all times, is so delightful and intriguing that his presence lifts the movie just when it’s needed. Last, but by no means least, there’s Bill Hader as Andy Warhol in a cameo that’s just enormously funny from start to finish.
The movie has a number of small flaws, with the main one being the lack of bite, but it’s hugely enjoyable from start to finish, just as imaginative and outlandish as the previous films in the series and manages to put itself across as a nicely constructed blockbuster that doesn’t reflect any of the turmoil that occurred behind the scenes.
DIRECTOR: BARRY SONNENFELD
WRITER: ETAN COHEN
STARS: WILL SMITH, TOMMY LEE JONES, JOSH BROLIN, EMMA THOMPSON, JEMAINE CLEMENT, ALICE EVE, BILL HADER, MICHAEL STUHLBARG
RUNTIME: 106 MINS APPROX
COUNTRY: USA, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES