Tuesday, June 5, 2012

"Men in Black 3"

Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, written by Etan Cohen, starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and Josh Brolin - Rated PG-13

Worth it just to see Brolin mimic Tommy Lee Jones.


Men in Black seemed to have been a dead series after a weak second entry and years of inactivity.  When a third film was announced I didn’t get very excited.  I got downright uninterested when I heard that it started shooting without a finished script, which is a terrible sign for a film.  But then the previews came out and I saw the time travel twist to the story.  Time travel can be either a curse or a blessing, but it definitely raised my interest in the film.  Thankfully, the time travel element was used to good effect, leaving Men in Black 3 a worthy entry in the series and nearly on par with the first film.

Men in Black 3 finds Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) once again trying to save the world.  Nothing new or original about that, but things get strange when K suddenly disappears and only J remembers the last few years while everyone else knows of K dying back in the 1960’s.  An alien who was thwarted and maimed by K back in the 60’s found a way to go back and permanently solve the problem, so J has to follow in his footsteps to save K.  Oh…and the rest of the world, too.

Obviously it would look strange to have Tommy Lee Jones playing a 40+ year younger version of himself, so Josh Brolin was tapped to portray the younger J and it is the highlight of the film.  Brolin perfectly inhabits Jones and it is simply amusing to see his impersonation throughout the movie.  And he interacts with Smith with the same ease as Jones.

The other part of the time travel aspect is the possibility of era jokes.  Sometimes a film that takes place in or travels to a different time period falls victim to exaggerating clich├ęs of the time.  Men in Black 3 does feature some typical call outs to the 60’s but instead of throwing out a lot of free love and hippie stuff, the focus is exclusively on Andy Warhol and his famous studio, The Factory.  The jokes are exclusive to Warhol stuff, which is strange because Warhol isn’t exactly a relevant figure for young audience members.  Those with even a passing interest in Warhol should get a kick out the jokes but those who don’t know of him will likely be left in the dark.  But since he is portrayed by Bill Hader, even the youngest viewers may find some enjoyment from the sequence. 

Enjoyment is flagging in other departments, though.  The first film worked so well because the alien effects were created in the beginning days of decent CG so it was a visual spectacle and the designs were funny.  It was also amusing to see the famous aliens among us.  Both of those elements grew stale the second time around and they don’t fare any better this time.  Sure, the special effects are the best yet and the aliens are all really weird.  It’s just that none of it is that spectacular compared to dozens of other sci-fi films. 

But it’s still Men in Black, which means Will Smith is onscreen nearly one hundred percent of the time doing his thing.  If you’re a Smith fan, then this will be a good time.  If his antics are wearing thin, then you’ll possibly hate this movie.  I’m still cool with Smith so I enjoyed his performance for the most part, though some of his one-liners and reactions definitely feel like they are the result of a half-written script. 

Another element some may find lacking is the film’s villain.  Vincent D’Onofrio set the standard for an amusing and disgusting villain in the first film, and no one has come close to that character since.  Jemaine Clement (“Flight of the Conchords”) takes on the villainous role for this one and he does an okay job for the most part.  The problem is that this usually hilarious actor is hidden behind CG and prosthetics.  His outlandishly deepened voice is funny at times and he’s certainly a disgusting creature, but for the most part it’s a dull role. 

The weaker elements of Men in Black 3 are outshined by the stronger moments, though.  Perhaps it only seems that way because the film gets better and better as it continues, but it felt that way for me because the emotional pay off of the film truly worked for me.  Not to spoil anything, but this series typically features an almost tacked on heartfelt ending for a character.  It can be seen as lazy filmmaking, especially since this ending deals with time travel, but it worked on me and I imagine it will work on others.

Overall, Men in Black 3 is worth a watch.  It isn’t as good as the original, but it’s certainly an improvement over the second film and it’s a lot of fun if you don’t over think the time travel bits (nearly every time travel movie unravels if you think about it too much, anyway).  It’s not the original, but it’s good enough for me.

Random Thoughts (SPOILERS)

What's with the one wheel things they drive?  They look suspiciously like the "IT" from "South Park."

Michael Stuhlbarg was amusing in a rare big-budget appearance.

Oh, almost forgot that this was in 3D.  It was okay, I guess, but not really necessary...as usual.


  1. The issue with the wheel thing is that they are modern than the cars driven in 2011. A slight inconsistency with the timetravel story no?