Review: Men in Black III
PLOT: When Boris The Terrible (Jemaine Clement), the last survivor of a planet-destroying race of aliens, escapes his prison- he immediately travels back in time to erase the existence of the man who captured him, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Only his partner, J (Will Smith) remembers his existence, and in an effort to save his partner (not to mention the whole planet)- he also travels back in time, to 1969, where he partners with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to stop Boris' plan.
REVIEW: I know, I know- MEN IN BLACK III, who cares right? Given the fact that the last one came out ten years ago, and was essentially unwatchable, you can't blame anyone for wondering why, after all this time, they decided to make a third film. Bad as it was, MIB2 still made a big chunk of change- but it's reputation was so bad they probably HAD to wait at least a decade before trying another one, but against all odds, MIB3 is actually a pretty decent film.
The thing is, I've never been a huge fan of the franchise. I tried re-watching the first one a week ago, and it's an OK movie (with an admittedly great performance by Vincent D'Onofrio), but not as good as I remembered it being. But, despite all the script problems (this film started shooting without a full script, and was shut down for a few months to work out some kinks), and the putrid stench left by the second one- this really works and is something I don't think any of us expected it to be: a pretty good film.
The very thing that makes it work is that the formula is shaken up a bit. The time travel gimmick is old hat, but it's very effective in that it allows us to meet the younger K- as played by Josh Brolin, who turns out to be the shot in the arm this franchise needed. Of course, being that most of the film is focused on J and the younger K, Tommy Lee Jones isn't left with much of a role. In fact, what he has here is essentially a cameo, with maybe 10-15 minutes of screen time in all.
That said, Brolin more than makes up for his absence. In addition to doing an uncanny Jones impression, the fact that we're seeing a young K means that we also get a happier, more adventurous K, and Brolin brings a youthful energy to the part that actually reverses the dynamic a bit, and makes Will Smith the older, wiser one. For his part, Smith mostly sticks to his old-shtick, but being that he's now in his forties, he mugs a little less this time around- although I couldn't help but feel he takes a backseat to Brolin throughout much of the film.
The time travel motif also gives the film a slightly more sentimental twist towards the end, that pays off nicely in the character development of both K and J. It's nothing too profound, but it's a nice turn away from the franchise's usual tongue-in-cheek approach (although enough of that remains). In an effort to be competitive with the bigger tentpoles that are in theatres, MIB3 is also heavier on the action than the last two films, and while none of the action set-pieces are particularly thrilling (once again- the 3D is useless), Jemaine Clement (of FLIGHT OF THE CONCHORDS) makes for a more menacing villain than you'd expect. Michael Stuhlbarg from BOARDWALK EMPIRE also pops off as an extremely likable alien that can see various possible time-lines play out before him. The filmmakers also get a lot of mileage out of the period setting, with lots of retro style aliens that (I assume) intentionally look like guys in rubber suits, and a great bit by Bill Hader as Andy Warhol.
Now, I'm not saying MIB3 is excellent. It's certainly not going to make anyone forget about THE AVENGERS (but hopefully it will allow some of us to forget BATTLESHIP). It has it's share of problems- mostly confined to a flabby mid-section of the film, which makes it seem long, despite it's relatively scant 100 minute running time. Also- Alice Eve and Emma Thompson feel a little underused as the younger/older version of K's love interest, Agent O- although Thompson has a fun bit near the beginning. However, these problems are still relatively minor compared to the last film. I've got to hand it to director Barry Sonnenfeld and company though. For this series, the third time really is the charm, and if indeed this is the last MIB (I'm sure that all depends on the gross), it's going out on a high note.