It has been a decade since the epic failure that was Men in Black 2, and with the slate now clean and relatively unsullied, does the third Men in Black film right the wrongs of the past and recapture the magic of the film that arguably made Will Smith the A-lister that he is today?
I’m relieved to say that Men in Black 3 is not a film that you’ll want to forget and it does indeed redeem itself from the slight of its predecessor. There is one very obvious difference that I came about while watching the film – it’s less about aliens and more about science-fiction in a broader sense. The element that gave Men in Black its angle was the fact that aliens played a large role in outlining a believable secret society, we do see evidence of this in MIB 3 but not to the degree of previous entries. Make no mistake, J and K are still protecting the earth from the scum of the universe but even the villain “Boris” seems more human than alien (aside from having a strange spider-like henchman that lives in his hand. Regardless, this isn’t a fault, just an observation.
Agent J travels back in time to save agent K after he suddenly disappears and every memory of his existence succeeding 1969 has been erased – only J seems to have any recollection of the surly older gentleman. While in 1969, J must kill Boris “The Animal” before he takes vengeance on K but the smart mouthed agent meets up with a younger agent K and before long the two team up to take out the alien menace that threatens to enslave all mankind.
One would expect the concept of time-travel to have been shelved given how frequently it is used and more often than not, completely botched but Barry Sonnenfeld has decided to take a more go-with-the-flow approach, letting the setting speak for itself and paying less attention to the risks involved ala Back to the Future. This direction pays off and we get to focus equally on some well designed action set pieces and the great chemistry between Josh Brolin and Will Smith. Speaking of which, it’s almost uncanny how Brolin represents the younger K, it’s not quite mimesis thankfully but the little nuanced similarities between the two make this a performance to remember and not just a cheap cash-in.
While I can go about praising MIB 3 all day, it’s far from being perfect but the disparity only seems to happen in the final act where the film loses its comedic charm entirely and settles into its own black suit – I would have loved to see J’s quips continue throughout the film and while they mostly work, the act just gets dropped and all the offbeat dialogue disappears and subsequently the film runs low on steam. It still survives but the filmmakers would have done well to keep the pacing tightened throughout. The film also maintains the mystery elements that the former entries followed but it’s not quite as intelligent and sails along smoothly devoid of surprises and twists.
3D can very well make a good film unwatchable at worst and remain a subtle gimmick at best. Thankfully MIB 3 falls into the latter category and employs a natural yet altogether dumbed-down approach to 3D – there are some scenes that do cater well to the medium though and these usually come in the form of the time jump sequences which can be simply psychedelic at times. The 3D is negligible, skip it if you can but if you can’t, it still doesn’t hurt the experience.
The film has a few scenes which just don’t seem quite as thought out and almost tacked on – for instance, at one part in the film, young K and agent J decide to consume cannabis at the suggestion of K in order to get some perspective after losing the trail. The scene is completely unconvincing, firstly the characters don’t behave liked they’re “stoned” or “high” and we never even see them smoking in the first place, it just cuts to a diner where they order food presumably to remedy the munchies and partake in conversation that is in line with their other restaurant rendezvous’. At first I thought that “have pot” was MIB code for eating dinner because they never even suggest the act of smoking but J does indeed get some newfound insight after which K delights in his trust in the miracle herb…it’s just a really weird scene that doesn’t seem to fit in at all.
[When I first watched MIB 3 I was convinced that J and K said "pot" but it seems that the American accent still pulls a number on me sometimes. The agents did in fact say "pie" after which the following scene unfolds but nevertheless it's still something of an analogy for smoking weed...still the scene is just as awkward]
It goes without saying that if you enjoyed the previous films, this one should fit in just right with your tastes but even casual filmgoers will enjoy Smith’s latest due to its comedic charm and top notch acting talents. While the film is rated at 10, it should be noted that there are several instances where profanities are present and it really should have brought it to a 13 – its a little odd given how the violence has been somewhat toned down from previous entries.
The Bottom Line
Men in Black 3 is a worthy sequel – it’s by no means perfect but it retains the fun and often funny spirit that made the 90′s sci-fi classic such a hit. Josh Brolin is the splitting image of a young Tommy Lee Jones and his talents resonate just as vocally as Smith’s – there’s a subtle chemistry between the two and watching their on screen antics usually is cinema gold but at times does get snuffed out by some odd humour that tries a little too hard to be funny. Despite a weaker, more serious third act, the film wraps up well and you thankfully won’t need to use the neuraliser that you bought after watching MIB 2.