MEN IN BLACK III, 2012
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Stars: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Alice Eve, Emma Thompson, Bill Hader, Nicole Scherzinger, Jemaine Clement, Rip Torn, Michael Stuhlbarg
Review by Joshua Starnes
MEN IN BLACK III MOVIE TRAILER WATCH
Tommy Lee Jones finally agreed to reprise his Agent K after a protracted period of negotiations; the story will involve Will Smith's Agent J traveling back to 1969, where he encounters a younger version of his alien-fighting companion, played by Josh Brolin.
Well, it s better than Men in Black 2 but like the saying goes that s damning with faint praise. Like an existentialist joke, Men in Black 3 doesn t know why it exists; it only knows that it does and that the punch lines aren t funny.
It s been 15 years since Agent J (Will Smith) joined the secret service of alien police who keep the Earth safe from dangers it doesn t even know about. Over that time he and his partner K (Tommy Lee Jones) have saved the world dozens of times over and become the best agents MIB has. And yet J still doesn’t know his partner that well. That is until one of K s old arrests (Jermaine Clement) breaks out of a secret prison on the moon in order to travel back in time and erase K from existence. J quickly realizes he is the only person left who knows his partner at all and only has one choice; to go back in time and save his partner s life.
Actually, the reality is Men in Black 3 isn t about going back in time; it s about being stuck in it. Even though it s been nearly 15 years since the first film, Smith and co. act as if either they dont remember anything that has come before or they hope no one else does. The first third of Men in Black 3 is devoted to the same excitable-junior-partner-making-a-fool-of-himself riff that worked so well in the first film and which the franchise has been trying to replicate ever since. Except in their zeal to give people what they think they want they ve forgotten to even attempt to develop their characters. Like flies stuck in amber they just keep going through the same motions because the studios and filmmakers involved keep insisting on making these things without having any idea why.
That s not entirely fair. While there is a lot of repetition on display – Men in Black 3 seems to be working step-by-step through the sequel playbook – a little taste of something new has been added in, in the form of Josh Brolin.
Despite being explicitly warned against it, no sooner does J arrive in the pat than he finds himself partnered with a young Agent K (Brolin) trying to keep him alive while simultaneously stopping the evil Bruno from invading the Earth.
Brolin s Tommy Lee Jones impression is spot on, and unlike every other character in the history of the franchise, the writer’s (one credited, with at least three others uncredited working during production) have taken the opportunity to show a different side to the man. Brolin s K is still taciturn and acerbic, but also funny and occasionally warm. It says something about the nature of these films that even the characters within them can’t help but note when someone showcases different facets of their personality.
The time travel gimmick also keeps the film from wallowing in the sheer number of references to the first film that ruined Men in Black 2. It does allow a fair bit of wallowing in typical time travel clichés – like K’s low tech versions of J s high tech toys – but by now that’s actually a pleasure.
What really hurts Men in Black 3 is the fact that some thought has obviously gone into it. Not only does the focus on K show that they understand what they’re story needs, they ve brought out some decent ideas, particularly in the shape of fifth-dimensional witness Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg). Yet they insist, willingly, in committing a lot of the typical sequel sins even though they should know better. It s the kind of cynicism that leaves a bad taste in your mouth.
That s not enough to make Men in Black 3 a truly bad film, but it does make it a truly uninspired one. There s some enjoyment to be had, mostly when Brolin is around, but that can t hide all the retreading going on. Maybe one day a studio will decide what they want the next film in their franchise to be about before they actually start making it. But today is not that day.