Men In Black 3 (2012)
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Written by: David Koepp, Etan Cohen, Germaine Clement, Jeff Nathanson, Michael Soccio
Starring: Josh Brolin, Michael Soccio, Tommy Lee Jones, Will Smith
IN CINEMAS NOW
RUNNING TIME: 103 mins
REVIEWED BY: Dr Lenera, Official HCF Critic
Boris the Beast escapes from his prison on the Moon with the help of a female helper and a cake containing an alien. He returns to Earth with one mission: to go back in time to 1969 and kill Agent K, who had cut off his hand and imprisoned him in 1969. K also created a protective shield called the Arcnet to protect Earth from alien invasion. Agent J awakes to find himself in an alternate reality where K has been dead for 40 years. It seems that Boris was able to travel back in time to 1969 using a time jump device and kill K, in the process leaving the planet vulnerable because the Arcnet has not yet been put up. J acquires a time jump device himself and prepares to travel back in time himself to set things right, though it involves jumping off the Chrysler building…..
Here come the men in black, they won’t let you remember…..
Whenever I think of Men In Black I automatically think of not the film but the Will Smith song from it. This is not because the film wasn’t any good but because it takes me back to a good time in my life when, at one particular point in my lengthy period of working at my local cinema, I had an especially fun group of colleagues to work with and go out with at every opportunity. At least once a week we’d go to our local nightclub and they would always play the Men in Black song at least twice a night and of course I would always dance to it! I actually did not mind the first sequel even though it was the ultimate example of a sequel playing it safe, basically rehashing the first film but unsurprisingly failing to recapture all of its charm. This belated third episode is hardly something I have been looking forward to and indeed one would expect it to be a disaster considering its troubled production which included multiple script rewrites, a discontented star and a three-month production shutdown as writers and studio executives scrambled to fix a project that nearly fell apart.
At a final cost of $250 million — though some sources claim more – it is easy to consider Men In Black 3 as a typical example of a stupid money-wasting blockbuster, and indeed many are doing that, sometimes influenced I think by, if you count internet message boards as your main guide [and perhaps you shouldn’t], an increasing dislike of Will Smith. This is a dislike I don’t entirely understand – for me his ‘clean’-living, family guy image is one to admire, and so what if he follows a dodgy religion and wants his children to follow in his footsteps? In any case, I can tell you that Men In Black 3 is thoroughly entertaining and, far from just being superior to the maligned second movie, it is, in my opinion, at least the equal of the original film. In fact, I think I actually enjoyed it more.
Influenced perhaps by the Back To The Future trilogy, and especially the underrated second picture, Men In Black 3 marries the ‘alien investigation’, detective story element of the first two films with the subject of time travel. The story gets fairly complex early on, while many will spot holes in the tale – I personally have never totally ‘bought’ the concept of someone meeting themselves in the past or the future – but it plays fair with the audience and never, I think, gets out of control. The style and feel of the first two films remains, thanks to Barry Sonnenfield returning as director, but this one really benefits from being tied to a story which has some different aspects. Where I think the film falters is in not giving enough time to a few of the threads which develop; I know Sonnenfield likes to keep his films within a certain length, but this one could have done with being just a little bit longer. Saying that, though, Men In Black 3 could have done with removing one particular character, an alien called Griffin who can see multiple futures and doesn’t know which one is the real one. As played by Michael Stuhlborg, he’s a total, in-your-face irritant and, while the concept of his ‘gift’ is promising and leads to some good scenes especially one at a baseball stadium, the character so annoyed me I just wished he would be killed off!
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones show they have lost none of their chemistry in the early scenes and the wonderful idea of aliens being amongst us and everywhere is maintained, especially in a terrific scene which perhaps confirms some of the suspicions we may have about Chinese food. Agent J’s time-jump scene is an incredibly vertiginous bit of business, with even the prelude to the actual jump making me glad that I hadn’t gone to see the picture in 3D [which isn’t really worth it from what I’ve heard], because I still felt a little dizzy. The traveling back in time is nicely done with lots of glimpses of bits from the past including even some dinosaurs, and when we arrive in 1969, the period is well evoked. Some of the jokes are of the kind you would expect, but there is a certain intelligence at play too, especially with a great Andy Warhol gag which really made me laugh and substantiated my view that he was actually a pretty crap artist really. Despite the setting, there is much fun gadgetry including the coolest-looking bike variants since Return Of he Jedi, and the return of Rick Baker ensures that, despite the increasing use of CGI, enough physical effects remain.
Much as before, matters progress in the manner of a weird detective tale, with a few bits of action thrown in including a great road chase which is shot better than 99.9% of road chases you see in films today because you can actually see what it going on! This is not to say the direction by Sonnenfield lacks style, because he keeps things moving at a great pace by cutting each scene to the bone, and every now and again the camera will swoop into a location at dizzying speed. It’s been too long since the director of The Addams Family and Get Shorty last hit cinema screens [hey, I even liked Wild, Wild West]. Now of course matters in this film lead to an action climax, here set at Cape Canaveral with more dizzying high-level stuff, and it’s pretty exciting, though of course it seems like both our heroes have developed superhuman strength and resilience. What surprised me more though, was a rather touching plot twist that followed which moved me somewhat. In fact, there seems to be a straining to a more emotional dimension throughout which is not really followed through. We are given hints, for example, of why Agent K became the up-tight, emotionless shell we all know, but they are just hints. I wonder if a director’s cut will surface…….
Will Smith, basically playing the same character he usually plays, is as likeable as ever and doesn’t seem to have aged since the last film, but the big surprise for me is Josh Brolin, not an actor I generally rate very highly, but here doing a very good impersonation of the young Tommy Lee Jones. It’s nice to see Emma Thompson in this kind of movie but to be honest her character is given short shrift, like many of the other most interesting elements of the film. Men In Black 3 frustrated me at times, because it seemed like there was a more detailed, serious movie trying to break out of the generally light piece of fluff that have. If, though, you ask was I entertained, I would reply with no hesitation: “yes”. The opening weekend hasn’t been as good as expected, but I’d like to see another Men in Black adventure, be it with Brolin or Jones. This one is really fun, inventive and the time flew by….which is appropriate, I suppose.