by Michelle McGlynn
Who ordered a third Men in Black film? Nobody did? Oh, ok then.
It is true, nobody asked for this film. Fifteen years have passed since the original film was released and it has been ten years since its dismal sequel. This makes it seem like just another desperate money grab from the studios. It also makes it seem, to me, like the Will Smith slapping a journalist bit was just a PR stunt to generate attention for a film that could easily slip by unnoticed among the other summer blockbusters dominating the box office. Thankfully, Men in Black 3 is a big step up from the second installment and manages to be pretty enjoyable throughout.
Fifteen years after they first partnered up Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) are still battling evil aliens, protecting good aliens and keeping all alien activity secret from the general public. It is business as usual until villain Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes from space prison and is hell bent on exacting revenge on the man who put him there after shooting off his arm: Agent K. Boris is determined to get the past fourty years of his life back, as well as his missing limb. In order to do this, he travels back to 1969 and kills K before any of this happens. In the present day, J wakes up to a confusing world as he is the only one who remembers that K did not die fourty years previously. J manages to convince Agent O (Emma Thompson), who has taken over MIB following the demise of Agent Zed, that all is not what it seems. So now J must travel back in time as well in order to save his partner. Although he was told to keep his distance from young K it is not long before they encounter each other. J is amazed to discover that K was not always the crotchety individual he knew in the future. The duo, along with some help from Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg) an alien who can see all possible futures at any given time, they must battle to try and stop Boris before it’s too late.
Men in Black 3 is not a film to be taken seriously. To search for the historical inaccuracies or to take the jokes on racial struggles in America in the 1960s as anything other than a cheap, obvious attempt to get laughs is to credit the film with more substance than it actually has. This film is what it is and if you accept it for this then you will enjoy it.
The comedy has a much more laid back feel which is at times a nice change. Many jokes are cringe inducing but there are some highlights. Bill Hader’s appearance as Andy Warhol sees the film at its comedic best.
Aside from the comedy, Men in Black 3 attempts to develop the two main characters. The reason for K’s grumpy demeanor is revealed. We are also given some background on J’s character while the bond between the partners is strengthened. Much of the character revelations can be seen from a mile away but this is forgivable. The plot itself lulls in the middle making it feel a bit restless and then gives way to an ending which feels rather rushed.
Rik Baker, who worked on both of the previous installments, once again wows with his character creations. This is best showcased in a scene near the beginning when the two agents are pitted against various aliens in a Chinese restaurant. The 3D does not particularly add to the enjoyment of Baker’s aliens but it does not take away from them either.
Tommy Lee Jones is not really featured much in the film and amasses maybe fifteen minutes of screen time.
Will Smith’s performance is toned down in a big way. His trademark loud shouting and overacting are noticeably absent. This is a very welcome change. He still delivers some funny one-liners and retains his cocky humour.
Josh Brolin is the best thing about the film. His performance as a young K is flawless. Brolin said that he achieved this not by watching Tommy Lee Jones when he was younger, but by studying his performances in the previous MIB films. From the Southern drawl, to the facial expressions and mannerisms Brolin’s imitation of Jones’s Agent K is uncanny. Brolin’s K maintains the serious demeanor but also hints at a lighter side to the character. The casting is amusing in itself as a 44 year old Brolin is cast to play a 29 year old K.
Michael Stuhlbarg is another favourite as the alien Griffin. It is almost impossible not to love Griffin as Stuhlbarg plays him with a warmth and undeniably endearing quality. As Griffin can see all potential futures, he is constantly hopeful yet paranoid and despairing. Stuhlbarg pulls off these dual emotions fantastically.
Men in Black 3 does not reach the levels of the original but is closer in spirit than the sequel. Keep your expectations low and you will find it pleasantly entertaining.