Men in Black 3 Review
by Daniel Rester
Men in Black worked wonders in the 1990s with its terrific mix of sci-fi and comedy, as well as with its oddball pairing of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Men in Black 2 was mostly a lazy and flat sequel that was denounced by most critics and film-goers. And now there is Men in Black 3, a needless but entertaining sequel that works like a napkin to wipe out the bad taste its predecessor left behind.
The film opens with a menacing alien named Boris the Animal (an unrecognizable Jemaine Clement) breaking out of a high security prison. Boris plans to take revenge on Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) for dismembering him and leaving him to rot in a cell. Soon after Boris’ escape, Agent J (Will Smith) realizes that the people around him seem to think that K has been dead for years already – by the (creepy) hands of Boris. This leads J to time-travel back to 1969 in order to try and prevent this possible reality from occurring. In the process, J must team up with a young K (Josh Brolin), leading to discoveries about K’s past that J never knew.
MIB3 rediscovers the balance of sci-fi and comedy that marked the first film without recycling everything from it like the second entry did. It actually has some new things to say about the characters, and finds extra freshness with its 60s settings. Director Barry Sonnenfeld and the scriptwriters make the central relationship of J and K firsthand again, with the action and special effects aiding, rather than dominating (as with the cash-grabbing second film), the story on display.
Smith, as the smooth J, and Jones, as the crusty K, remain a fun and unusual team; it is nice to see the two back together again. Clement also does well as the nasty Boris, though his character makes a grand entrance and then fizzles out a bit. The show-stealer, however, is Brolin. The actor is incredible as the young version of K, perfectly channeling Tommy Lee Jones. He gives a real performance rather than a simple imitation, connecting seamlessly to Jones’ ways but also leaving his own mark behind. He and Smith’s rapport is fully believable and highly enjoyable, with the two on-screen together more than Smith and Jones are.
Rick Baker’s makeup used for the aliens remains remarkable, with the traditional effects often more of a standout than the computerized effects. All of the different creatures from Baker are impressive looking, with Sonnenfeld and the set decorator’s recreation of the 60s matching them. Also good is the soundtrack, put together by the masterful Danny Elfman. Some other highlights are scenes involving Smith adapting to the “cultural ways” of 60s, a thrilling climax involving a rocket ship, and a surprisingly touching (if manipulative) conclusion.
MIB3 may be leagues ahead of the second installment, but it does have some problems of its own. As said before, the character of Boris weakens out after the opening, mostly being reduced to a growling beast of terror. Another negative is that some of the story ideas could have been a bit more juicy or witty (such as a scene in a bowling alley and another scene where Smith encounters some cops), sometimes coming across as dull and ineffective compared to others. By far the biggest problem I had with MIB3, though, was with a character named Griffin. Michael Stuhlbarg may be a good actor, but the character of Griffin (who is meant to be the warm-hearted comic-relief character) just comes across as an annoying turbo-mouth who can predict possible futures.
As said before, MIB3 wasn’t really necessary. However, it is fun. The film is not cerebral in any way and it has its flaws, but it works great as simple summer escapism. And Brolin is just killer as young K.
Rating: 3 out of 4 stars.