Men in Black 3
While I am a huge fan of the original “Men in Black,” I wasn’t particularly clamoring for this third installment. In the time between this and “Men in Black 2,” which was no great shakes but not terrible like so many others think, I had moved on from the franchise to other things. On top of that, the first movie, despite having a franchise-worthy premise, works surprisingly well as a simple one-shot story that didn’t absolutely need to be continued. But, the powers that be said otherwise, and now we have “Men in Black 3,” ten years after part two.
After escaping from a prison made just for him on the moon, Boris the Animal returns to Earth to get his revenge on Agent K, who took away Boris’ arm over 40 years before. Once an attempted attack on K and his partner J fails, Boris gets control of a time travel device and returns to the year where K would stop him. Boris kills K, which screws up the timeline, and now Agent J has to follow Boris back to 1969 if he is to bring everything back to normal. There, he teams up with the younger K, and the two have to track down both the younger and older versions of Boris.
I’m going to go out on a limb and ignore the big plot hole that J can remember K but nobody else can because, quite frankly, I wanted to get out of this part as fast as possible. The first half hour or so before the 1969 segment is terribly done, with limp jokes and a tired Tommy Lee Jones dragging things down. Any previous investment Jones had in the character of K is gone now as he goes through the motions. It’s a chore getting through this segment, but once J goes through the time jump to 1969, in a well-designed and cool sequence through time, the movie gains some traction.
The jokes still don’t hit all that often, but the hit/miss ratio is much more evened out here. The new partner dynamic between Will Smith and Josh Brolin, who plays the younger K, breathes new life into the K/J duo. Brolin nails down Tommy Lee Jones’ mannerisms in a creepily perfect way, although at the same time adding his own touches that flesh out the character. While still stern and serious, Brolin’s K still has excitement and youthful energy in him, much to the surprise of J. Smith, despite being absent from the big screen for four years, easily slips back into his role, bringing the usual charisma and comic timing that people love him for, even when he has to rise above the weak script.
For about three quarters of the movie, I was mostly shifting in my seat as the movie would continually fall flat with the occasional neat element. The sequence at Andy Warhol’s Factory is excellent, and Bill Hader was hysterical as Warhol. This is also the same scene where we meet Grif, played with cheery glee by Michael Stuhlberg, who is easily the best new character in the story (since Brolin is technically not playing a new character). Grif is an alien who can telepathically see all possible outcomes of the future, which adds a new piece to time travel to jazz things up.
And then at the very end, when I thought the movie would merely limp to the finish line, it pulls out a wild card ending that was surprisingly emotional. It changes how we look at K’s relationship with J, and brings the whole series full circle not necessarily for the main series storyline, but for these two characters that we love. It’s too bad that “Men in Black 3” in its entirety could not live up to the way it concluded, as there are some parts that nearly live up to the fun creativity of the 1997 original. I want to give it an extra rating because of the ending, but I’ll have to settle with my gut instinct of the overall picture.
2/4 Ratings Criteria