In Men In Black 3, Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back... in time. J has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men In Black, but nothing, not even aliens, perplexes him as much as his wry, reticent partner. But when K's life and the fate of the planet are put at stake, Agent J will have to travel back in time to put things right. J discovers that there are secrets to the universe that K never told him -- secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save his partner, the agency, and the future of humankind. (from Sony Pictures)
In 1997, Sony launched a successful summer blockbuster in the dark alien comedy, Men In Black. It featured elaborate creature designs for things that inhabited earth but were hidden in plain sight from the masses. The story involved an NYPD officer named James who runs down a criminal, not knowing he's an alien, and comes in contact with a secret government organization that specializes in extraterrestrials, called the Men In Black. He teams up with hard-nosed, stone-faced Agent K and the Men In Black--as moviegoers know them--were born. Five years later, the film's first sequel released, a disappointing venture that felt forced from the get-go (In a way similar to how Back The Future II had to write Jennifer out of the story after the first movie ended with her in the time machine with Marty and Doc...since the filmmakers never intended for there to be a sequel). Too much of the story wasted time getting K back into the picture after he retired at the end of the first film. The alien characters were also weak, the script was a mess, and a finale that based around the World Trade Center had to be completely rewritten and reimagined after the 9/11 attack happened while the film was in production. The whole result left a bad taste in most MIB fans' mouths, which left the interest in a third film pretty low. Still, in 2010, Men In Black 3 was greenlit and many couldn't help but wonder why? Anticipation hasn't been very high, but those who loved the characters fifteen years ago may be interested in casually revisiting the story now just for the nostalgia. The end result was surprisingly satisfying.
The constant for all three Men In Black films has been three important components: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and director Barry Sonnenfeld. While Sonnenfeld has helmed each film, the tone of the sequels has never matched the original. Because of this, the sequels have suffered greatly from some form of sequelitis or another, and it's been unfortunate given the quality of the original movie. But as the then-fifty-year-old Tommy Lee Jones has become the now-sixty-five-year-old Tommy, changes have had to be made for these films to work in a way the first film did. However, this has yet to be the case. A good portion of MIB II saw J (Smith) trying to return K (Jones) back to his former self, while MIB 3 writes the aging actor out of most of the film intentionally. My favorite moments of Men In Black had revolved around the chemistry between Jones and Smith, and it was bittersweet to see Jones not get near as much screentime in the third film than he had in the beginning.
But while Jones steps out for a good chunk of this film, the character of K is not at all absent. Josh Brolin (Goonies, True Grit) slips on the shoes of a younger K when J travels back in time to 1969 to help K stop an alien invasion from happening in the future. Brolin does a spot-on impression of Tommy Lee, which is likely to make many viewers forget that they're not really watching a younger Jones on screen. And the chemistry that Smith has with Jones is dually reproduced as well. Emma Thompson appears as a new character named Agent O, who wasn't in the previous films but apparently has some history with K and the agency. It messes a bit with the continuity of the series, but what she brings to the film helps make the inconsistencies forgivable.
Still, it's the inconsistencies in Men In Black 3 that make the film seem lazy in its execution when you stop to think about it. The plot creates its own rules for time travel, which are seemingly broken for a plot device during the finale which works visually as well as for the story's sake, but really doesn't make sense when you really think about it in the context of the time travel "rules" the film has established. This kind of sloppy storytelling therefore only cheapens the overall story (and is a little insulting to the viewer's intelligence). The other inconsistency lies within the backstories of J and K. The time travelling creates some confusion as to whether or not some of these 'revelations' make sense over the course of the film trilogy, but if this movie stood alone, that wouldn't be such a problem. However, it doesn't stand alone, so some diehard fans may have a hard time accepting some of the storytelling directions the movie chooses to go in. Still, this particular story adds for more human elements for both J and K, and focuses more intensely on their relationship as friends together (while the first film was bringing them together and the sequel focused more on a romantic relationship for J).
The villain for this outing is an alien who has been kept in quarantine on the moon for forty years. Somehow, he was able to maintain a distant relationship with a woman who helps bring about his escape from prison. Comedian Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Concords, Dinner For Schmucks) plays "Boris the Animal," and he proves to be a frighteningly formidable foe for the MIB team. He rivals Edgar from the original film in his purely grotesque appearance, but he overall feels intensely more cartoony in appearance than Edgar had (Rick Baker's makeup job on that film was incredible). MIB II suffered greatly from introducing increasingly more goofy and cartoony-looking characters, which is more tastefully and carefully handled here (for the most part). MIB II went painfully overboard, especially with the misstep of taking a tiny gag of a talking pug dog from the first film and blowing it up to an unwelcomed sidekick role in the sequel (and the worm guys didn't need bigger parts either). Thankfully, Frank the pug is nowhere to be found (except for maybe via a photo hanging on a wall) in MIB 3. The over-the-top and elaborate creature designs are still present in this film, but Sonnenfeld is more careful to use them as a little salt and pepper this time around instead of focusing too much on them as he did previously. What I like most about the first Men In Black is that the story had focused so much on the idea that these aliens could really exist in our world, while MIB II had started to present everything a little more in a fantastical fashion, which more or less began to ruin the groundwork laid by the 1997 film. MIB 3 falls somewhere more in the middle, trying simultaneously to balance familiarity with a freshness that a ten-year gap between the movies should offer (although I still favor the original Neuralizer design over the new, sleeker version). The overall presentation of MIB 3 is indeed flawed, but Sonnenfeld and company did a fine job making it a considerably more fun ride than the last entry.
Will Smith slips on the black suit as if he's never taken a break from the character of Agent J. However, if you watch MIB 3 directly after seeing the first movie, you'll get the sinking feeling that Tommy Lee doesn't really have the passion for his character that he did fifteen years ago. While it's a running gag that J harasses K for being too stoic and emotionless, Jones was far more lively, emotive and expressive in the 1997 film (Granted he was fifteen years younger, but that doesn't necessarily mean an actor has to petrify with age). For MIB 3, he just seems more like a tired old man who's wondering just why he's doing a third film at all. To be fair, Jones does come alive a few times in the new film--like in a scene in a Chinese restaurant, for example--but comparing his more charismatic performance in the first movie to this performance, it almost feels like a different character altogether. J frequently ribs K for not smiling or lacking much of a personality, and often asks what happened to him in the past to make him this way, but he actually smiled quite a bit in the first movie. Watching the trilogy as a whole is liable to make you wonder if much effort was made at all to retain some kind of genuine continuity (And perhaps the main reason for introducing Brolin as a younger, more livelier K was a way to compensate for Jones' current lack of charisma?).
The content for Men In Black 3 is pretty much on the same plane as the first two movies. Boris is a pretty hideous fellow, with tendril-like feet, fingers, and eyebrows, with a gross opening in the palm of his hand that allows for a crab/spider-like creature to crawl in and out of it. The sight of most of the things Boris does is likely to terrify any young viewers--and anyone else squeamish about such things. The profanity is a lot less than the first movie, but there is still quite a bit of minor profanity mixed in with a handful of "S" words and a few uses of blasphemy. The sexual content is considerably lessened from MIB II, where a grossly exaggerated French kiss between Boris and a girl (with his long tongue) at the start of the film is the worst of it. The violence, however, is some of the series' most brutal yet. Boris shoots spikes out of the palm of his hand using the little crab-like creature, and we often see them connect with a victim's forehead and leaving a mildly bloody mess (with views of the spikes sticking out of the victims, who often wear varying degrees of horror on their frozen faces). It's a little more graphic than you might expect, especially from a film that seems to target pre-teens when it's otherwise surprisingly intense (I mean, they even followed-up the first film with a cartoon series!).
In the end, none of us really needed a Men In Black 3, but the final product is a thoroughly entertaining and fun action comedy that helps erase the lasting distaste most have for Men In Black II, therefore redeeming the franchise a little. While the opening scene that introduces the film's villain is rather underwhelming, and these's a looming sense of "Oh... this again?" until Smith and Jones really get cracking during a great action sequence in the Chinese restaurant, Men In Black 3 is about as fun as any fan of the franchise can expect, and while it might not live up to the quality of the 1997 original, it's a decent sequel and an enjoyable sci-fi buddy comedy.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 5/25/12)
Partners In Time: The Making of MIB3 (26:25) - This is a nearly half-hour making-of featurette that covers the reunion of the main cast and taking the series to a new level with Men In Black 3. The featurette begins with a focus on the relationship between the main duo of J and K, as well as the chemistry involving Smith with Brolin and Jones. It then covers the new cast, including Clement and Thompson, and Rick Baker's alien design and the filming of the movie on location in NYC. The cast and crew then reflect on director Barry Sonnenfeld and his role in the franchise before they delve into the massive scope of the film's finale. The featurette concludes briefly after covering the film's unique twist at the end. It's a wonderful featurette; just make sure you watch it after you see the movie.
Gag Reel (3:55) - This is a great montage of line flubs and goofing off on set. It's not censored, however, so there's some profanity, but nothing really strong. (4 "S" words, 1 "h*ll")
"Back In Time" Music Video By Pitbull (3:35) - This is the official music video for "Back In Time" by Pitbull that was made for Men In Black 3. It's kind of cheesy. It makes me miss Will Smith doing his own songs for the MIB film soundtracks.- John DiBiase, (reviewed: 11/28/12)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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