Men in Black 3

Sequels are a difficult endeavor to say the least. More often than not many sequels tend to be conceived from a nostalgic sensibility and are an attempt to catch lightning in a bottle yet again. Some sequels are gems, and others are flat out turds. The Men in Black series has delivered examples on both ends of this spectrum. It’s difficult to make a successful sequel when the attempt is made almost ten years after the previous film. It’s even more difficult when the previous film wasn’t considered to be good by most audiences. An attempt to make a third installment seemed to be a bad idea to many fans of this series. After all, the last time we saw this world we were left with a bad taste in our mouth for a decade. We hemmed and hawed, but the film was made despite our concerns. So how is the final product? Let’s take a look.

Men in Black 3 is the latest chapter in the story of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), two men working to police the alien presence on the planet Earth as representatives of the secret organization known only as “The Men in Black”. At this point in the story, Agent J has reached his breaking point with his partner and his monotone, stoic attitude towards the world around him. The story begins when an evil alien known Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes from space prison and travels back in time to successfully launch an attack on Earth, a feat that was thwarted by young Agent K in 1969. Agent J must then travel back in time to save his now deceased partner and all of humanity from certain annihilation… again. But let’s face it; when the world needs saving, you call Will Fucking Smith.

Pictured: The savior of all mankind.

The time travel plot, though done to death in the Sci-Fi and Fantasy genre, is a surprising breath of fresh air for this franchise. The mistake made in Men in Black 2 was trying to make it too much like its predecessor. The jokes and silliness overpowered the actual plot, which proved to be the films downfall. Though this movie does have its funny moments, it isn’t beating you over the head with the comedy. There were fewer distractions in this film; the worms are only seen for a brief moment, and Frank the talking pug’s presence is now just a black and white photograph that hangs above Agent J’s bed. Taking these two elements out of this movie was a huge step in the right direction, mainly because they are designed to be one note characters and Men in Black 2 made them very important pieces of the plot. Imagine making the two racist robots from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen and Jar Jar Binks vital characters that are necessary to driving the plot forward.

No, I really want you to imagine that. I fucking did, so you better do it too.

The movie picks up once Smith runs into young Agent K, played AMAZINGLY by Josh Brolin. Not enough can be said about how eerily perfect Brolin is in this role. He IS Tommy Lee Jones. I’m having a problem with being eloquent and specific, but believe me when I say that his performance alone makes Men in Black 3 worth seeing. Much like the introduction of time travel into the story, the interactions between Smith and Brolin are a much needed breath of fresh air for this series. Emma Thompson is solid as Agent O, the films way of quietly writing Rip Torn’s character out of the film. Jemaine Clement (of Flight of the Conchords fame) is both over the top and subtle at the same time, which doesn’t make sense unless you have seen his portrayal of Boris the Animal. The cameos this time around were better in my opinion. Bill Hader (Saturday Night Live) brings his A-game as usual, this time as an undercover Man in Black perfectly disguised as Andy Warhol. We even get a little Will Arnett thrown in for good measure, which is always a treat.

Unfortunately Michael Jackson was too busy being dead to reprise his role.

Much like any story dealing with time travel, plot holes are present. Fortunately they aren’t too prevalent and they don’t really take you out of the movie (unless you are a nit-picky asshole such as myself). Another interesting plot device used is the theory of multiple timelines, which is introduced in the form of an alien named Griffin. His ability to see into the future and determine which timeline they are about to enter keeps the audience on their toes and makes for a more interesting storytelling device.

The one major problem I had with Men in Black 3 was its twist ending. Those who are observant can recognize where they are going about two-thirds into the film. However, my issue isn’t so much with the twist, but rather how it was executed. For those who have not seen the film, I am about to enter MAJOR SPOILER territory. You have been warned.

SPOILERS BEGIN HERE

So it becomes apparent that Agent J’s father is the military officer who helps Agent K in his attempt to stop Boris the Animal. What happens in the film is that Agent J’s dad gets killed by Boris. Once K kills Boris, we discover that a very young James Edwards (Agent J) is actually there and sees his dad die. Feeling remorse that he was unable to save the boy’s father, Agent K erases his memory. Agent J sees this whole moment transpire, and realizes that this is what makes Agent K the man he has become in the future. Now if I were in charge of this film, I would have had Agent J sacrifice himself to help K successfully thwart Boris’ evil plot. Realizing how good of a man J is, Agent K realizes why his future self chooses J to be his partner. We see the moment in the original Men in Black when Agent K announces to Zed that out of all of the potential candidates, he wants the feisty cop with an attitude. That way, when you look back on that moment you know that there was a much deeper meaning to why J was chosen to become K’s partner. I don’t know, the ending they went with seemed to be overkill, and this alternate way might have seemed a little classier in my opinion. But that’s just me, I could be wrong.

END OF SPOILERS

All in all, Men in Black 3 is surprisingly better than I thought it was going to be. After the disappointment that was Men in Black 2, I was afraid that another sequel would inflict further damage to the original. Despite minor flaws, the overall product positive all around. The film proves to be a solid conclusion (?) to the series. Fun and interesting characters, solid performances and a heartwarming story make Men in Black 3 a movie worth seeing.

RATING: 7/10

Alice Eve is in it too… if you’re into that sort of thing.

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~ by Brandon Gnuschke on June 1, 2012.

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