Reviewed by GREG KING
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Stars: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jermaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emma Thompson, Bill Hader, David Rasche, Alice Eve, Mike Colter, Nicole Scherzinger, Rick Baker.
By the time most franchises reach the third film in the series, they have grown tired and lazy, and merely seem to be repeating ideas. Of course there have been some notable exceptions, like Return Of The Jedi, Indiana Jones And The Last Crusade, The Lord Of The Rings, which have managed to come up with new ideas to keep the series fresh and exciting. So it is pleasing to report that even after an absence of some ten years, the belated third film in the sci-fi series Men In Black is actually an improvement on the last film, and will both surprise and satisfy fans of the series.
It also answers a few questions that have been raised in the first couple of films. And the film provides some fascinating details of the backstory to both K and J, top agents at a secret agency assigned to keeping track of all aliens on Earth.
At the beginning of the film, grotesque, one-armed uber villain Boris the Animal (played with sinister relish by Flight Of The Conchords’ Jermaine Clement) escapes from the Lunar Maximum Security Prison on the moon. He returns to Earth, determined to seek vengeance on agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) who put him away forty years ago. Using a time travel device, Boris goes back to 1969, and kills K, which effectively wipes out his existence in the present day.
In the present time, agent J (Will Smith) still feels some sort of connection to K, even though everyone else at the Men in Black agency insists that he has been dead for 40 years. J has to travel back in time to try and prevent Boris from killing K. This brings him into contact with the younger agent K (now played by Josh Brolin). The pair set out to track down Boris, and hopefully rewrite history. The climactic showdown between K and Boris takes place on the launching pad at Cape Kennedy, and is exciting stuff.
The 1969 setting brings a touch of nostalgia to the series, as well as enabling the filmmakers to work in such historic touchstones as hippies, Andy Warhol, the Apollo moon mission, and some great music for the soundtrack. But the film also cleverly touches upon the changing attitudes towards Afro-Americans and civil liberties.
Men In Black 3 never really takes itself seriously as it plays around with the usual conventions of time travel, changing the past to affect the future, and all that stuff. The script has been written by Lowell Cunningham (who created the Men In Black comic books) in conjunction with David Koepp, who specialises in big budget action films like Spiderman, Jurassic Park, etc, and television writer Etan Cohen (who co-wrote Tropic Thunder, etc). They inject the film with a touch of heart that adds a nice counterpoint to the action and barrage of visual effects.
Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed the previous two Men In Black movies, is familiar with the characters and the comic book-like style of the material, and he brings a certain level of excitement and energy to the film. There are some great special effects, and Rick Baker’s design for some alien creatures is wonderfully imaginative. And somewhat amazingly, some of the technology J encounters in 1969 seems superior to what the MIB agency has at its disposal in the present day. And unlike some films, which have undergone a retro-conversion, the film looks great in the 3D format.
This is Smith’s first film in four years, following Seven Pounds, which tanked at the box office. The fresh prince himself seems to have run out of new ideas, as he has lined up a number of sequels to other popular films (I, Robot 2, Bad Boys 3, and even Hancock 2, etc). His role here doesn’t really allow for as much depth or range as with films like The Pursuit Of Happyness, etc, but he embraces the character with enthusiasm. And he does look cool in his black suit and iconic designer Ray Bans.
Jones has little to do here, as he is sidelined for much of the film. The casting of Brolin is inspired as he effectively captures Jones’ laconic style, his droll speech inflections, his surliness, and mannerisms. He must have been studying Jones’ back catalogue carefully and he carries off the role perfectly.
Cast against type Clement brings a sinister touch to his performance as the one armed villain whose remaining hand contains all sorts of nasty little alien creatures that shoot deadly darts. Emma Thompson has a small role as O, the new head of the MIB agency who shares a mysterious past with K, and although given little to do she seems to have enjoyed herself. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man, etc) provides some comic relief as Griffin, a strange alien who has the ability to see all the possible variations of the future. And Bill Hader contributes a very funny cameo as Warhol.
One of the fun diversions of the previous films has been the surveillance of recogniseable celebrities who are suspected of being aliens. And on the tv monitors in the MIB HQ this time around you can catch glimpses of suspected extra terrestrial beings like Tim Burton, Justin Bieber and Lady Gaga!