Agent J travels in time to MIB’s early years in the 1960s, to stop an alien from assassinating his friend Agent K and changing history.
When “MIB 3” was rumored to be going into production without a completed script I thought it was going to be just as bad, if not worse than “MIB 2” which was really just plain awful. Lo & behold, not only is it quite a bit better than it’s predecessor but it’s nearly as good as the first installment of the series!
The film begins with a sultry young lady (Nicole Scherzinger) paying a visit to a prison facility carrying a large cake. She’s there to visit Boris “The Animal” (Jemaine Clement), who apparently is extremely dangerous despite the fact that he only has one arm and is kept in a highly fortified section of the prison in solitary. Of course, once she gains entrance to his cell, the cake she brought with her turns out to be something more than an ordinary cake and Boris escapes. It is here that we realize that his cell was in a prison that was on the moon, and Boris has an ax to grind with a certain MIB agent back on Earth.
We find both agents J (Will Smith) & K (Tommy Lee Jones) preparing to attend a wake for Zed, who (As played by Rip Torn in MIB 1 & 2) ran the whole organization. We never find out how he passed away but K is preparing a speech for the wake but J thinks that he might want to really think about the words he’s going to use beforehand. K’s short speech is the first of many laugh out loud moments in the film. Afterwards the duo find out that Boris has escaped & J notices that K is acting even stranger than usual but when he tries to find out what’s bugging him he’s rebuffed with the words “There are things out there you don’t need to know about”, which harkens back to the first film’s line “Just imagine what you’re not gonna know tomorrow”.
The grudge that Boris has is with Agent K and the fact that K is responsible for not only apprehending him but also for blasting his arm off. His plan? To travel back in time 40 years to kill Agent K before he loses his arm & allow his race to conquer the Earth before K can stop them. How did he stop them in the first place? Well, it gets confusing for awhile but any script dealing with time travel usually ends up getting a bit screwy anyway. But K realizes that Boris is coming after him and sequesters himself in his apartment facing his front door, weapon in hand. Then he slowly fades away…..
J visits K the next morning only to find out that he never lived in the apartment and he suddenly has a hankering for chocolate milk (Don’t ask..). He returns to MIB headquarters where O (Emma Thompson) figures out what’s happened and mandates that J must find a way to travel back in time (To 1969) & find a way to stop the alien invasion that Boris is bringing along with him and save K from sure death. But how does he manage to go back in time? How did Boris manage to go back in time? And what does any of this have to do with the NASA Moon mission, the New York Mets, Andy Warhol & an alien who can see all possible futures at the same time (Michael Stuhlbarg)? I told you earlier, any script that deals with time travel usually ends up going gonzo somewhere along the line, I’ve seen enough episodes of Star Trek to know that by now.
And even though the script (By Lowell Cunningham & Etan Cohen) does fly off the rails at more than one point, it never fails to entertain and there are in jokes aplenty. Director Barry Sonnenfeld, who directed the other installments, returns here with a vigor & creativity that was painfully absent from “MIB 2”. The special makeup effects & creatures (By Rick Baker) are still fascinating to look at even though there is a familiarity to their appearance. It’s still fun to look at the video screens in the background at MIB headquarters to see which famous personalities are masquerading as humans (Lady GaGa? I sorta figured she was an alien).
But in the end the life of the franchise is in the hands of Will Smith & Tommy Lee Jones. I don’t wanna nitpick but Jones isn’t really in the film too much besides bookending the beginning and the end. Will Smith is still an engaging performer but he seems to be settling into a shtick in his approach to all of his roles as of late. Much like Nicholson, Pacino & DeNiro have settled into over the years. The difference is that they’ve earned the break they’re taking, Smith hasn’t. For me the two standout performances come from Josh Brolin as the young Agent K and Michael Stuhlbarg as the innocent, wide eyed alien Griffin. Firstly, Brolin isn’t just impersonating Jones, he IS Jones! I don’t know how long it took him to get all of the nuances of Tommy Lee down or how he managed to get that very iconic tone of voice just right either but he does in a truly inspired performance. I’ve never heard of Stuhlbarg before and when his character is introduced I groaned at his appearance. He looked simple & silly to me with a childlike demeanor that was initially unattractive but he really sold that innocence of the character. He also conveyed both the blessing and the curse that his ability brings with it most convincingly. I really wanted to spend more time with his character and if there’s ever a 4th installment of the franchise they need to bring him back in it. Another surprise is when Agent J finds out what K meant by “There are things out there you don’t need to know about”, I can’t divulge the film’s big secret but when it’s revealed it’s actually something of a tear jerker and that really surprised me. Who would’ve thunk that a “MIB” film might elicit a tear from it’s audience? Not me…and I didn’t cry either. Really, I didn’t!
In the end, although I had no shortage of trepidation going into the theater, I ended up really enjoying myself despite some minor blips with the script. You know what I really enjoyed? The fact that the film makers knew that a film doesn’t have to be 2 1/2 hours to justify it’s bloated budget. I loved “The Avengers” but 20-30 minutes could have been cut from it with no difference in it’s quality, same with “Battleship” (Yeah, I actually liked that movie). “MIB 3” runs about 100 minutes or so and it felt just right to me, no overkill necessary here. I think a rating of 3 1/2 shrouds is fair here. If the script didn’t have those “Time Travel” hiccups in it I would’ve rated it higher but it’s still a lot of fun and well worth the $12-15 bucks it’s gonna cost you to see it. It’s also in 3D but you can skip that and watch it in 2D without missing much at all. It’s so much better than you’re expecting it to be. Go and be entertained!
Men In Black 3 (2012)