Men in Black III Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement Running Time: 1 hr 40 mins Rating: PG-13 Release Date: May 25, 2012
PLOT: Agent J (Smith) travels to the 1960s to stop an alien (Clement) from killing his partner Agent K (Smith) and taking over the world.
WHO'S IT FOR?: If this is something you're actually worried about with a Will Smith movie, knowledge or strong memory of the previous movies is completely unnecessary. The only ones who should be cautious are parents - younger children might find Jemaine Clement's villain to be quite disturbing.
EXPECTATIONS: Having heard word of this film's rushed production schedule, I was even more unsure about this movie's entire existence. Exactly who ordered the second sequel to Men in Black? And what good to this earth would another Men in Black movie bring?
Will Smith as Agent J: This is Will Smith's show. The actor hasn't been onscreen in four years, and has now returned with a second sequel to an originally fresh hit that allows him to do the same things that sold for Men in Black in 1997: jump around, shoot things, make snarky jokes, and look cool. Smith's charisma doesn't show any wear with this character, but his entertainment value isn't anything new (aside possibly from offering some commentary about race in 1969). Score: 4
Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K: Confirming that this entire thing is Will Smith's boat, Jones appears in a few scenes, and then in a (meta) twist, he just disappears. Whenever Jones is on screen, at the butt of repetitive partner jokes from the peppy Smith, we can sense that Jones is using his "surly Elvis" presence to mask his utter boredom with the entire concept. With that being said, we feel his surliness. Score: 4
Josh Brolin as Young Agent K: It isn't a crazy concept to think that time travel was used in this movie so that another Agent K (and a younger one) could be cast. As for doing an impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones, Brolin does some work on his voice to match the mumble of the actor, but the rest of the performance seems to write itself. Brolin is as equally bored as Jones, having to counter the same hammy energy of Smith with the same cold responses. Score: 4
Jemaine Clement as Boris the Animal: This child imagination-traumatizing villain is the embodiment of broken email connection between comedy loving producers (who probably own kids) and freaky creature designers (who probably own camel spiders and dead bodies). Boris is a "Boglodite," but that seems like the first draft name for this character's alien species that's more nightmarish than any actual horror villain we've seen in a while. (And at the same time, he's a grotesque being who also quotes Jerry Maguire ["You complete me."]) Props to the make-up people for making this character into a swift disturbing collection of all the things that gross people out - spiders, sharp claws, a lack of eyeballs, and a giant hole in your hand that aforementioned spiders crawl in out and out. Yup, Clement's commendable departure from being my goofy guitar playing lookalike certainly scared the crap out of a kid sitting two seats away (or maybe those were just the future sleepless nights of my inner child?) Score: 7
TALKING: When it's not painting an obvious picture of the direction that the story is heading next (by either Emma Thompson or Michael Stuhlbarg's characters) the dialogue is making weak cracks (usually by Smith). In lines that are strange but unfunny, Smith says things like "I don't have a problem slapping the shiznit out of Andy Warhol," or even weirder, "You look like you came from the planet Damn" (that last one's said to a space fish). Score: 5
SIGHTS: Possibly indicating a positive inch towards common good 3D, MIB III doesn't have flat usage of the visual format, unlike many of its similar looking films. There are even a couple of visually involving moments (jumping off a building, or a jolting pop-up by Boris) that receive a little boost from the consistent 3D ... but it's not enough to warrant a full recommendation. Other than that, the special effects are mostly indicative of the film's high budget, showing off various alien creatures and MIB gizmos to a believable standpoint. The one thing that truly doesn't look believable? The jetpacks; even Thunderball pulled that visual with less goofy ease. Score: 8
SOUNDS: The Men in Black 3 soundtrack mixes a whole group of genres. "I'm Waiting for My Man" by the Velvet Underground plays right next to Jay-Z's "Empire State of Mind," which shares space with a tune by Roy Rogers. "Back in Time" by Pitbull plays during the credits, rounding off a soundtrack that has been made to diversify rap fans, or anger people who were excited to hear Will Smith rap again. Score: 5
BEST SCENE: Though it didn't make me laugh, I mentally chuckled at the point in which Andy Warhol (played by Bill Hader as an undercover MIB agent) asks to be killed because he "draws pictures of tomato soup."
ENDING: An unnecessary twist to the MIB "franchise" is made, leaving you curious as to whether it makes sense with the first film, but also too bored to follow through with such suspicion.
QUESTIONS: Why does "time jumping" take jumpers through eras of time not geographically relevant to where the jump is actually taking place? When J and Young K get down from the baseball stadium so quickly - is that more time jumping, or just bad editing? Does the ending completely erase the alien invasion from the first act of the movie? Why is Boris so upset about being called an "animal" when "animal" when talking about his freaky face is putting it delicately?
REWATCHABILITY: I would be much more curious to watch the special features on a DVD for this film . I'd only watch it again if it were accompanied by a commentary track in which the filmmakers really own up to the movie's problems during its production.
An exciting sci-fi series that once portrayed wonder for the mystery of Orion's Belt has now been consumed by a different kind of star power. Men in Black 3 is Will Smith's grandstand, whether co-star Jones cares to look like he gives a crap or not (Jones' bull mastiff expression obviously claims this sequel wasn't his idea). Like Smith's performance itself, MIB III gives moviegoers what their ticket signs them up for - action, aliens, yuk-yuks, and yes, whole scoops of Sassy Smith-ness.
The thrills of this third round come to audiences at cruise control, with the second act feeling especially like a generic blur. (My apologies to the stupid one-wheel future bikes). Though the simple story toys with the endlessly complicated concept of time travel, this script meanders through and doesn't care whether story elements or entire jokes ultimately stick or not. Is the general audience of MIB III even going to get references to The Factory, or jokes about 1969 at all? Probably not. And what the hell does the coveted "Arcnet" really do anyway?
This is the type of sequel that's perfectly content with just being another sequel. Its existence has no special explanation aside from a last-minute twist to a characters' relationship, which no one actively cares about (even while watching a Men in Black movie). Though it doesn't provide Tommy Lee Jones an escape from putting himself through well-paid misery, it welcomes more similar fluffy additions to this thinning concept. Or, not.
In Men in Black 3 we are reintroduced to Will Smith with a scene involving the famous "neuralizer" device, which is meant to wipe away memories. The irony of the series in its state now is that such a gadget only has us remembering when this franchise was fun once.
FINAL SCORE: 4/10