It’s been a decade since Agents J and K teamed up on the silver screen to protect Earth from the scum of the universe. Part of that was due to the fact that Men in Black II wasn’t in the same league as the original and part of it was probably due to finding the right hole in everyone’s schedule to produce a third installment.
Thankfully, Men in Black 3 (opening in theaters, Friday May 25) is leaps and bounds better than Men in Black II. And while it’s not quite in the same comic stratosphere as the original Men in Black, it’s a solid, enjoyable and at times amusing summer action comedy.
Set a decade after the second installment, J and K are still protecting Earth from alien scum, though Will Smith’s J is increasingly frustrated by K’s lack of disclosure and ability to open up to him, despite spending so much time together. Just as K seems willing to open up a bit about why he won’t allow J in further, K is erased from history by an escaped alien convict, Boris the Animal, played by Jermaine Clements (aided by some superb prosthetic work by Rick Baker).
J realizes that he’s going to have to jump back in time to the summer of 1969 in order to stop Boris from killing K then and put the timeline back on course.
The first half hour of the MIB3 is a lot of heavy-lifting to put the various elements that will pay off in the final hour into play. It’s once J jumps back in time and meets the younger K that the film really takes off. A lot of that can be attributed to actor Josh Brolin superb’s mimicking of a younger version of Tommy Lee Jones. Brolin mimicks Jones mannerisms, ticks and vocal inflections to a tee, all while giving us an interesting look inside the younger man and what makes K tick.
And were it not for the presence of Michael Stuhlberg as the alien Griffin, who can see how each potential timeline unfolds, Brolin might just steal the movie. As it is, Brolin will have to share the honor for the best work in the movie with Stuhlberg. (And that’s saying something when you have actors of the caliber of Jones, Smith and Emma Thompson).
While there is the unifying threat of Boris and J trying to put right what once went wrong, Men in Black 3 still feels too episodic at times. Add in that some of the emotional beats are telegraphed early in the script and you’ve got a film that doesn’t feel as satisfying as it could.
The showing of the movie I saw was in 3D and while it’s effectively used in certain sequences (like J jumping through time), there’s still moments where it’s a distraction. One of the joys of the original was watching the background monitors in the MIB headquarters to see which celebrities are actually aliens in disguise. Given the nature of 3D, looking for Easter Egg rewards in more problematic this time around.
As a summer action movie, Men in Black 3 is satisfying enough. I’m not sure it will have the same re-watch value that the original did, but I’d gladly sit down and see it again before I ever considered viewing the second installment.