Rating: 3 out of 5 stars
Genre: Sci-Fi, Comedy, Action/Adventure
Run Time: 1 hour 44 minutes, PG-13
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family, Men in Black, Men in Black 2)
Opens locally Friday, May 25th, 2012
Does the world need another Men in Blackfilm? It has been nearly 15 years since the first MIB film, and 10 since Men in Black 2was in theaters, and not much has changed. Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) are still working as part of the top-secret Men in Black unit of our government, and they are still cliched old-guy/young-guy partners who swoop in unbeknownst to most of us to clean-up extra-terrestrial criminal activities. In this third film, we get continuity from where we left off, but mostly we get a prequel to the original.
How is that possible? That is never a good question to ask in a movie involving time-travel. When the villainous super-alien Boris the Animal (played with elongated-tongue-in-cheek by Flight of the Conchord's Jemaine Clement) escapes from a cosmic prison, he travels back to 1969 to kill Agent K, who had shot off his arm and imprisoned him. Agent K also possessed a secret plan that protected the Earth from Boris's evil race. By going back and killing Agent K, Boris not only gets his vengeance, but it re-writes history so that his people can attack the modern-day US.
Got all that? Will Smith's Agent J somehow remembers the "real" continuity where Agent K is alive and well. He travels back to 1969 to prevent Boris from killing Agent K, teaming up with a young Agent K (played strikingly spot-on by Josh Brolin) while back in the 60s to track down Boris and re-set the course of history.
Sadly, Rip Torn is missing from this film, although his character's absence is addressed. Emma Thompson steps in as Agent O, the new head-honcho of the division. Michael Stuhlbarg - the villainous Arnold Rothstein on HBO's Boardwalk Empire - plays the likeable schlub Griffin, who gives the film a multi-dimensional twist. Clearly the sci-fi themes of this film are borrowed from the 60s as well.
The first Men in Black film was an immense hit, and struck a comedic tone in a genre that often takes itself way to seriously. Much of that film was inspired, from the script to the dialogue to the gaggle of creepy-crawly alien species living among us.
The second film was panned for going to the same well and trying to get away with the same old tricks. There were more aliens, more effects - just more, more, more.
So in that sense, Men in Black 3 does attempt to learn from its predecessors, and offers us the most toned-down of the three films. There are still many aliens, a few sporadic laughs, and some intense action scenes. But returning to the "simpler" time of the 1960s makes this effort feel a bit lighter in the loafers.
While the time-traveling villain presents the main plot, the film is also about Agent J trying to figure out why modern-day Agent K is such an emotionless automaton. The young Agent K seems to smile and is a bit more open with his personal life. Whatever happened to Agent K from 1969 to 2012 to turn him so cold, just hasn't happened yet.
Sadly, this Men in Black film lacks life, as if the filmmakers had been "neuralized," wiping away their memories of what made the first film unique. They try to re-capture the magic in a bottle, but this film is more lightning bug than lightning.
Overall, fans of the series may find this one enjoyable, but seeing this franchise on-screen one more time didn't revitalize it as I'm sure was the intention of the studio. A semi-cool plot twist towards the end of the film will definitely leave MIB fans satisfied though, as the trilogy comes full-circle.
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