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Men in Black 3 - Cinemaholic Movie Reviews
one person's obsessive addiction to film
Men in Black 3
Directing: B
Acting: B+
Writing: B
Cinematography: B
Editing: B
Special Effects: B+

It's easy to say that Men in Black 3 is a relief, but that's just because Men in Black 2 was so awful. When the original Men in Black came out in 1997, it was a kick, with a nice blend of comedy and gross-out science fiction that had never really been seen before. I don't know what they were all smoking when they put out the dud sequel in 2002, but to say I didn't care for it would be an understatement. Luckily, that one came out ten years ago -- enough time to effectively erase the movie from our collective memory. Time is the great neuralizer.

We might as well just think of this movie as part 2, and pretend that other movie never existed. I can live with that. We're just catching up with Agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith), 15 years later. When we first met them, K was old and J was a rookie. Now J is old and K is ancient. But they still have great on-screen chemistry. Apparently K is now 72. Is he ever going to retire?

There's actually not a whole lot of Tommy Lee Jones in this movie, which is a bit disappointing. Jones the actor is actually 66 now; maybe he's just tired. Luckily we get Josh Brolin as the young K back in 1969, whom J travels back in time to save after an alien adversary goes back to kill him. Brolin is a 44-year-old playing 29 in the movie; at least J grimaces when he hears his age and says, "You've got some city miles on you." Indeed. Nevertheless, Brolin is perfect casting here -- he gets the mannerisms and vocal inflections down pat; you don't feel like you're looking at Josh Brolin, you feel like you're looking at a young Tommy Lee Jones. Brolin may be one of the most underrated actors working today.

Time travel is always problematic. Director Barry Sonnenfeld keeps things going at a steady enough clip to keep us from having too much time to think about it. And here's the surprise: the conceit in this case actually allows for an emotional resonance between the main characters that really didn't even exist in the first one. Of all the Men in Black movies, this one has the most heart.

That certainly doesn't make it the best. No amount of heart can erase a patent lack of originality. Even the villain, here a one-armed baddie with a spider-like creature that crawls up into his arm through the palm of his hand (Jemaine Clement), bears a marked resemblance to the "bug" villain from the first movie. And yes, once again, it's all about a single villain hell-bent on destroying the world. Although I have to say the shots of present-day New York City getting attacked by what kind of look like giant organic/mechanical beetles are pretty awesome.

Agent J travels back in time to prevent that from happening. It's only happening now because Boris the Animal (not bug, apparently, although that thing in his arm is pretty bug-like) went back in time to kill Agent K, thereby depriving him of deploying a shield protecting the Earth from Boris's kind. Blah blah blah, whatever. I'm not sure these stories always have to be so grand when it comes to what's at stake. It could have been every bit as exciting, perhaps even more so, to keep the focus on, say, a rogue alien (or aliens) who simply get out of line and disrupt things right good. Why does the whole planet always have to be in danger?

At least the time-travel plot allows for some knowing anachronisms, a few cheeky gags involving Will Smith in the year 1969, and a plethora of period-style alien creatures at the agents' workplace. Men in Black 3 is fun, and most of the fun is in these kinds of details. Although there is one scene where J and K fly by jetpack from New York City to Florida -- in a matter of hours -- without so much as helmets on. I know this is a movie full of aliens and all, but come on. That was the one detail I just couldn't look past. (A giant fish-alien trying to swallow up Agent J in the middle of the street? That's fine!)

As always, it's the actors that make these movies work -- an odd couple, each with their own very different brand of charisma, creating an unlikely chemistry. The amazing thing is the seamlessness with which Brolin steps into Jones's shoes, never once disrupting that chemistry.

Bottom line: it's not great, but it's good. It's absolutely not worth paying the premium to see in 3D; there's no need for that whatsoever. Anyone unfamiliar with the series needn't bother. But fans of the series will have fun. I did, anyway.

men in black 3

Overall: B
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