Do you remember the first two films in the Men in Black franchise? Because I sure as hell don’t (Sheesh, it was only 15 years ago). In the new millennium we’re used to our sequels getting green-lit before the first entry is even done filming. Perhaps it’s the large time gap between films, my low expectations, or the fact that I literally cannot remember a single plot point from the first two, but for my money, Men in Black 3 was an enjoyable summer weekend flick. And one that I think will stick with me more than the others.
The film opens in a badass lunar prison where the head Pussycat Doll (Nicole Sherzinger, looking siiick), breaks the head Flight of the Conchord (Jemaine Clement) out of the clink. It’s a killer scene – gross, funny, brash, colorful, and interesting. And a fun way to jump right in to MIB3‘s nifty plot: Clement’s Boris the Animal is a nasty, last-of-his-race killer who Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) put in jail in 1969. But not before Boris loses an arm in the fight leading up to his arrest. Now, Boris wants to go back in time to the day before all this happened, so he can kill K, keep his arm, and never be sent to prison. Oh yeah, and destroy Earth in the process, because of course. So begins Will Smith’s journey back to the summer of ’69 to stop Boris and save his partner.
A huge point in this film’s assets category is the cast. It’s always good to see Jones, as he does disgruntled and grumpy better than almost anybody. Emma Thompson is here, as the department head “O”, and as always, I get gloriously happy when she’s on screen. I’d like to audition her for the real-life role of my mom, or fun aunt, or basically a human I can have an interaction with. She doesn’t have a lot to do here, but it’s a’ight, cause I love her whole being. Jemaine Clement is chewing the shit up as the disgusting and horrifying Boris. He disappears into the role (as he’s under makeup/some CGI stuff, two buttons for his eyes, and is snarling for the entirety of the film), but I kept thinking, “who IS that?”, as his distinctive jaw and voice were still there. Maybe the only guy who didn’t do it for me was Will Smith himself, which wasn’t really even that big of a deal. He’s there to drop some jokes, and guide us through the story, which he does, capably. I just think that we might all be getting too old (including the Fresh Prince himself) for his frenetic, sarcastic shtick.
The real smoking gun here is Josh Brolin, who becomes the human hammer and NAILS IT as the younger K. The inflection, the stillness, the gaze, it’s all there – along with a tad more youth and happiness. It’s a great performance, and doesn’t deserve to be forgotten about amidst the sea of summer films. Smith’s Agent J kept talking about how much lighter and less burdened young K was, as it’s alluded throughout that something must have happened that made K “the way he was” in the future, i.e., something tragic that changed him. Brolin brings a level of “before” to K that felt organic and true to the character we met in the late 90s.
The rest of the film centers around J going back to stop Boris, and there are certainly some funny moments. Bill Hader has a cameo as Andy Warhol (who of course was an actual alien, as are all models). J and young K’s differences still ring cute, as their chemistry is quite similar to when J is paired with older K, which is to the film’s credit. Some jokes were a tad clunky (the Asian restaurant owner, ehhhhhh), but we genuinely laughed many times.
The time travel aspect of the film seemed mostly sound to me. Things always get a bit tricky when you’re testing the boundaries of what makes sense, and while I admit I haven’t tried to really tax my brain too hard to find a chick in the timeline armor, nothing stood out as a huge gaping wormhole of wrong. The guys pick up a straggler along the way, a Robin Williams look-alike named Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), who is an alien that can simultaneously see every possible path to every possible future for any given situation at every single moment. He’s a sweet little character who guides us through the rest of the (more emotional) last third of the film.
I chose to catch this in the third dimension, and I’m so glad I did, as this is one film that’s worth the extra $5. There are enough scenes featuring flying, jumping off of buildings, and speeding through streets to keep it fun and zippy. Plus, you KNOW you want to see the moon launch in 3D!
Ah yes, the moon launch. The film’s climax takes place at Cape Canaveral, and while some of it was a tad eye-rolling (I need to just accept already and move past the fact that in action movies regular humans can jump like they have supernatural powers), it’s also fairly exciting. I knew the day would be saved, but I wasn’t sure how, and there ended up being a twist I didn’t see coming; I’ll be damned if it didn’t bring a tear to my eye.
Director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen (what a name) kept things moving briskly, and this puppy stays below the 2-hour mark, which I appreciate, as I’ve got a life. With a fun, capable cast, a fairly original storyline that actually made sense, and characters you care about, MIB3 was a great way to kick off the summer blockbuster season.