What I hoped to get from the long-awaited third installment of the Men in Black franchise was something along the lines of Ghost Protocol. A sequel that’s so surprisingly good that it revives what appeared to be a dead franchise. With Men in Balck 3, I wasn’t quite so lucky.
Although I was certainly entertained by it, Men in Balck 3 unfortunately lacks Ghost Protocol‘s intelligent sense of humour and clever plot. I was hoping that they would think of something a little more inventive for the first Men in Black-film in years, as welll as Will Smith‘s return after a 4-year break. Instead we get a time travel story that feels like a Doctor Who episode. Nothing special, but not miserably bad, thakfully.
Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith return as MIB agents K and J respectively. Still they are partners in alien hunting and still they bicker as if their 32nd anniversary recently passed. It seems, though, as if K has gotten even more secretive as of late and doesn’t seem to tell J absolutely everything. Things get extra strange when one day J suddenly awakens in an altered timeline where K has been dead since that day in 1969 where he apprehended the alien known as Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement). J is thought crazy at first, but his supervisor Agent O (Emma Thompson) begins to realize the timeline has indeed been altered.
What has happened is that Boris the Animal has escaped from his prison on the moon, traveled back in time and helped his younger self get the best of K and murder him, making way for an invasion from his kind. J does what protagonists usually do in this type of story. He obtains the same time travel device Boris used, and goes back in time to save a young Agent K (Josh Brolin) from getting destroyed. Of course, he is thought a lunatic in 1969 as well, but soon K begins to understand that this man is for real. They eventually join forces and set out on a quest to repair the timeline.
Brolin delivers a spotless Tommy Lee Jones-impression and is the most enjoyable actor in the film. To top it all of, he interacts with Will Smith’s character just as wonderfully as Jones would’ve.
That’s what I like most about the film. The characters and their interactions. One of the most fun characters is an alien named Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg whom we recently saw in Hugo), who has the ability of seeing all possible futures, but can’t pin point which one will actually occur. He is like The Observer in Fringe, and one of The Observer’s quotes explains it best: “There is an infinte number of futures happening simultaneously. I can tell you all of them, but I cannot tell you which one will come to pass”. Say what you will about the film, but Griffin is a fantastic character.
Men in Black 3‘s biggest drawback is the story, which could pass as a formulaic Twilight Zone episode, but not as a film intended to restart an entire franchise. Not only is the time travel story unoriginal but it’s also quite nonsensical at times. For instance, did I miss something or was it never elaborately explained why Will Smith’s character still remembers K? The timeline has been re-written and apparently so has everyone’s memories, sans J’s. How does he still remember the timeline where K was alive? There is a scene where J asks the owner of the time travel device (Michael Chernus) how he can remember K when no one else can. I don’t recall a straight answer ever being given to this question.
The action scenes, particularly the climax, could’ve used a little more genuine suspense and the comedy is not always on the bullseye, but there are some genuine laughs in the movie. A scene I liked is when J and 60’s K try to find more info on Boris and his motives, and they encounter Andy Warhol (Bill Hader), whose gags will sadly not be understood by modern day Will Smith fans. I laughed, though.
Men in Black 3 surely has a few flaws, but it is still entertaining and fun. The characters are enjoyable, there are some big laughs, the villain is interestingly designed, the twist ending touched me perhaps more than it should’ve and, once more, massive kudos on the performance given by Josh Brolin. Looking forward to seeing him in more films. Of this franchise? Maybe not so much.