Men In Black 3

So, Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back for another outing as the titular secret government agents tasked to defend Earth from an assortment of alien bad guys, taking the form in this instalment of psychotic monster “Boris the Animal” (Jemaine Clemant) who has a penchant to time travel back in to 1969 to strike at a younger K (Josh Brolin).

It’s pretty much the worst film I’ve seen this year.

It’s short, it’s low on depth and substance, and the plot is all over the place. There are holes in the time travelling shenanigans you could park a bus in (how does J even remember K? How does J even get recruited to the MIB if K was dead? What is the deal with that insane bit of nonsense regards J dodging the spikes?) along with many others (How does Boris get to Earth? Why does his race wait until present day to attack New York? How does the “Arcnet” work?) and MIB3 is not in the mood to elaborate, which dents suspension of disbelief considerably. But more than that, it seems like much of the film is going through the motions of a fairly bland time travel adventure. They’re in the present, they’re in the past, here are some jokes where the guy from the present has trouble relating to the past, some notable historic events, and we’re done. The 60’s scenes are more Austin Powers stuff than anything, the dialogue is just kind of weak and the pacing of the film is slapdash. There is no ambition here. It looks nice, much of it is passable enough, but it just doesn’t make you excited.

To pick something more specific that bothered me, it has this whole thing, in fact, the backbone of the plot, where we head towards the moment in time where K lost his happy exterior and desire to express emotion, some life-altering act. This is played up big time and when it comes it is a massive let down, and is used as an excuse to cover a myriad of different things that I really don’t think it has the legs to cover from K’s modern day stoicism to his break-up with Emma Thompson (and involves more time travel plot holes). And it’s all even worse than that because they already had a reason why K was so emotionless and depressed, a good one, from the first movie, related to his pained absence from his wife due to the necessary “identity wiping” of his work (I always thought the implication was, from the first movie, that K was the “dumb kid” who accidently witnessed first contact and became part of the MIB by default).

Several of the big names are either not trying, or just aren’t what the film required. Tommy Lee Jones is cashing a cheque and seems to have little interest in the minimal screentime he was given. Emma Thompson replaces Rip Torn as the MIB “Chief” and, like her quasi love interest K, seems sometimes like she’s somewhat embarrassed to be on screen in a film of this nature.

Then there is Clement as the bad guy. Clement is best known for his hilarious work on Flight of the Conchords, and he struggles here, unable to really get away from his comedic base. MIB has always been a little tongue-in-cheek, but his hammy performance as Boris produces more laughs than anything, as you frequently find yourself wondering if he’s about to start belting out “Business Time”. Clement, in such heavy make up as to be mostly unrecognizable, just seems like he’s struggling not to laugh at the absurdity of his role. That actual character is fine (wait, how did he get from the moon to Earth? Plot holes aplenty) but it needed someone with less of a humour history to make it really good.

Will Smith is someone I find almost universally good (he is the most “bankable” guy in Hollywood right?) and he does a decent enough job as the main character, but is phoning it in just a little bit. Brolin is the star of the show, with a Tommy Lee Jones impression that will amaze. He’s really, really good, as good as Smith was in the first MIB. I suppose that is an odd thing, that the best performance of the whole film is a guy pretending to be a different character. You also have Michael Stuhlbarg as a time-stream hopping alien, who grabs a fair bit of the limelight in the latter half of the movie.

Regrettably, MIB3 is littered with meaningless small roles that amount to little more than cameos from a succession of people who might just have wanted to be in a MIB movie. That sucks because it’s pandering a little, but also illustrates a load of wasted opportunities.

In the new timeline, J has Will Arnett (“AA”) as his bumbling, talkative, worshipful partner, but we never get to see how that interaction would have played out (which considering that J is desperate to have such a relationship with K without realising what it would entail from the other end, and that this is a key point of the whole movie, it’s somewhat strange they don’t go into it).

David Rasche is the 1960’s Chief (“X”) who briefly displays some xenophobic tendencies towards aliens that might have been an interesting “compare and contrast” bit with 1960’s racism (which MIB3 covers very briefly and for humorous effect only), but he only gets two scenes. Bill Hader is Andy Warhol (who is actually an undercover MIB agent, in a scene bound to annoy art enthusiasts) a character I think would actually have served better in the role that went to Stuhlbarg.

Mike Colter is a black US Army Colonel in charge of the Apollo 11 launch site (In 1969? What!?) who has the most predictable twist you’ll see in a while attached to him. Nicole Scherzinger of the Pussycat Dolls is Boris’ love interest from the opening who doesn’t last very long and in a movie where the villain ends up, literally, talking to himself in order to have something to do, someone else for him to bounce off of, dialogue wise, might have been a good idea. Further to that, Alive Eve is the young Emma Thompson character, whose interaction with Brolin is pitifully limited as to be next to worthless.

Some visually impressive, but not strictly necessary, CGI abounds, especially during the actual time travel, but MIB3 has been sucked into the illusion that big budget computer graphics are a requirement. The spaceship crashing in the first movie was a far more impressive spectacle than anything the franchise has come up with since.

It’s better than the second film, though that is hardly a notable accomplishment. One of MIB3’s problems is that it’s trying hard to capture the stuff that made the first film great, but in the end all its doing is re-winding the same tropes. The neuralyzer jokes have gotten tired fast, one wonders why J is still looking occasionally startled when he sees aliens in the flesh and hey look, more “this celebrity is actually from outer space” moments, this time for Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber. This franchise is suffering from a failure to evolve.

I really liked the first Men In Black, I thought it was a very fun, less serious, science fiction film that had a lot of enjoyable elements, that treaded a fine line between humour and plot, thanks largely to Smith’s fantastic performance.

But now the franchise just exists for the sake of existing it seems. MIB2 was a, critically speaking, total disaster, and MIB3 is just a hop, skip and jump from that point. I suspect we’ll see J and K trotted out again at some point, but the magic is gone. Neuralyzed.

Edit: The theme song’s awful too. People see Will Smith mix in movie based lyrics with an old song  and think they can do the same. They really can’t Pitbull.

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2 Responses to Men In Black 3

  1. Pingback: NFB’s Top 25 Films Of 2012 And Awards | Never Felt Better

  2. Pingback: Review: Focus | Never Felt Better

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