Unlike most folks, I have a definitive soft spot for Men in Black II. Sure, the film fails in comparison to the original and has some outstanding flaws, but there’s just something about the goofy follow-up that makes me defensive. Is it a good movie? Eh, not really. When I think of MiB II, I think of Ghostbusters II – a sequel full of fun villains and silly antics. Come to think of it, Ghostbusters and the original Men in Black also share some striking similarities. Both were game-changing works of sci-fi comedy that still carry a strong following.
I say all that to say I really dug Men in Black 3. Let me back up a bit.
When Men in Black 3 was announced, immediate groans were heard across the galaxy (see what I did there?). Viewed as nothing more than a needless sequel, fans of the original feared yet another lackluster follow-up to tarnish the reputation of the once-popular series. While I may be a fan, I’m in a small group.
Honestly, adding in a third installment after a poorly received second feature will never be an easy journey. Just look how Ghostbusters III is doing.
Thankfully, Men in Black 3 both returns back to the basics that made the original so fun and avoids the mistakes of the second installment.
This time around, the audience finds Agents J (Will Smith returning to the screen after nearly four years away from movies) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) facing a new, time-altering threat in Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords), a one-armed time traveling deviant who wishes to return to the ’60s, kill a young Agent K and commence an alien invasion originally botched by the MiB.
After current day K disappears without a trace (a result of Boris’ meddling), Agent J must also travel back to the ‘60s to re-rewrite the history originally rewritten by Boris.
Still with me?
Once in the ’60s, J meets up with young K (Josh Brolin) and embarks to re-rewrite history and once again, save the earth.
Snark aside, Men in Black 3 really is quite a blast. Smith and company bring their best to the table, creating a surprisingly fresh experience full of humor and heart.
A large attribution to this success comes with the performance of Josh Brolin. Pulling out his best Tommy Lee Jones impression, Brolin morphs into young K like none other. His performance drives the film, creating scene after scene of droll brilliance. He may not get an Oscar nomination, but Brolin’s Agent K will be remembered fondly for years to come.
Other than Brolin’s K, the film has some other solid performances. Smith easily slides back into the energetic Agent J, and Jones knows his Agent K like the back of his hand. Clement continues to impress, giving Boris a fantastically fearsome vibe. Emma Thompson appears as MiB’s new head agent long enough to make an impact, and Michael Stuhlbarg’s fifth dimensional being Griffin, a key figure in the film’s latter two halves, offers a warm, welcoming presence as the kindly alien. Also, be on the look-out for a fun cameo or two.
Other than the performances, the script packs in plenty of time-traveling fury to satisfy the masses. Sure, the film’s events don’t always follow the rules of science (or logic, for that matter), but so what? The fun is in the ludicrous details. Etan Cohen’s screenplay embraces the nuttier aspects of time travel and time alteration, even throwing in a few unique turns of its own. The film’s conclusion also packs an emotional twist that explains a long-standing mystery in the MiB universe.
Rick Baker’s impeccable creature design will always amaze, and Barry Sonnenfeld’s direction guides the film effectively. And who doesn’t love Danny Elfman’s catchy score?
I’ll always be a devoted apologetic for Men in Black II, but I’m happy to say that I’m a proud fan of Men in Black 3. The film works, offering viewers a refreshing outing in the MiB universe. If this is the last journey for the men in the black suits, then this is a fitting farewell. If not, then I guess I can handle a Men in Black 4.
Just don’t mess up.