Men in Black III – Review

Men in Black III – Review

Review by FilmFellaDarren – 7.2/10

Way back in 1996, the Men in black stormed into cinemas claiming they were going to protect the world from the scum of the universe; they aimed to do to aliens what Ghostbusters did to ghosts. It’s hard to believe but Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones aka the men in black hung up their sharp-suits and black ray bands over ten years ago. Well at least that is how long this franchise has been away. In that time, the scum of the universe have taken up permanent residency on the sliver-screen, using our multiplexes as their permanent vacation home.
What’s more, the scum of the universe have become a great deal scummier with their bland visual appearances and characterless non-personas, threatening to bore audiences to death in wave after wave of tired old alien invasion films like Battle L.A, Battleships, Skyline and the Transformers movies. So where have you been MIBs whilst we have been suffering with all this infuriatingly dull universe scum? Probably locked up in the vault somewhere until some producer decided your films were commercially viable again.

Given just how charmless and boring aliens have become, you can’t help but welcome back the Men in black franchise with open arms, since this is a series that always knew how to do weird wonderful and funny alien personas. Once again there are a number of curious, beguiling and funny deep space creatures, once again courtesy of make-up legend Rick Baker’s work. Also, having the likable and breezy screen presence that is Will Smith back to battle aliens once more instead of more flag-waving soldier meathead types or dull kids like Shia Le beouf, is genuinely delightful. So does Men in black 3 buck the recent slump in alien movies? I think it does.

Bringing back the Men in black this late after the last one, reeks of a decision based on money rather than story logic. But actually screenwriter Etan Coen – no that is not Ethan Coen spelled incorrectly – has come up with a great little direction for the Men in black to go in, as a result, this film has an engaging narrative that definitely adds something to the story and holds you’re attention for its duration.

As you may have gathered from the trailer, the Men in black franchise is going where many movies have gone before: time-travel. It all starts when shady one armed villain Boris the (don’t call him animal) Animal, breaks-out of his unusually located maximum security prison. He is on the war-path, aiming to kill the man who put him there all those years ago – that is none other than our reluctant men in black, K (Tommy Lee Jones). It’s going to be pretty ineffective to kill him in the present time, so Boris finds a way to time-travel, this being a comedy sci-fi film and not a realistic drama, by getting a device from a store. Messing about with the time space continuum always wreaks havoc with the modern world, so back in the present day K (Jones) is nowhere to be seen, much to the confusion of his partner J. Has Boris succeeded? Will J work out how to get back to the summer of 69 to help save his partner and put Boris back behind bars?

As well as an engaging story, Men in Black 3 provides plenty of genuinely laugh-out-loud humour. The script is consistently punchy – few minutes in the film pass by without delivering something to give you a good old hearty belly laugh. Smith is clearly relishing the chance to don his slick shades and sharp suit; his ability to deliver a comic line with aplomb assures the film is great fun.

Before he derailed his career with the spectacularly awful Wild wild West, director Barry Sonnenfeld was a director who knew how to keep things light and entertaining. He did that with films like Get Shorty, and of course the original Men in black films he’s a director who knows how to maximize the comedy potential in a witty script and he does that again in this third instalment of MIB.

The time travel meets alien invasion setup works well here. Sure, time travel is not exactly original – if H G Wells could have had a pound for every-time his time-travel ideas formed a movie narrative, his descendants would be filthy rich – but used in the context of an alien invasion movie, the time travel conceit does a lot to freshen up the MIB formula. Just as aliens invade for yet another attempt at taking over the world, Will Smith holds his nerve to leap back in time and the resulting alien invasion, in an unusual twist on the genre, takes place off screen, whilst J heads back to 1969 to find a younger K and hunt Boris to save the present day from the latest space invaders for reasons that become clear during the film. The time travel sequence is genuinely thrilling in 3D – but of course, the rest of the 3D is entirely superfluous

As J enters the past, the film briefly dapples with a light racial culture clash comedy – as Will Smith encounters some casual racism typical of the time – before dropping the idea, for a goofier type of playful humour. Josh Brolin was a genius piece of casting as the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones’ character. Perhaps Brolin learnt how to do an uncanny impression of Jones’ laconic persona from his time working with the actor on No country for old men. Brolin hilariously channels Jones for a delightfully entertaining performance – his dynamic with Smith is charming.  You might find yourself trying to guess who is chewing up the scenery as Boris the animal. My guess was Tim Curry but I was wrong as Boris is played by a face you might recognise from Flight of the conchords, Jermaine Clement. He adds mirth to a sense of menace – and is a great villain, ensuring MIB 3 delivers an alien that has a little character about him.

The screen-writer Etan Coen does let his imagination run away with him a little at times. Dubiously, he takes a leaf out of M N Shymamlan’s book, casting himself as a mild-mannered clairvoyant alien that really starts out as a promising character but quickly becomes an indulgent inclusion in the narrative. You can imagine Robin Williams playing this character, which gives you an idea of how annoying this character becomes.

Men in black 3 prospers from low expectations. All you can really ask for with a third instalment of Men in black is that it is funny and contains weird aliens – it definitely delivers a high laugh count and it still has that off-beat charm. It is a fun blockbuster that doesn’t take itself too seriously and you can’t help but go along with the story since it is better thought out than a number of recent films. By the finale, it’s provided enough entertainment that you might feel inclined to go along with the sentimental ending that, despite being an obvious afterthought rather than a logical direction for the story, does add a new angle to the central ‘bromance’ between J and K. Will you still show love to the black suit after Men in Black 3? I think you will.

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About Filmfella Darren
Film critic, writer and long-time cinema appreciator. I write about cinema matters, because cinema matters. Like your clothes and your laptops, my articles were made in Taiwan.

4 Responses to Men in Black III – Review

  1. Robert Smith says:

    1997

  2. Mark Walker says:

    Great review Darren! I was wondering about this after the disasterous MIB 2 but this sounds good. I’m interested in seeing Brolin be Jones.

  3. I thought it turned out a lot better than I expected too! I love watching Jemaine Clement! ~Rachel

  4. I thought this 3rd instalment was better than the previous two – I absolutely loved it!!!

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