[rating=3]Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson, Alice Eve, Jemaine Clement
Director(s): Barry Sonnenfeld
Writer(s): Etan Cohen, David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson and Michael Soccio, from the comic by Lowell Cunningham
The singer “Meatloaf” was prophetic long ago, when he wrote a song that is now a perfect description of the MIB franchise. The song “Two Out Of Three Ain’t Bad” is an almost perfect description of this franchise. The original Men in Black was great, Men in Black 3 was great, and Men in Black 2 is probably best just ignored and forgotten.
To review the past, in the original film Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) recruits a New York detective who becomes Agent J (Will Smith) after he somehow manages the almost superhuman achievement of running down an alien known as a cephalopod. The two team up, save the planet in the original, save the universe in the awful sequel and now here they are together again.
This time they are talking about the eulogy that K must deliver for the recently deceased head of the Men in Black, Agent Zed (portrayed by Rip Torn in the first two films) at his upcoming funeral. But before that happens, a prisoner escapes from the maximum security prison on the moon. This prisoner, Boris “The Animal” is one bad dude. He shoots sharpened “spikes” from either palm when he has two arms (one was shot off by Agent K when he was originally arrested). He has the other ’super’ attributes such alien threats have, super strength, speed, endurance and so on. Boris (Jemaine Clement) makes his escape with help from his girlfriend (Nicole Scherzinger of “Pussycat Dolls” fame). Boris has a plan. He’s going to go into the past and kill Agent K before K shoots off his arm, and thusly Boris’ people can conquer the Earth.
We meet Agent O (Emma Thompson) at the service for Zed and she is now in charge of MIB. So when Agent J checks in the following morning, she’s the one who tells him that Agent K has been dead for 40 years, but thanks to a clue in J’s recent food compulsions, O becomes aware of a temporal shift (time-travel). The only way to fix the problem is for Agent J to go into the past before Boris kills Agent K and save K.
They refer to the method of travelling through time as a “time jump” for a reason. But once J is in the past and is able to find K, he discovers that the Agent K he knew isn’t the K of 1969. Josh Brolin is a dead-ringer appearance and speech-wise for the older version portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones, but something is different. J even asks, several times, “what happened to you?” The same, wise answer is repeated each time J asks the question.
There’s an interesting specimen of a race that is aware of all possible permutations of the timeline based on the ever-changing sequences of events. His name is Griffin and he’s by far the most interesting alien we’ve seen thus far in the MiB franchise. If there is a 4th entry, I hope they find a way to bring him back. He’s a lot more fun than the worms, or the tiny aliens in the locker in MIB 2 who worship J in a “God-like” manner.
Men in Black 3 is a lot like the first entry in the franchise. Slick special effects, impossible physical confrontations between humans and aliens that shouldn’t be possible, but happen in a way that you find plausible. Sonnenfeld is blessed because the chemistry between the original stars is nearly identical to that between J and the Agent K of 1969. There are some nice homages to the era, including a reference to the “Miracle Mets” who won the World Series that year. If you want to nitpick, the appearance of the moon in the sky on the night before the lunar mission launch is wrong, but even though I knew that, it wasn’t a factor.
MiB 3 is good enough to justify a 4th entry in the franchise and my only hope is that it doesn’t take a protracted period to get it done.
Run Time: 1 hr., 43 mins.