I’ve always had something of a soft spot for Barry Sonnenfeld‘s “Men in Black” series of comic book adaptations.
There’s no unique thing which makes me enjoy them – there’s the glorious comic interplay between glib, quick-gabbing Will Smith and taciturn Tommy Lee Jones, the streamlined, retro-futuristic styling, the notion of a secret government body efficiently averting minor apocalypses every day and the genius invention that is Frank the Pug each contribute in different ways to my enjoyment of the series.
Plus, I love a good non sequitur and the first movie, particularly, is full of them.
I don’t suppose that anybody except the financial portfolio managers of messrs Smith, Sonnenfeld and Jones was desperately awaiting a third movie in the series, but 2012 saw a threequel in the form of “Men in Black 3” and I finally managed to catch up with it this weekend. Having read some of the reviews from last summer for the film, I was expecting a very by-the-numbers effort which didn’t have anything to particularly distinguish it or build on the sterling work done by the first entry in the series, all the way back in 1997.
And you know what? It’s actually fun. Not a film which you’ll remember for more than ten minutes after seeing it, and probably not a film which you must own for posterity, but certainly an enjoyable sci-fi comedy which undoes some of the damage wrought by the noisy, scatter-shot second film (which had some fundamentally interesting sci-fi concepts rather obscured by some of the most distractingly terrible special effects that I can recall seeing in a major studio release).
“Quick – neuralyse them and make ’em forget part 2!”
This film feels a lot more stripped-down and rattles along at a refreshingly brisk pace (a swiftness emphasised by comparison to my afternoon’s viewing, a second trip to the cinema to see “The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey“, which is still pretty but decidedly bum-numbing in its running time). The jokes are swift and mostly on point, with character development revealed in mostly sideways observations rather than overwrought dramatic set-pieces and inventive action sequences liberally peppering the 107 minute running time.
The plot of this instalment of the now-venerable sci-fi franchise sees Agent J (Smith) and Agent K (Jones) wrenched apart by an alien antagonist, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) who effortlessly escapes from a high security, orbital MIB prison and makes a concerted effort to rid the planet of galactic policeman K via the medium of time travel. And it’s this wrinkle in the conventional formula of the film series which reveals one of the best aspects of “Men in Black 3”, Josh Brolin‘s wonderful performance as a younger incarnation of Agent K.
Once the plot requires Smith’s permanently bemused J to leap back to 1969 to undo Boris the Animal’s machinations and prevent a present day invasion of Earth by Boris’ species of homicidal extraterrestrial asset-strippers, the film steps up a gear and provides the viewer with a fine line in culture-clash comedy – the cumulative effect of this stretch of the movie is to cut-and-paste hip-hop elder statesman Smith into an episode of “Mad Men-era NYC, which works particularly well when J is pulled over by polite, professional abominably racist cops and given the once over. It’s a sequence which might have sat oddly in what is otherwise a lightweight summer action sci-fi piece but it works really quite beautifully and in some ways harkens back to our introduction to Smith’s cocksure, authority-rebuffing young buck back in the 1997 original.
Culminating with an action sequence which happens in and around the launch of the Apollo 11 mission, “Men in Black 3” is really far more entertaining than you’ll perhaps expect that it to be. It’s aided by a snappy script from Etan Cohen, an excellent acting ensemble (Alice Eve and Emma Thompson play younger and more mature incarnations of new MIB chief, Agent O, and Jemaine Clement is superb as louche alien assassin Boris, doing what my better half, Mrs Rolling Eyeballs, describes as an excellent Tim Curry impersonation) and some fun retrospective continuity wrangling which adds a new layer of poignancy to the overall “MiB” story which I really didn’t expect.
A should-rent title, then, if not quite a required purchase for your sci-fi Blu-Ray/DVD collection.
- “MEN IN BLACK 3” (2012) Review (rosiepowell2000.typepad.com)
- Men In Black 3 Prescreening Party (wyominggirlcoastiewife.com)
- Movie Review: Men in Black 3 (theaccomplishedwomen.wordpress.com)