Men in Black III (2012)
The original Men in Black movie hit our screens back in 1997. It was a box office success and was therefore followed by a mediocre sequel in 2002. It took a decade before we got a third instalment in the franchise. However, the popularity of the two lead actors contributed greatly to the success of this series and so despite well documented production problems Men in Black III was released in 2012. However, the delay between movies did have consequences. Will Smith, despite being an Oscar winner and box office star, had lost his way during this time and was not as popular with audiences. Men in Black III was a timely opportunity to reconnect with his core fans. So to ensure that the film hit all the required beats and stand a better chance of being a success, the Columbia Pictures brought back previous director Barry Sonnenfeld, in hopes of warding off the Hollywood curse of third movie instalments.
So how well does this third movie fair? Well the basic formula remain the same. Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K is dry, irascible and set ups the jokes and Smith’s Agent J provides the pithy punchlines. This time round the plot follows intergalactic criminal Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) who escapes from a maximum-security facility and seeks revenge on his arch enemy, Agent K. Using that cinematic get out of jail card, time travel, Boris messes with the present, thus eliminating Tommy Lee Jones from the current timeline. This forces Agent J heading to travel back to the sixties and thus interact with an earlier incarnation of K (Josh Brolin) in an attempt to restore history. This leads to an enjoyable re-iteration of the MiB universe, viewed through the social prism of the 1969.
Now these ideas are all very good on paper, but it soon becomes self-evident that Men in Black III had indeed the production and script problems, throughout the course of its development. The pacing is a little off at times and the focus of the narrative is inconsistent. We get a story that offers many good opportunities and then spends time developing the least of them. However, it is the constant barrage of background details, sight gags, witty asides and pop culture references that save the proceedings. Both in the present and in 1969. That and the fact that although we are deprived of Tommy Lee Jones (he is not in the movie as long as you may think), we are compensated by a note perfect replacement in Josh Brolin. Emma Thompson is as always eminently watchable as Agent O.
Men in Black III is by no means a masterpiece and shows signs of studio interference. But due to the competence of all those involved it manages to rise above its flaws and is a deliver an entertaining and enjoyable experiences. The production quality is still top notch. The effects work is very good and once gain the movie showcases the talents of the great Rick Baker, although some of his remarkable physical effects work was replaced at the last moment with digital alternatives. The dependable charm and charisma of the two leads along with the multiple layers of content are sufficient compensation for the movie’s plot holes and inconsistencies. The fashionable use of the sixties as a setting also gives this third movie a shot in the arm. I don't think this is destined to be considered the best in the franchise but it is by no means the worst.