Now before I begin I feel like I should give brief thoughts on the previous Men in Black films. Men in Black 1 was a really good film with a brilliant villain, incredible make-up effects and really clever ideas about the universe. 2 was just a lazy rehash of 1 and I didn’t like 2. Now comes along Men in Black 3 and I enjoyed it, despite the fact that there are a lot of problems.
Starting with the problems, the execution of the plot isn’t done that well. Whilst the plot itself over the impacts on time travel and on how a key event made K the person he is showing how the failings in K’s past come back to haunt his mind in the present and create a divide between K and J, there are key issues brought up and then never mentioned again. The two biggest culprits being the handling of J in 1969, when racial tensions were still high and blacks had only just achieved the right to vote. There are only 2 brief scenes which deal with the ideals of racism in the 60’s and then the idea is completely dropped from the film. This goes into the idea of K being one of the few MIB agents to really care about the aliens while the leaders of MIB care more about humans. There is only one line of dialogue which mentions this idea and then it is never mentioned again. I feel that it is such a waste of ideas to bring in these 2 brilliant ideas and concepts and, if it was handled well then a brilliant parallel to the treatment of blacks and aliens showing that the needs of white humans are the only ones cared about. I think a great way to show this feeling with K would be just a little nod to K being involved in the Civil Rights Movement outside of his work with MIB, showing how much respect K has for all lifeforms and this is never mentioned and I feel that this is the biggest let-down in the movie. There is also the fact that some parts of the plot come right out of no-where, I won’t spoil anything but the final twist is one that you can see coming straight away and doesn’t answer any questions about K’s personality and doesn’t take advantage of how the situation affects J on a personal level. This also goes into the ArcNet defence system, if this system is so important, how come it is only being mentioned 3 movies into the series and how exactly does it work in protecting the Earth from alien invasions.
Then there is the problem of some of the characters not being used fully or given proper characterisation. The worst example of a wasted character is Nicole Scherzinger as the person who breaks Boris out of prison. We get no information about this character, we don’t know why she likes Boris, why she’s helping him escape, how they met and then she gets killed off 5 minutes into the film and we never see her again, the character is just a waste and could be really interesting if the writers bothered to give any characterisation, I really think that there’s some footage lying on the editing room floor which explained this character in greater detail. This lack of characterisation also goes through to a colonel at the end of the film who trusts J and K but we never find out why and, aside from the twist at the end, plays a very small role in the grand scheme of things.
However there are some good parts in this film. Mainly 2 of the performances. Whilst Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones fit back into their characters with great ease and are good fun to watch, along with a really fun performance from Emma Thompson in the first few minutes of the film and a fun performance by Bill Hader later on in the film, this film belongs to Josh Brolin and Jemaine Clement. Brolin completely nails the Tommy Lee Jones style of acting, nailing everything from the voice (which sounds like Jones is actually dubbing for Brolin) to the body language perfectly and you fully buy Brolin being a younger version of Jones and it is clear that Brolin is having a lot of fun in the part, providing the best part of the film and his performance also shows the changes in K’s character, with Brolin being a bit more relaxed in his body language and interactions with other characters, in particular Alice Eve as a young Emma Thompson (although the romance between them doesn’t make sense in relation to K’s actions with watching the woman in MIB 1), showing the changes the events in the film made to K’s character (which don’t really make that much sense when you think about it). Clement is also having a lot of fun as Boris the Animal, with some great make-up effects used to create Boris, a really cool set of powers and Clement going into full Alan Rickman/Tim Curry mode in this film making Clement a ton of fun to watch whenever he’s on screen. There is also the really fascinating character of Griffin played by Michael Stuhlbarg, who is really interesting to watch, I would gladly watch a full film devoted to this character. I found what was going on in his mind about the different scenarios in the world to be very unique and I want to know more about this character and how he is able to differentiate between all the hundreds of scenarios going on in his mind at the same time with a very quiet, understated and realistic performance by Stuhlbarg bringing across the brilliant nature of this character (although there is a scene with Griffin at the end which doesn’t fit into the film well at all).
The direction of some of the key set-pieces is also great. The time jump scene looks like one of the few scenes in the film which could benefit from being in 3D (I wouldn’t know, I watched it in 2D) with the scene only being hindered by some very dodgy CGI. The action scenes themselves are also well staged with the audience being able to see everything that’s going on clearly without any of the shakey cam bullshit that fills most other action films, with the fight on the Cape Canaveral Launch Pad being a very well executed fight scene with the audience being able to see all the different components of the fights with ease. This strength of direction spreads into the overall vide of the film, with the scene in The Factory with Andy Warhol providing a good show of the weird, offbeat art culture of the 1960’s, along with the obviously cheap looking design of the aliens in the 60’s allowing the film to go along the same vein as the cheap and cheesy sci-fi films of the 60’s (aside from the scene in which J and K ride on Mr Garrison’s It from South Park), reminding me of how the first film goes in the same vein as the gritty comic books of the time and subverting it for comedy effect (though this isn’t done as well in MIB 3 as in MIB 1), providing a great feel of the 60’s in general (though not as well as Moonrise Kingdom) and the culture shift with K, while not being handled to its full potential, is done fairly well and there are a few small in jokes which I found hilarious, mainly a blink and you’ll miss it reference to the films of Stanley Kubrick. Plus it helps that, this time around, Frank the Pug is nowhere to be seen (although there is a neat little joke in the background), the worms have a limited role in a funny little moment and the MIB headquarters has been redesigned to remove all the product placement from Men in Black 2.
Men in Black 3 is not a perfect film and there are problems with the film clear as day but I still found it to be fun, mainly due to how fun Josh Brolin and Jemaine Clement are in the film, and I did enjoy watching it but I wouldn’t rush out to watch it again in a hurry, it was just an OK film overall.
My Rating: 3/5