I went into Men in Black 3 with pretty much zero expectations. I’d seen little about it (bar a Will Smith appearance on the Graham Norton Show) and although the original Men in Black obviously has a place in my heart, I can remember literally nothing about its sequel. I know I’ve seen it, but I can’t remember whether it was any good. Taking into account the time lapse between it and the new film (ten years), it can’t have been great.
So I was pleasantly surprised by the latest offering, again directed by Barry Sonnenfeld. It is far from perfect, of course, but rarely did the film feel stodgy or self-indulgent – cardinal sins that beset many a Hollywood franchise. Some of the childlike excitement from the original remains (eternally weighted by the stone-like face of Tommy Lee Jones), and there are some funny moments along the way. I’m not a particular Will Smith fan (not that I dislike him) but he particularly excelled in a stumbling explanation involving the letters (/Agents) O and K.
The plot is as such: Boris the Animal is a pretty bad guy. In fact, he’s a Bogladite. We know this is a bad species because it has the word “bog” at the beginning. Boris breaks out of prison (on the moon, naturally) and jumps back in time to prevent Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones/Josh Brolin, depending on the time zone) from shooting off his arm and sending him to prison in the first place. Oh yes, and Boris then decides to destroy the earth as well.
Agent J, (Smith) follows him back in time to stop him, and meets the younger incarnation of K. It’s a pretty entertaining romp through 1969, involving race jokes, the shuttle launch and Andy Warhol (who, of course, is an Alien). It all makes sense.
Josh Brolin is a particularly likeable combination of gruff but hopeful (and does a terrific Tommy Lee Jones accent), and there are decent enough turns from Emma Thompson, Alice Eve and Michael Stuhlbarg, who is a strange cross of Joaquin Phoenix’s podgier and more neurotic brother, and Justin Bartha’s mentally handicapped Brian from Gigli. Arguably one of the film’s problems is that it is hard to take its chief villain, Boris the Animal, seriously. He is played by Jermaine Clement (Jermaine off of Flight of the Conchords) and although he is usually hidden under a few tons of prosthetics, his accent occasionally veers into his David Bowie impression from said TV show, meaning any sense menace or threat that might have been lurking underneath is instantly vanished.
This, amongst some other factors, give the film a slightly lightweight feel, despite a reported budget of a mind boggling $230million. Equally disappointing was the absence of the MIB theme tune, not even over the end credits. Sacrilege! But, as I said, there are continual nice touches (including the “revelation” that Lady Gaga is an alien) and the ending carried an unexpected emotional oomph. Well worth the trip to the cinema on a rainy day or an Orange Wednesday.