Men in Black III (2012) / Sci Fi-Comedy
MPAA rated: PG-13 for violence and brief suggestive content
Running time: 106 min.
Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter
Small role: Nicole Scherzinger, David Rasche, Bill Hader, Barry Sonnenfeld
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Screenplay: Etan Cohen
Review published June 5, 2012
The gadgets, the crazy characters, and the special effects are back, and they're bigger than ever in Men in Black III, a needless but ultimately clever enough sequel to sate the fans and even some of the critics alike. After the rather dismal Men in Black II, the series had left such an unappealing aftertaste that few were clamoring for another entry. Speaking personally, I was lukewarm even after the first Men in Black, though I could see there might be possibility for growth now that the premise had been established.
The film starts off with its arch villain, a giant alien named Boris the Animal (Clement, "Flight of the Conchords"), escaping from the moon base in which he had been imprisoned since 1969. It had been Agent K (Jones, No Country for Old Men) who had put him there, those many years ago, and Boris wants revenge. It's not enough to find and kill K now -- no, he'll travel back to their last meeting there and kill him then before he ever would lose his arm and find himself incarcerated. With the present having undergone a radical change that sees K dead for decades and Earth under attach by aliens, it's up to his partner, the ever-wisecracking Agent J (Smith, Hancock), to save his friend and Earth's fate in the process by going back to 1969 himself in order to join with the younger K and stop Boris the way it should.
Though a decade has passed since the last film, the stars still fill in the shoes of the role easily, primarily because they are basically playing caricatures based on their own natural personalities. Will Smith is perhaps a bit more subdued than we're accustomed to seeing him, but that may be part his own maturation process, and part of the role, as he would naturally be more jaded and less wide-eyed bravado hade he spent 15 years on the job.
Josh Brolin, who portrays K at age 29, provides a good deal of fun riffing on Tommy Lee Jones' natural deadpan dry Texas wit. His delivery is one of the film's bigger pleasures, as it's so dead-on, you will likely find yourself forgetting the change in actors altogether. other jokes include the notion that Andy Warhol is more than what he seemed, and J encountering some racist hospitality at the hands of law enforcement of the era. Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) arrives later as an alien who can the the infinite amount of futures that might develop, giving us an indication on the fragile state the world is in, as it literally hangs in the balance and timing of a few notable decisions.
Rick Baker's (The Wolfman, Enchanted) designed CGI creations are grotesque but highly-detailed, with spidery legs, extra appendages, detachable noggins, and nightmarish eyes. Some of the effects really do impress, such as the dive from a skyscraper that sees the passage of time rolling forward from the beginning on the way down. A battle atop the scaffolds and rockets at Cape Canaveral minutes before the vaunted moon mission's liftoff are stunningly presented, even if it all maintains its decidedly cartoonish bent throughout. It's the mix of chutzpah and frantic pacing that kicks director Barry Sonnenfeld's (RV, Wild Wild West) vision into becoming infectious, no longer playing safe with the characters or the material provided by Etan Cohen's (Madagascar 2, Idiocracy) clever script, and striving to expand the dimensions of its own peculiar universe into the realm of surrealism and absurdity the likes not often seen in blockbuster-budgeted releases.
If you don't recall every bit from the first two entries, you needn't worry, so long as you remember the basic premise of the series. This film barely alludes to its prequels at all. which is good, because if you haven't seen any, you can easily skip the dreadful 2nd film and enjoy the first and third. It does have the same offbeat sense of humor, somewhat campy, somewhat juvenile, that makes much of what we see seem funny, even if little of it actually is from a wit-based standpoint. With the same director at the forefront of all three films, his unique vision and sense of odd comic timing at least keeps the series' now familiar tone and maintains it even through some gnarly moments and an emotional ending. In my opinion, it's the best of his efforts thus far.
©2012 Vince Leo