Men In Black 3 Review By Adam
Men in Black 3 (MIB3) has hit our screens ten years after the, frankly, forgettable sequel Men in Black 2. So, does MIB3 break the sequel curse? Yes and no. MIB3 is an enjoyable sci-fi blockbuster with some great, freaky moments. When all the elements come together — which is infrequently — this film is giddy fun. But considering the potential of the players involved I would mark this one up as a mild disappointment.
MIB3 starts in LunarMax prison (fittingly located on the moon – duh). Encaged in its thick walls is Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a one-armed psychopath with a symbiotic creature living in his remaining hand. With the help of a rare visitor (a dolled-up Nicole Scherzinger), Boris escapes his confines and heads to earth determined to extract revenge on the man that crippled him, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Boris plans to employ time travel in his revenge so he can have his cake and eat it too (no K, no loss of his limb). Boris’s plan messes with the fragile fabric of time and directly affects the life of Agent J (Will Smith) who is struggling to connect with the gruff K. Enough with the plot (mainly because it’s pretty convoluted, and if I keep going I’ll spoil half the film).
MIB3 starts of fantastically. Director Barry Sonnenfeld shows a huge level of inventiveness in the way he stages Boris’s escape. Even if you are dismissive of this franchise, you have to admit it has some pretty cool aesthetics: wide-angle lens shots, Danny Elfman’s iconic score and Rick Baker’s creature designs. These elements all gel in the opening sequence and I felt myself revitalised to this franchise, thinking: this is actually cool. Unfortunately, it is mostly downhill from here. Except for an inventive sequence in a noodle shop (that contains extra-terrestrial menu additions), this film seems to reel away from what makes it great. MIB3 is at its absolute best when it lets its freak flag fly.
This film’s primary problem is its script. MIB3 is clearly a few polishes away from a complete, working screenplay, with Sonnenfeld admitting they began production without a finished script – bad move. Its primary problem is its tone. It wants to be dramatic and have a sense of levity, but this is where MIB3 falls flat: it’s not funny. For every line that worked in this film, five others fell flat. I’m not sure who is to blame as writer Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder) is usually a funny guy. so I’m going to blame Mr Smith. Will Smith’s line delivery is seriously tired in this film. He tries to keep his stereotypical shtick at bay, but like a moss, it keeps popping through the cracks. Despite reports to the contrary, his wise-crackin-black-guy attitude is here with full force and, except for the one guy who kept going Haha! and repeating all of Smith’s lines (I think he was simple – God bless) it was lost on my audience. This leads me to believe Smith might be the world’s most overrated film star. Despite commanding one of the highest pay-checks in Hollywood, he keeps pumping out average or flat-out bad films (I am Legend, Bad Boys 2, Hancock). But, hey: if you’re getting paid, why change the formula? He was offered Tarantino’s latest, Django Unchained, but pulled out at the last moment. I guess he was worried that people might mistake him for a real actor. Awesome, so I guess we are staring down the barrel of Bad Boys 3. Retch.
The rest of the cast fares better. Tommy Lee Jones’s involvement is kept to a minimum, but when he is on screen we are reminded of how solid a performer he is. Out-Tommy-Lee-Jonesing Tommy Lee Jones is Josh Brolin as the young Agent K. What starts out as a dead-on impression actually turns out to be an inspired performance full of charisma. As the alien Griffin, Michael Stuhlbarg does the best he can with a character that is basically a walking, talking, piece of exposition. I think the film’s best performance comes for Jemaine Clement as Boris the Animal. He is a freak in this film. He gives the character a weird, snarling cadence that matches perfectly with his intricate make-up. He seems to be having fun and is the only one who is in touch with this franchise’s off-kilter sensibilities.
Having been shot by brilliant cinematographer Bill Pope (The Matrix, Spider-Man 2), this film looks like a million bucks, and so it should. Pope is one of the world’s best lensers and when he is in blockbuster mode, films rarely look better. The script’s laziness does not extend to director Barry Sonnenfeld’s influence. He injects this film with CGI-assisted crane shots, weird angles and well staged action sequences. The special effects in this film are astounding and, despite a few iffy CGI recreations of characters, this film is a smart blend of real stunt work and computer extensions. Rick Baker’s creature effects are brilliant and an absolute high point of this production, the screen is often filled with his striking, if not entirely practical, aliens. It shows a huge level of imagination and it’s strange to think that the man is 61 years of age. Danny Elfman revisits his iconic score with some neat new additions and, when the theme pumps over the top of our G-men walking down corridors, it’s hard not to get onboard.
Many have commented on the emotion of the film’s final act, but for me it left me kind of cold. It could have been utilized better and in retrospect I don’t think it makes a lick of sense (but hey, that’s the risk you take when you play around with time travel). While many will enjoy this film for what it is, it feels to me like squandered potential. Occasionally this film clicks and if the whole thing followed suit we would be talking about one of the year’s biggest surprises. The effects and direction make this a pleasant diversion, but with a bunch of clunky one-liners and half-baked scenes this is a film that won’t be remembered long.