Men in Black 3
Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld, 2012
In order to talk about Men in Black 3, I have to talk about the first two.
Men in Black was a surprise hit. The director was a lightweight and the star, Will Smith, was only known for a TV show that was not actually as popular as we remember. The film was executive produced by Steven Spielberg, but the aliens were more in the style of Terry Gilliam and the story was unromanticized. In short, it was like nothing else in theaters, and audiences loved it. Smith plays J, a personable but inexperienced crime-fighter who’s hired by K (Tommy Lee Jones) in a constant battle to stop Earth from being destroyed by aliens.
It was funny, original, and even Sonnenfeld couldn’t capture its spirit, because Men in Black 2 was neither of those things. Men in Black 2 was soulless, derivative, and incoherent, and hopes of a sequel were dashed for a decade. Men in Black 3 came out of nowhere, and a lot of disillusioned audience members didn’t go.
Well, they should have. Men in Black 3 wisely jettisons most of the original film’s hallmarks in favour of a totally original story. Boris the Animal (played by Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement channeling Tim Curry) escapes from prison, goes back to the 1960s, and kills K. When J realizes what’s happened, he goes back as well, teaming up with a younger version of his old partner (Josh Brolin) and uncovering a mystery involving Andy Warhol, the 1969 Mets, and the moon landing, all with the help of Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), a softspoken being who can forsee all possible futures.
The change of setting is great, as are the new characters, but a few things don’t work. Firstly, a small part of the film draws attention to a possible romance between K and O (Alice Eve/Emma Thompson) which is never resolved. Second, a much larger amount of time is given to resolve J’s daddy issues. Why was this in the film? We don’t care about J’s past. Furthermore, between this, Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and Aladdin, why does every threequel feel the need to address this issue? And why always the third movie!?
Both of those subplots could be taken out at no expense to the rest of the story, but the story is good enough to make up for it. A lot of people didn’t see this because they thought it would suck, but it didn’t. It’s not as good as the first, but it’s miles ahead of the second and, honestly, better than it has any right to be. So get yourself some pie and watch it.