I was lucky enough to have been invited to a preview screening of Men in Black 3 last night – I saw lucky because lo and behold, it was an enjoyable movie!
I can’t say I went into this with high hopes as MIB 2 showed just how stale this franchise could be the moment the ideas run out and you just rely on stupid aliens for the comedy. Even though that was a decade ago, the stale taste of MIB 2 still rings in my mouth… and that’s how much I disliked MIB 2. But still, as horrible as MIB 2 is, it can’t detract from the fact that MIB 1 is a classic.
The success of MIB 1 was based on a few things (in my opinion):
- The pairing of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as Agents J and K.
- Funny aliens.
- Whacky gadgets.
MIB 2 showed that an over-reliance on funny aliens and whacky gadgets is a one-way ticket to Shitsville, so what does MIB 3 do?
They brought back the familiar pairing of Smith and Jones, albeit for only half the time. You see, the plot involves a super-alien named Boris that Agent K (Jones) arrested many years ago, who breaks out of a maximum security prison in the beginning of the movie, and uses a time machine to go back in time and eliminate Agent K during their first confrontation in 1969. This causes Agent K to disappear in the future, and Agent J (Smith) is the only one who realizes that time has changed. To fix things, he also goes back in time and partners up with a young Agent K, played by Josh Brolin. Thus, Smith and Jones only share screen time half the time… although Brolin does such a good job of playing K that you honestly won’t see them as different characters.
The relationship between J and K is what drives the movie, and it does it well. Smith has lost none of his charms, and quite frankly makes that 10 year gap seem like it was just a few months. Jones on the other hand, has really REALLY aged. He’s aged so much that the whole time, I was wondering if he was wearing prosthetic old man makeup. Their dynamic has changed a bit though, and they seem a bit more distant and disconnected than in the previous movies. This is all part of a major subplot, but it still felt kinda weird and never sat right with me.
Luckily, when J goes back in time and hooks up with young K, it’s a lot more like the J and K we remember from MIB 1. And that is a good thing!
Time-travel is a tricky element to use in movies. When it’s good, it’s very good (as in the Terminator and Back to the Future movies)… but it can also be incredibly bad and stupid.
MIB 3 falls in the middle of that. There were times that the time-travel element was used incredibly intelligently, leading to some really cool ideas and funny moments that poke fun of life in the 60s. The whacky gadgets are highly reminiscent of sci-fi designs from the 60’s, and the retro space suits that the aliens wear are pretty funny.
But these are single-use gags, and the time-travel element isn’t as fully utilized as it could’ve been. In fact, there are quite a few loop-holes that bugged me… but that’s not such a big deal when you’re caught in the moment.
One thing I want to mention now: there are a lot less aliens in this than in previous outings… and I think it’s a good thing. Less aliens means less “dumb gross looking alien” gags, and also means there’s more time spent on the two main characters.
The aliens that do appear, look pretty good though. The villain Boris in particular, is extremely gross-looking with teeth and orifices all around his body… and he makes for a very memorable bad guy.
Similarly, the 3D in this movie is used sparingly and to good effect. When it happens, it looks good – like during the opening shoot-out in the Chinese restaurant, and J’s time-travel sequences. But otherwise, there aren’t many “3D IN YOUR FACE, MOTHERFUCKER!” moments that have been plaguing 3D movies ever since they became popular again.
All in all, it was an enjoyable experience, made even more enjoyable if you go in dreading another shit-fest like MIB 2. There are some glaring plot holes and story elements that don’t really make sense (and one or two gags that are so cheap it feels like a Shrek movie), but the feel-good vibe and laughs should wash their bad taste from your mouth for at least the duration of the movie.