Agent J travels back in time to the 1960s, to stop an alien from assassinating his friend Agent K and changing history.
Once upon a time, the Men In Black were an urban myth, a popular conspiracy theory; according to the all-knowing Wikipedia, from 1947 onwards reports of the mysterious black clad men were associated with UFO sightings and other unexplained phenomena. The idea went that the MIBs were shady fixers working for the government to cover up the presence of extraterrestrials or were perhaps aliens themselves.
In 1990, American writer Lowell Cunningham took this idea and ran with it. He created a Men In Black comic, which was illustrated by Sandy Carruthers. In 1997, this became the basis of the first MEN IN BLACK movie and a franchise was born. In addition to the sequel movies, there were further comics, an animated series, a third person shooter for PC and Playstation, a Universal Studios ride and two questionable singles by Will Smith.
MEN IN BLACK 3 uses its time travel story to further explore the relationship of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). So, it’s a father and son story by stealth. The movie opens on J feeling as though K has become particularly uncommunicative and that something terrible must have happened to him in the past. Cue an escaped psychotic convict called Boris (Flight of The Conchords’ Jemaine Clement) who finds a way to go back in time to kill Agent K and prevent his 40 years of incarceration in a Lunar-max prison.
J’s journey back into 1969 is fun. There is even a scene dealing with how it might be to be black then as opposed to African-American now, but this, as all the MIBs, is your basic summer movie, so director Barry Sonnenfeld keeps J moving through various iconic and/or corny 1969 set ups such as Warhol’s Factory, the final World Series winning game between the “Miracle” Mets and the Orioles and the first moonshot from Cape Canaveral. Serious subjects are hinted at, but never dwelt on. The point of this whole shooting match is the action, the comedy, the excellently CG’d aliens and the relationship between J and K.
Josh Brolin is 44, but somehow using Hollywood arithmetic he has been cast to play Agent K at the age of 29. Brolin’s K impersonation was achieved by multiple viewings of the first MIB movie as well as seeing early Jones’ performances in THE EXECUTIONER’S SONG and COAL MINER’S DAUGHTER. He also listened to audio tapes of Jones while between takes. All the hard work paid off with a performance that is uncanny in its accuracy.
The head of the MIB for the first two movies was Zed (Rip Torn). Zed is now gone and has been replaced by O (Emma Thompson). Using Hollywood arithmetic once more and asking us to please buy their BS, the makers of MIB3 have cast Alice Eve as a forty years younger O. And no, Eve and Thompson are nothing alike. Casting fail MIB3.
Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen have a lot of fun with 1969 technology; early space guns and neuralyzers are not the slick items we have come to know and love. The interior of the 1969 MIB office has a number of nice touches indicating the era.
One of the things I liked best in this second sequel was Michael Stuhlbarg as an alien called Griffin. He plays an Arcadian which means he can see minutes into the future and predict multiple outcomes. His melancholy performance suggests the pleasure of memory and the grief of loss. This dovetails into the movie’s slightly-too-neat, but surprisingly emotional climax and reminded me once again, that Smith can be a wonderful actor when he is called upon to be more than a wise-ass.
MEN IN BLACK 3 has been spoken of as a return to form by those critics who hated MIB2. I actually enjoyed that first sequel, and would say this return to the jokey, darkly-tinged world of MIB is a fitting finale to Barry Sonnenfeld’s witty, visually innovative, comedic sci-fi trilogy.
MEN IN BLACK 3 runs for 106 minutes. (7/10)