PG Cooper: Men in Black 3 Review

Posted: May 27, 2012 by Daniel Simpson (PG Cooper) in PG Cooper's Movie Reviews

Release date: May 25th, 2012

Running time: 1 hour and 46 minutes

Written by: Etan Cohen

Based on: The comic book “The Men in Black” by Lowell Cunningham

Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld

Starring: Will Smith, Josh Brolin, and Tommy Lee Jones

In 1997, the first Men in Black film introduced the idea of an organization whose purpose was to monitor alien activity. It was a cool idea, and the film that came out of it was pretty cool too. It had a great cast, good effects, and the whole thing was a lot of fun. In 2002 audiences were treated to an immensely disappointing sequel. After that, there was nothing. It always disappointed me that the series seemed to stop after the second film. The premise seemed like something that could spawn a number of exciting stories. Instead, it seemed the series would end on a very sour night. But now, ten years later, the series has had new life breathed into it with Men in Black 3.

The film opens with an alien named Boris (Jermaine Clement) escaping from prison. Boris was arrested 43 years ago by Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and has been plotting his revenge ever since. Instead of just trying to kill K, Boris goes back to 1969, before K arrested him, and kills him in the past. So Agent J (Will Smith) has to travel back in time to save a young K (Josh Brolin).

As a fan of this series, or at least the first film, I have a lot of problems with this movie. I feel continuity has been ignored and changed for the sake of convenience. In particular, K’s back story has been changed and I don’t mean in a time travel way either. I mean the filmmakers just decided to tweak it to match the story they wanted to tell. For example, in Men in Black 3, K has/had a romantic relationship with a female Agent named O (Emma Thompson). This character was never even mentioned in the other films. On top of that, the first film revealed K had a wife and that he still had feelings for her. What happened to her exactly? Another odd change is in the character of K himself. In this film, the older K is written as being basically emotionless. This goes against the character’s previous appearances. Yes, K always has been more stoic than J, but he also had a sense of humour and an emotional core which for some reason have been stripped away in this film. The film tries to explain this by hinting at some event in K’s past (before he met J) that changed him. I have two big problems with this. The first is that we never actually find out what said event was. But second, and more importantly, known of this was mentioned or alluded to in the previous films. Before, I was a serious dude with a dry sense of humour. Now he’s an emotionless zombie with a tragic past? Cut me a break.

The way Men in Black 3 looks at K and J’s relationship was also off to me. For some reason, there is a lot of drama going on between the two in the beginning and there’s no reason as to why. Things are just really tense between the two of them for no real reason. The film tries to make this drama come to a close near the end. I’m not going to say what happened, but I will say that there’s a scene which expands in there relationship and history. I’m sure the scene was intended to deepen the relationship between the two, but I personally found it forced and unnecessary.

Even beyond my gripes as a MIB fan, this film still has a lot of flaws. The story for example, feels really slapped together. You can tell the filmmakers really wanted to have time travel and pair J up with a young K, but they didn’t really put a lot of thought into why. As a result, the film has the incredibly lame villain of Boris the animal, whose motivation is as basic as it gets. He wants revenge on K, and his race destroys planets. I wouldn’t have minded such a basic character if he were at least threatening, but he isn’t. The writing on the character was awful and Jermaine Clement’s performance didn’t help. I also feel the character O was pointlessly thrown in and Emma Thompson’s performance was a tad irritating. Finally, the humour in the film was really weak. There were some jokes that worked, but a lot that felt forced and fell flat. This isn’t the worst Men in Black film, but it does have the weakest humour.

So I’ve talked about what didn’t work for long enough, I suppose I should get into what the film does well. The performances of the three leads are easily the film’s highlight. Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith are still great as K and J and both play off each other well. I may not have liked the writing on elderly K, but Tommy Lee Jones is still awesome. The standout performance of the film is Josh Brolin as the young K. He captures Tommy Lee Jones’ mannerisms so well it’s almost scary. I quickly forgot I was watching Josh Brolin as he captured K so well. It also helps that Smith plays just as good off Brolin as he does Jones.

The film also has some technical elements worth praise. The 1960 settings and costumes were done nicely for example, and I love the various creatures and make-up by Rick Baker. The special effects were also great for the most part, and there are some exciting action scenes too.

You’d think after ten years, the film wouldn’t feel quite so rushed. I get the feeling that the people involved really wanted to make another Men in Black film even if there ideas of what a third one would be weren’t fully fleshed out. The end result is a film that feels forced. But with that said, I did enjoy the film, if only for the cast and technical details. Is it the Men in Black film I’ve been waiting for all this time? No. Do I feel like this series has a lot of potential that will likely never be seen? Unfortunately, yes. Still, as a rental, there’s some decent entertainment to be found in Men in Black 3, especially if you were a fine of the first one. If nothing else, the film is worth seeing for Josh Brolin’s performance.

Rating: C-

  1. Trav says:

    “The film tries to explain this by hinting at some event in K’s past (before he met J) that changed him. I have two big problems with this. The first is that we never actually find out what said event was.”

    Yes we did. It happens right between two guys coming down in zipline baskets and J returning to the present. (Don’t want to spoil anything not obvious.)

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