Men In Black 3: This Satisfying Sequel Effectively Neuralizes Men In Black 2
When I heard they were making a Men In Black sequel to be released a decade after the last one, I was nervous. When I heard the budget was well over what the last film made domestically, I was very nervous. When I heard it involved time travel, and they took a long break after filming the scenes in the present to figure out a script for what happens in the past, I was extremely nervous. When I combined all of this information with the fact that the last sequel is pretty unequivocally terrible… well, I was petrified. However, perhaps due to some unexplainable alien forces, Men In Black 3 comes together as a pleasant diversion, complete with clever characters, decent one-liners, and a satisfying ending (to the series?).
A psychotic one-armed alien named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) has escaped from jail with one mission: kill Agent K. Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) quickly realizes what is occurring and attempts to speak openly with Agent J (Will Smith) for the first time… but no dice. When K suddenly disappears and the entire world seems to think he died 40 years ago, J realizes that Boris must have learned to time travel, went to the past, and killed Agent K. With alien invasion immiment, J takes the only possible route available to save the world: travel back in time, save young K (Josh Brolin), defeat Boris the Animal, and come back where everything will hopefully be right as rain. Along the way, he gets help from Andy Warhol (Bill Hader) and an alien named Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg) who can see things others cannot.
It’s impossible to talk about why this film is enjoyable without emphasizing how unenjoyable Men In Black 2 was. Perhaps it is merely the lowered expectations that made this film fun: it followed a horrific sequel and the trailer for this one was abysmal (why did they put the worst line from the fine– “I have no problem pimp slapping the shiznit out of Andy Warhol!”– as the money one-liner at trailer’s end?). Without question, it is still scattershot, with many jokes not really working, characters set up and never really followed through upon, and bits with potential squandered. Although the CGI looks better than it did in the trailer, several sequences still have half-baked effects, including a couple of bizarre sequences in which Rick Baker easily could have created the same effect with practical makeup. Some of the actions flirts with incoherence, in particular a sequence riding what appear to be gyroscope motorcycles, and the usual troubles with time travel logic do pop up at the end. If you really *want* to hate this movie, you’ll find reason to.
However, if you merely *expect* to hate this movie, or if you’re the rare soul super excited for this film from the trailer, you’ll find plenty of pleasure. Jemaine Clement balances gross and funny beautifully as the villainous Boris– after the last film’s horrendously lame villain, here’s a worthy adversary to our heroes. Michael Stuhlbarg, who is good in literally everything he has ever been in, provides a stunning amount of pathos with his character, who is blessed and cursed with a very powerful gift he cannot control. His first two scenes are the most enjoyable of the film, twisting wit and science fiction as capably as anything from the first film. Sonnenfeld uses the 3D surprisingly well, zooming his camera up, down, and through building and creating sequences at great heights which exploit the effect. Most importantly, Smith and Brolin have easy chemistry, much as Smith and Jones did, so even when the writing lets them down, we are engaged. Instead of leaving the film with the flaws in mind, I left happy about how good most of it was. While that sounds like a backhanded compliment, I mean it sincerely– the first film is one of my favorite studio films of the 1990s, and the fact that I left the theater smiling meant, against insurmountable odds, they did enough right to make it a worthwhile venture.