Men in Black 3

When we last visited Agents K and J the year was 2002 and Men in Black II had just laid a rotten egg. Despite its decent monetary success, it was little more than a tired recycled version of the original. Public opinion still generally views that bloated sequel with disdain. Men in Black 3 shouldn’t even exist. There are far more awful threequels than great ones. But flash forward a decade later to this surprisingly enchanting flick filled with humor and ingenious effects. It delights with all the gee-whiz-bang appeal that our modern age affords.

Our sci-fi comedy begins when a vicious alien criminal, Boris The Animal, escapes from the Lunar Max prison facility on the Moon and arrives on the planet Earth. He was originally imprisoned there by Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) in 1969. Boris intends to zip back to that year using a special device and kill Agent K before his own arrest had ever occurred. Agent J (Will Smith) must time travel in order to save his friend. The fate of the world actually depends on it.

Make-up effects legend Rick Baker has returned and he’s really outdone himself. The astounding assembly of creatures give the proceedings a much needed buoyancy.  I read somewhere that he produced 127 different entities for this. It shows. Observe the early scene in a Chinese restaurant where a variety of fish-like critters make an appearance. The assortment in this one setting has the wow factor of the creature cantina in Star Wars. There’s always been a joy of discovery when a character that appears human, reveals himself to be an alien in this series. Meet the cook with an apron that hides appendages that are less than human. The movie continues to wisely exploit these opportunities when they go back in time. The creatures are imaginative as well as humorous and intricately designed. There’s a palpable sense of wonder in the ideas.

The cast is uniformly excellent with a notable standout. The time traveling story allows for one of the best things about Men in Black 3 – Josh Brolin as the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones. What Brolin accomplishes is much more than a mere impersonation. He embodies Jones’ mannerisms, vocal inflections, his complete aura in such a way, I never questioned Brolin as the younger version of Agent K.  Apparently Will Smith’s game has been raised through his interaction with Brolin. Will Smith, who seemingly hasn’t aged a day, seems reborn. His confidence and slick personality renewed. Tommy Lee Jones, in a greatly reduced role, is as crusty as ever. Jemaine Clement chews the scenery as bombastic villain Boris. He’s a pretty disgusting creature with a palm that contains a hideous arachnid that fires deadly harpoons. It reminded me of the “Screaming Hand” logo for Santa Cruz Skateboards, but I digress. I’d be remiss if I didn’t also mention the major assist they receive from an innocent alien named Griffin. His psychic abilities to see all futures unfolding at once is displayed with a gentle sweetness by actor Michael Stuhlbarg.

Men in Black 3 is better than it has any right to be. There is no sequel fatigue that usually mars third installments of these franchises (Superman III, Batman Forever, The Matrix: Revolutions). The time traveling plot is a clever conceit. Journeying back to the summer of 1969 grants the narrative to reference when the Mets were destined to win the World Series and the lunar rocket launch at Cape Canaveral. These events provide a historical context that gives the adventure sophistication. It also justifies Josh Brolin’s appearance. He’s perfection as Agent K‘s younger self. The rest of the actors seem to be working at full capacity as well. They produce laughs and tears in a saga that can be funny and unexpectedly touching by the end. Men in Black 3 entertains with the inventiveness of the original movie.

22 Responses to “Men in Black 3”

  1. Great review, Mark!! I haven’t seen the so-called “MIIB” yet, but I LOVED the original Men in Black. I don’t plan on seeing the second film, either, because it gets such bad reception. Do you think I’d understand the storyline of MIB3 without having seen the second installment? Thanks.


  2. Good to hear. I saw “MiB II” for the first time a couple of months ago. I pretty much avoided it after hearing how horrible it was. I found it vaguely entertaining, but mostly unnecessary and redundant. I always felt that this was a series that could be mined indefinitely if handled correctly, so it’s great to hear that it’s back on track with this third (if belated) entry.


    • I was pleasantly surprised with how good it was. It can’t top the original because that was fresh and new, but it’s definitely close in spirit to the first film. I enjoyed it a lot.


  3. Great review. my favourite line would have to be “The assortment in this one setting has the wow factor of the creature cantina in Star Wars” looking forward to this movie. just curious if you don’t mind, which did you enjoy more? this or the avengers?…


    • That’s a really good question. I actually had to ask myself that because you probably noticed I gave the same star rating to both. I want to say The Avengers because that’s obviously the more respected film, but honestly I was so happy when I left the theater after seeing MIB3. I’d have to say it’s a toss up. Sorry for the non-answer, Ha!

      P.S. Thanks for mentioning your favorite line, because I almost didn’t include it. Glad I left it in now. 🙂


  4. atothewr Says:

    With all the positive reviews about this one – including yours. I will have to see this one now. I enjoyed the first one and couldn’t stand the second one. I think the sequel should have been a little crazier. Instead of bringing back Tommy they could have used the girl instead. Do something completely different than the first one. Kind of like Back to the Future one and two.

    Nice review.


    • Good comparison. This film reminded me of Back to the Future a little in the time traveling aspect. In my world, the MIB series goes directly from Part 1 to Part 3 with no mention of the second film.


  5. What a great movie. I really enjoyed this. Had an emotional edge to it. True bromamce.


  6. As you said in your comment on my review ( we prety much had the same reaction to the movie. While not as original as the first, but a hell of a lot better than the second, it still manages to be charming as well as inventive with it’s use of the well overused time travel storyline.

    I just wish it had been as cleverly subtle with it’s comedy as director Barry Sonnenfeld has shown he can be in the past. Props to Emma Thompson as Agent O, that speech at Z’s declaration still makes me smile just thinking about it, god I hope we get outtakes of that scene alone on the DVD release.


  7. I’ll admit I’m kind of surprised at all the positive press this one has gotten. Maybe I judged the second film far too harshly and I shouldn’t be taking it out on this installment…


  8. sanclementejedi Says:

    Mark, I wish I enjoyed this film half as much as I enjoyed your review of the film.
    For me it seemed Brolin was slumming in this poorly scripted film, with plot holes big enough to drive semi truck through. The jokes fell flat and Smith was playing the same character he does in every film (except Ali) and Jones looked even less interested than I was. It was pretty obvious they were writing the script at the same time they were filming it.

    I will refrain from pointing out the plot holes so as not to ruin the film if someone has not seen it.


    • It was so lighthearted, I guess I wasn’t too concerned with whether things added up. I’ll admit, anytime a storyline involves time travel, there’s always some issues involving logic.

      Will Smith has been quite serious as of late. Seven Pounds, Hancock, I Am Legend, and The Pursuit of Happyness were all pretty distressing parts where he was rather dour. You’d have to go all he way back to Hitch where he played this type of hip/cool character. For me, it was a welcome return to the kind of parts he does best.

      I must thank you for this line “Mark, I wish I enjoyed this film half as much as I enjoyed your review of the film.” That made my day, my friend.


      • sanclementejedi Says:

        your welcome Mark, I enjoy reading your reviews, I just saw how many you reviewed on Rotten Tomatoes the other day. Good god man where do you find the time lol


  9. Great review, Mark, although I’m not so sure if I’ll be watching. Yes, I want to see Josh Brolin as a young TLJ but Will Smith annoys me terribly most of the time.


  10. Greetings Mark! I’ve literally just got home from catching a midnight showing of this….my first chuckle came in at the half mark! This should make for great conversation during BANG! Although, I have to admit, I let the creature design pass me by. Maybe i wasn’t in the right frame of mind to see this, I watched Prometheus last night and rewatched ALIEN with a friend prior to walking into this.

    As pleasant and light-hearted it was. I just didn’t laugh enough! Final gripe: who wrote that ending????


    • Yes we’ll have much to discuss then. 😉

      My recommendation: Don’t do midnight showings. Those are for 18 year olds. They’re too late and not the most conducive time to enjoy a film. Didn’t you watch The Artist under similar circumstances? Look how that turned out. Go to a matinee where the price is cheap, the theater isn’t crowded and you can grab a beer afterwards and discuss the movie. You’ll find your enjoyment of the film will improve immensely. (Although none of this helped when I watched Snow White and the Huntsman, so what do I know?!) LOL


  11. Nice review. Just watched this yesterday, and was pleasantly surprised…


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