Men in Black III, 2012.
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld.
Starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Alice Eve, Michael Stuhlbarg and Nicole Scherzinger.
When Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) disappears, Agent J (Will Smith) has to travel back in time to the 1960s, where he teams up with a young K (Josh Brolin) in order to prevent history from being changed.
Sequels made years after the original can be hit and miss in terms of quality. For every The Color of Money, there is a Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps, for every The Godfather: Part III there is a Basic Instinct 2. With a budget of $215m, an unfinished script when the film began production and some really terrible trailers and poster campaigns, Men in Black III looked like it was going to fail miserably as yet another needlessly belated sequel created just to fill Columbia Pictures’ quota of films for the summer. Was this the sequel nobody wanted in a summer crammed packed with comic book ‘events’? Probably, yes. However, is it any good? Yes, it really is.
The first film was a monster hit in 1997 and was a thoroughly enjoyable summer blockbuster, but the 2002 sequel was a complete mess and was nothing more than the deleted scenes of the first film. Men in Black III is the quality we should have seen in 2002 and maybe then this third film would have been met with much more hype, and also been made 7 years earlier. This film should have hit cinemas in 2005 and erased the problems of Men in Black II.
One of the great elements of Men in Black III is that director Barry Sonnenfeld hasn’t attempted to reboot the franchise and go back to the beginning like we’ve seen with some popular film series recently. Crucially, it feels part of the family and not just an add-on. Will Smith is as charismatic as ever as Agent J and it is so refreshing to see a true leading man on screen again, not covered in prosthetics or hidden behind a CGI suit; the summer movie season has certainly missed his presence. At 66 years old, Tommy Lee Jones doesn’t do much running and jumping about, and is only in the film for the opening 20 minutes and then again for the final scene; it’s a shame he didn’t feature more heavily because he’s developed a great chemistry with Smith and I wanted to see more of this.
That said, the film, which features time travel back to 1969, does bring in Josh Brolin as the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K and his impersonation of Jones is spot on, so much so that you’d swear Jones had done a voice over if you didn’t know the truth. Brolin and Smith work very well together with a script that delivers plenty of laughs, lots of action, and even a touching conclusion that I didn’t see coming.
The aliens are just as inventive and spectacular as the previous films and I loved the differences between the present day MiB headquarters and the 1969 version. It’s this level of detail that goes into a production design that makes you smile each time you notice something new. Furthermore, all of the budget is on the screen but the film never feels like it wants to be too big and keep outdoing itself or the rest of the competition. Barry Sonnenfeld knows what this series is all about and he has kept the tone and fun of the first film but has not sacrificed any of the adventure. In a strange way Men in Black III reminded me of how blockbusters used to feel, before they all ended up looking like each other, and before only remakes, ‘young adult’ novel adaptations, and board game tie-ins took over. There is something nostalgic about the sheer fun to be had with this film that I simply didn’t expect but am so glad I saw.
With such low expectations due to the previous instalment, and the sudden resurrection to meet the summer 2012 schedule, audiences may not be interested in Men in Black III, but for my money it is far and away more enjoyable than the recent The Avengers, and deserves to be a huge hit.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★