Monday, 14 May 2012
FILM REVIEW: MEN IN BLACK 3
For seemingly no other reason than that all film franchises nowadays must be trilogies, we have Men In Black 3; 10 years after the second instalment, and 15 years after we were first introduced to Agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith), members of a secret organisation keeping the world's alien population in-check and the citizens of Earth safe from the ones who haven't come in peace.
That first film, directed by Barry Sonnenfeld, was a fun, breezy sci-fi caper with impressive (late 90s) special effects, and a sense of humour, most of which derived from the odd couple pairing of the craggy faced veteran, Jones, and the streetwise, wisecracking Smith.
Fifteen years later, the odd couple now resemble a long-term married couple; bickering at the slightest provocation but communicating actual thoughts and feelings less and less. Jones' Agent K looks particularly tired (more so than usual), and I'd suggest the actor only signed on to do MIB3 on the condition that he didn't have to do all that much.
That would certainly explain why Agent K, or rather Jones, is sidelined for the majority of the film, as Agent J travels back to 1969 to prevent K (now played uncannily by Josh Brolin) from being killed during a mission which, if not successfully completed, will result in a future full-scale alien invasion of Earth.
That invasion will be lead by Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement, channelling Tim Curry; seriously, it was halfway into the film before I recognised the Flight of the Conchords actor), a Bogladite who, in 1969, was arrested by Agent K.
Escaping from a moon-based prison in 2012, Boris travels back to 1969 to help his younger self succeed where he originally failed, and to prevent the loss of a much-missed arm which he suffered the first time round.
There are minor laughs to be had in Men In Black 3 -- Agent J having to come to terms with an America not comfortable seeing a black man in a nice suit let alone driving a car, and the revelation that Andy Warhol (Bill Hader) was actually an MIB agent who hated art and free love ("I can't tell the women from the men!") -- but thankfully, it doesn't rely on fish-out-of-water comedy like the recent Dark Shadows (tellingly, 1969 Americans are more perturbed by a well dressed black man than they are by a 200-year-old vampire in 1972).
Surprisingly, the most welcome addition to this universe (other than Brolin) is not Emma Thompson -- whose Agent O (played in 1969 by Alice Eve) may or may not have been more romantically involved with the young Agent K -- but Michael Stuhlbarg, best known for the Coen Brothers' A Serious Man (2009) and television's Boardwalk Empire.
Stuhlbarg plays Griffin, an alien being who is able to simultaneously glimpse multiple futures, with a wide-eyed yet all-knowing innocence. Griffin holds the key to the success of Agent K's original 1969 mission, along with an admiration for the persistence of the human race and its potential for miracles.
And that may be the optimism fans of the Men In Black franchise will have to adopt going in to MIB3. The film is by no means a disaster (it's more underwhelming than awful; the VFX are good but as always, the 3D is completely unnecessary), but the third time is certainly not the charm.
You won't require a dose of Agents J and K's neurolizer to make you forget the film, but you'll find the lasting effects of this third (and final?) Men In Black outing just as easily forgotten.