I made it my goal this week to watch both Men in Black and Men in Black II to prepare myself for the newest addition to the series, Men in Black III. I was surprised at how well the first Men in Black held up seeing as how it ‘s been about 15 years since release. The visuals looked great, jokes held up, and the air of mystery to the universe that made it a fun film in the first place was still captivating. However, I wasn’t as satisfied with Men in Black II as I was with the first. It was a struggle to get through the bombardment of product placement and flat jokes along with a plot that didn’t hold my interest at all. Of course it raised questions about where Men in Black III would fall among its predecessors and whether it would be able to at least top the disaster of the second movie.
My initial interest for this movie was pretty high once I found out that they were making another one, but by the time the trailers started rolling around my hopes waned. I’ve never been a fan of time traveling movies and Men in Black III wasn’t looking like it was going to change my mind on the matter. However, the clips of Josh Bolin’s portrayal of a younger Agent K/Tommy Lee Jones gave me some hope and I’m happy to say that I was surprised with not only his performance but also the movie in general.
The movie opens up with the best and hands down my favorite villain of the trilogy, Boris the Animal. The success of this villain is largely due to the wonderful acting by Jermaine Clement. He brings a great sense of humor and terror without compromising his importance as a competent villain in the movie. I made a comment to my friend that I found it funny that out of the three Men in Black villains Boris/Clement manages to be the best with the least amount of screen time among the three. You were able to feel the impact of this character without having to see him on screen at all times, I feel this works due largely to the fact that Men in Black villains are suppose to border the line between serious and silly.
One my complaints with Men in Black II was Will Smith depiction of Agent J was turned extremely cocky and arrogant with little redeeming qualities. Also a lot of his jokes, whether scripted or adlibbed seemed extremely forced and fell flat. This time around Smith brings his character back to the same quality of the first that makes him funny and confident without going overboard and making an unlikable character.
There was a featurette where Will Smith explained how Brolin took a lot of time and care to get down Agent K’s/Tommy Lee Jones’ mannerisms. He said he got it down so well that it preserved the chemistry between Jones and Smith. I agree 100%. It was awesome to see Brolin playing a younger Agent K and play him well. I remember thinking that I was a bit bummed that we weren’t going to see much of Tommy Lee Jones due to the whole time travelling plot but my complaints where eased after a couple of minutes of Brolin handling Agent K. There was never moment where I felt like he was trying too hard, it just felt right.
As stated above, I’ve never been fan of time travelling movies, and although Men in Black III doesn’t completely change the game when it comes to time travel it does offer an extremely interesting character that made the whole time travelling plot extremely enjoyable. Griffin, played by Michael Stuhlbarg, is a last of his alien species. There are referred to as a race that can see and think into every possible scenario and outcome in any number of time lines. He’s a very odd person who obviously sees the bigger picture and although it may seem strange he makes for enjoyable scenes and thought provoking conversations. He easily made the list of my favorite characters overall, and I haven’t seen a character like him since Abed Nadir from Community. Which to an extent Griffin is essentially Abed but with powers.
If were to pick an area of the movie to hone in on that detracts from the movie in general I would say it’s the humor. A lot of it is just really hit and miss, especially in one eulogy scene. It was just a very awkward scene that had the theater extremely silent. This isn’t to say that there aren’t funny moments because there are but I wouldn’t say it’s the highlight of this movie. Which is weird to say seeing as how the Men in Black movies are supposed to be fun and campy films. For me the biggest highlight of the movie was the focus on character development between Agent K and Agent J. I was extremely surprised to see that the movie explored a lot of the back history of not only Agent K but Agent J as well. We get a great insight into these characters lives outside of just being an MIB agent. There was a plot line they sort of opened but didn’t explore. There was obvious prejudice towards the aliens at first contact. There’s a small throw away line where one of the senior chief executives asks Agent K whether there were any casualties. Agent K responds yes and names his friend that was an alien, the executive responds coldly, I meant human casualties. It kind of bums me out that they didn’t touch on it more seeing as how I really wouldn’t want them explore this time traveling plot if they were to make another Men in Black movie.
Men in Black III seems to be missing a lot of the side characters that were prevalent in the first two films. Gone is Frank the Pug, Jack Jeebs the pawn storeowner, and to some extent the worm aliens. I think the worm aliens had one or two lines with maybe ten seconds of screen time. Frank the Pug was only seen as a portrait above Agent J’s bed and Jeebs is nowhere to be seen. I haven’t decided whether or not this was a good thing or not. They all played larger roles in Men in Black II but I guess they decided to focus less on them and more on Agent K and Agent J.
Overall Men in Black III was an extremely fun and great movie. Featuring the better of the villains from the trilogy and way more character development than any other of the films Men in Black III definitely surpasses the low bar set by Men in Black II. I even have a tough time mulling over whether or not it could be considered better than the first. The jokes may be hit or miss but it’s easy to overlook with its interesting villain, great insight into the characters, and just an overall fun action movie. I will say that the movie should ended two minutes sooner than it should have due to one final joke they make that I feel sort of detracts from the wonderful ending that they set up. If you can look past these minute drawbacks Men in Black III definitely serves its purpose as an entertaining movie experience.
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