Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement
Watch Men in Black 3 online in the UK: Netflix UK / Amazon Instant Video / iTunes / TalkTalk TV / Google Play
Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones donned the black suits for (apparently) one last time in Men in Black III and by all accounts, it was a troubled production.
They started principal photography without a finished script, took a break to iron out the wrinkles and finally made one of the most expensive movies of summer 2012, racking up a bill of $250m in a year that also saw big budget flicks like The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises.
In 2014, as the sequel arrives on Amazon Prime Instant Video, does it show?
They certainly didn’t have it easy in terms of plot. Agents J and K are still policing extra-terrestrial activity on Earth and there’s still classified information that’s above J’s pay grade. In this case, it’s related to Boris the Animal (Clement), a recent escapee from the MiB’s prison on the Moon.
Boris holds a grudge against K, who apprehended him and starved his invading species to extinction back in the 1960s. Once free, he travels back in time to 1969 and kills K, forcing J to head after him and team up with the younger version of his partner to put history straight.
In retrospect, X-Men: Days Of Future Past makes the time travelling complexity of this one look like something out of an Austin Powers film, but there was always a feeling that they’d bitten off slightly more than they could chew; the whole thing unravels under the slightest scrutiny.
Such problems are easily overcome with some wibbly wobbly Doctor Who-style frippery, but that’s not the main issue with MiB3. Put simply, this is a world that doesn’t feel lived-in.
Agent J, now an agent of 15 years, is still finding out things he didn’t know and doesn’t seem to have had his clearance level upped at all. Likewise, K was un-retired in Men in Black II (a far, far worse film than this) and still hasn’t re-retired in the decade since then. MiB2 might as well have happened yesterday and if those script troubles do show up in the final result, it’s in how this film skips over such character details, which are what made the dynamic between the lead duo in the excellent first film so damn enjoyable.
The first 20 minutes, set in the present day, are the usual warmed-over extra-terrestrial procedural stuff, but the film does get a kick in the arse once we head back to 1969. See, that’s where Josh Brolin turns up, and Josh Brolin is good even – nay, especially – in otherwise rubbish films.
Aside from perfectly mimicking Tommy Lee Jones, his surly, tough turn is enough to make the part his own. Will Smith gets less to do as a result, basically taking on the same role in trying to win over a K who doesn’t know him as he did in the previous film, although his reliable charisma carries him through just fine.
The other highlight is Michael Stuhlbarg as an alien character who could have been inherently slappable, but is made highly endearing by the actor’s winsome performance. Jemaine Clement, meanwhile, chews the crap out of the scenery as Boris the Animal and shines particularly in the scenes where he interacts with his past self.
It keeps coming back to the world established in the first one, though, without too much significant development. There’s no Will Smith theme tune, no Frank the pug, no Jack Jeebs and no David Cross cameo, but gags about conspiracy history and famous personalities actually being covers for aliens are present and correct and by now, a little old-hat.
Even if Men in Black III were otherwise a terrific addition to the series, its shameful waste of Emma Thompson and Alice Eve, both playing the same underwritten character, would be enough to condemn it. As it is, it reaches further than it can grasp while also stubbornly jogging in place. Men in Black 3 is more enjoyable than the last instalment, but that’s a low, low bar after a decade in development.
Men in Black III is available on Netflix UK, as part of a £7.99 monthly subscription.
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