MPAA Rating: PG-13/ Genre: Sci-Fi Action Comedy/ Stars: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Alice Eve, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter, Michael Chernus, Nicole Scherzinger, David Rasche, Keone Young, Bill Hader, Will Arnett, Lanny Flaherty, Cayen Martin/Runtime: 106 minutes
Well the first go-around was novel and immensely enjoyable, and the second go-around may make me roll my eyes more than I care to talk about, but thank God the third go-around was actually fairly well done! Indeed in case I wasn’t able to figure it out based off the previous statement I actually really enjoyed Men in Black 3. Indeed this slice of cinematic pie is a strong addition to this series to say nothing of how it further molds its iconic duo whilst also being nearly as good as the first movie and light years ahead of the second one in terms of characterization, narrative, and comedy. Yet this cinematic outing is not exactly a comedic film with conspiracy undertones to it. Rather, this one operates more like a typical Sci-Fi Action/Comedy that keeps in place the typical penchant of unique extraterrestrial beings and visual flair. Be that as it may be, this long in the works sequel is able to save this franchise and redeem it significantly with a movie that is just plain fun even if it isn’t as pathos-heavy as you might expect (at least that is until the ending comes along and just you try to keep from getting choked up at it), but which does engage and entertain all the way through. Thus when you factor in a group of wonderfully new characters to the series’ mythos, terrific performances from both returning and new cast members, visual effects work that is truly out of this world (pun intended), and a quick yet intriguing narrative, what you get is a film that is not only a wonderful and worthy sequel, but a movie that is just plain fun pure and simple.
The plot is as follows: Men in Black 3 opens its riveting tale as we witness a one-armed member of an alien race known as the Boglodites of which he incidentally is also the last member of by the name of Boris the Animal as he is in the middle of escaping his top-secret lunar prison cell after years of imprisonment with a single goal in mind: ruthlessly and brutally murder the member of the MIB who made him one armed and also took quite a few years of living on the loose away from him. A man who we have come to know and love as none other than Agent K. Meanwhile on Earth, we see that Agent J is very much at a crossroads in his life. This is because he feels that even after fifteen years, he still doesn’t have much of an idea of who his partner really is and thus doesn’t feel like his taciturn and stoic partner really has his back. However following a brief, but brutal encounter with Boris at a Chinese restaurant, we witness as K makes the choice to put J on probation in order to keep him safe from Boris’s wrath whilst he deals with Boris on his own. Yet Boris we soon learn is not just dead set on getting his diabolical vengeance in the present day (2012’s New York City). Rather, he is also scheming to find a way to head back into time to when Agent K was a much younger agent working at the MIB and with zero hesitation whatsoever take a younger K out as well and in doing so essentially erasing a serious chunk of history and impacting quite a few lives as well. Yet when the timeline is changed, J finds himself shook and with a serious desire for chocolate milk, but unlike anyone else, still able to remember the prior timeline as well as his bond with K even if everyone else, including new head of the MIB Agent O, has adapted to the new reality. Yet in what is perhaps the worst change in this new timeline would be the fact that not only are the Boglodites very much the antithesis of extinct, but they are also in the process of conducting a full-scale invasion on our planet. Thus we now see that J must literally take a time jump and go back to the 1960s and partner up with both a younger Agent K as well as a seemingly omnipotent alien by the name of Griffin if he wants a chance to fix the timeline, save his partner’s life, and prevent the complete and utter annihilation of Earth in the process.
Now even though it might be void of the immersive conspiracy undertone that the first 2 movies had, Men in Black 3 does manage to show that it can be quite the crowd-pleasing slice of cinematic pie. Indeed it’s a fun time to be had and whilst it might not be particularly novel, it is at its heart both a Men in Black movie as well as one that is very well-constructed and most certainly worth your time especially when taking into account the fact that this is one entry that has a few surprises in store for those who decide to give this a view. In regards to the former this film is pretty cool, stylish, and even a bit gross at moments, but in all fairness a few slimy moments to make those uneasy about that squirm whilst watching is an integral part to these movies working on the level that they do. To that end, this movie is one that is successfully constructed on fully immersive characterization, riveting action, engaging comedy, and a distinct visual flair that is the very definition of both wacky and cool in equal measure. It also doesn’t hurt in the least that setting a good chunk of this installment back in the late 60s was actually a brilliant idea since that was a time where a lot of creative minds started imagining what the future was going to look like. To that end, we see that the style and aura of the chunk of the film set in the 60s matches the “present day” MIB in regards to their tools and weapons fairly well. Indeed while the recreation of that distinct era is fairly accurate, the things that are similar also permit for a blend of “past” and “present” that manages to work as an effective bridge between the eras and thus make the switch a lot less jarring for both J as well as you, the moviegoer. Yes I guess I should point out that this movie does lose a little bit of energy when it comes to some of its action moments due to them not being the most revolutionary in the world, and while there are some intriguing wrinkles to be found throughout, this movie by and large does still possess most of the same material that the movie goer has seen quite a few times before giving this film a view.
However with all of that out of the way, I can honestly say that the characters in this film are absolutely wonderful. Indeed there’s a reason the characters before anything else are these movies’ ace in the hole and one that this movie utilizes beautifully as not only do we get all the same quirks and idiosyncrasies we know and love as before, but without going into spoilers the film does immerse us a lot more than previous entries into not just who these characters are, but also about where they originate and also what motivates them to do things the way they do which all comes to a head in an absolutely emotional moment near the end that will completely change the way you see the bond between our two main characters. With that in mind Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are once again aces as Agents J and K respectively. Indeed a decade may have come and gone, but these two are not able to become their characters again with relative ease, but they also don’t look or act really all that different and as such are superb in this. Indeed the fact that they differ both in terms of their respective generations as well as their methods of doing their job don’t exactly scream odd couple to me, but instead a dynamic duo that are able to work quite well of each other’s respective positives and manner of doing things. A fact that’s important since this really helps set the table for this film’s narrative hook in the form of Smith having to work together with a younger Agent K who is portrayed by none other than Jones’ No Country for Old Men costar Thanos ehhh Josh Brolin. With that in mind, Brolin’s performance in this is absolutely incredible in how it manages to brilliantly be a spot-on albeit younger reflection of the cadence, mannerisms, and even attitude of the K we know and love as portrayed by Jones. Indeed this is a performance that I would honestly put on the same level as Ewan McGregor’s time as Obi Wan Kenobi and while Brolin’s performance sadly did not garner him any sort of awards attention (though it honestly by all means really should have), it’s still one heck of a performance and I wish that instead of a follow up to 2019’s Men in Black International we got a prequel that featured him reprising the role of Agent K. As for the rest of the supporting cast, I can also say that I felt that Michael Stuhlbarg does a really wonderful job in his role of giddily optimistic yet perpetually anxious Griffin and Jermaine Clement who, in his role as the movie’s antagonist Boris, is equal parts fun and intimidating as all get out to say nothing of how Boris actually manages to infuse this movie with a genuine ominous vibe this time around.
All in all I am pleased to say that at the end of the day, the slice of cinematic pie that is Men in Black 3 is a just plain fun film that manages to keep the spirit of what made the first one so special whilst also making the bold decision to go on its own fairly distinct path courtesy of a narrative involving time travel. Yes it may come equipped with the typical amount of things people have come to expect from a Men in Black movie including awesome characters, intriguing extraterrestrial beings, potent action, and pretty darn cool special effects work. Indeed not only do these delightful ingredients carry this movie to a wonderfully emotional resolution, but this slice of cinematic pie more than easily makes this series fresh again in the aftermath of a decade of ill will towards it due to 2002’s Men in Black II. Yet perhaps the best ingredient this movie has going for it is the incredible work done in this by Josh Brolin. Indeed rather than another follow-up in the vein of Men in Black International, I really do honestly hope sooner rather than later that we get a prequel film to the first MIB that follows Brolin’s Agent K on an adventure or 2 of his own. On a scale of 1-5 I give Men in Black 3 a solid 3.5 out of 5.