“Men in Black III” (2012) Review

Films such as Men in Black III are rare these days. With Hollywood out remaking … I mean, reBOOTing every franchise of the last 50 years, when a film series like Men in Black stays quiet for over a decade, one can only assume Columbia couldn’t possibly work with the franchise in its current form any longer and we can all expect a reboot in 2014 starring Liam Neeson and Donald Glover.

Which would be awesome … so long as no one tells Michael Bay about it

But MIB III is the result of one of those uncommon instances where the conditions for a sequel were perfect. Will Smith’s been absent from the big screen for nearly four years. Tommy Lee Jones is suddenly relevant again after appearing in Captain America. Doctor Who is currently one of the biggest sci-fi shows on the planet, so aliens and time travel are hot topics. Punch that into the machine and POOF! we get MIB III – Smith and Jones reunite in another alien-fighting adventure … now with time travel!

Granted, it wouldn’t be the worst thing to ever ride on Doctor Who’s coattails.

The Men in Black movies have always been fun, exciting popcorn flicks and the third installment in the series is no different. Barry Sonnenfeld returns to direct and delivers the expected dose of action and comedy. As a sequel, MIB III is not necessary. There are no burning questions that the first two films left unanswered and it’s no dramatic conclusion to the MIB trilogy. It’s just there to entertain. Nothing more, nothing less.

The most serious the acting gets is when Will Smith
busts out the latest version of his “Aw, hell naw!” face.

While MIB III is certainly enjoyable, is it any good? Well … kind of. Jones and Smith once again give great performances as Agents K and J respectively and the dynamic between the two of them continues to be where these movies shine in comedic terms. Emma Thompson is believable stepping into the role of O, the new head of MIB. The gallery of aliens is as colourful as ever with several fan favourites returning as well as introduction of some interesting newcomers. The movie is also loaded with cameos from stars such as Will Arnett, that girl from the Pussycat Dolls, and Bill Hader with a hilariously ironic portrayal of Andy Warhol.

It’s Josh Brolin as young K who steals the show, however. Brolin does an impeccable Tommy Lee Jones impression and he truly disappears into the role. Even though Jones’ screentime is comparatively short, Brolin ensures you still feel K’s presence strongly throughout the film, even down to his witty arguments with J. Excellent casting, excellent performance.

Gold star for you!

Of course, MIB III is not without its flaws. The problem with the mindless fun of popcorn flicks is if you even think for a second about what you’re watching, you’ll realize it makes absolutely no sense. The truth is, MIB III is not a very well-written film. The premise itself is nothing beyond comprehension – J has to travel back to 1969 to stop a time-traveling alien named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) from killing a younger K and dooming planet Earth. But the time travel angle is where it all falls apart, leaving the otherwise basic story full of major plot holes and glaring inconsistencies.

Naturally, this raised a few questions for me…

If characters travel back in time, can they meet past versions of themselves or do they just take control of their bodies at that point in history? If K recruited J to MIB in the first movie, how is J still a member in the alternate timeline where K is dead? Is J’s trip to 1969 a temporal loop that was always in place? Minor spoiler: J’s plan in 1969 is to convince young K to kill the 1960s version of Boris to stop 2012 Boris from going back in time and killing K in the first place. But in doing so, future Boris wouldn’t be alive to go back in time meaning J wouldn’t have to go back in time either, so there would be no one there to tell young K to kill young Boris, which would make him both dead and not dead at the same time. Wouldn’t that make the whole thing a massive time paradox?

I get it, time travel isn’t real, so you can basically do whatever you like with it in fiction. But you have to establish rules and you have to be consistent with them. MIB III does neither. And this isn’t me overanalyzing things – the writing just feels lazy. The movie treats time travel as this smörgåsbord of convenient plot devices that are haphazardly employed to move the story along even if it means contradicting what the audience already knows. And the inevitable confusion that results is dismissed by the careless argument “because it’s time travel, dammit!”

I also didn’t care much for the villain Boris the Animal. He’s an interesting enough character on paper. He’s the last of a hostile alien race called the Boglodites, which are basically the MIB universe’s answer to Daleks (just in case you still weren’t convinced this movie is cashing in on Doctor Who’s popularity), and has a lot of cool powers, but he’s pretty weak in the long run. I love Flight of the Conchords and I love Jemaine, but this film isn’t his finest performance. Unfortunately, he chews the scenery throughout the entire film, which gets very annoying very quickly. He can’t take all the blame, however, for Boris isn’t a very well-written character. He’s shallow and over-the-top, his motivations are often unclear, and he’s slapped with this stupid gimmick where he freaks out every time someone calls him an animal. Who is this guy – John Merrick? Is “animal” some kind of racial slur on … Bogloditeland or whatever? What’s also very frustrating about Boris is that you never know how he figures things out. Even with J going back to the 60s and influencing the course of events, Boris always seems to be one step ahead of the protagonists, consistently arriving at the right place at the right time, and we have no idea why or how. Again, this isn’t Jemaine’s fault, but is once again chalked down to problems with the script.

Meanwhile, Bret McKenzie was winning Oscars.

Men in Black III is fun. The actors deliver solid performances for the most part and there are plenty of laughs, action, and special effects to be enjoyed. It’s everything you’d expect from a Men in Black film. But it’s a popcorn flick in its purest form. It’s riddled with continuity errors, gaping plot holes, and convenient devices that will drive you mad if you can’t turn off your brain. An overall decent movie that partially salvaged an overall flawed script.

And love it or hate it, I guarantee that god-awful Pitbull song will have you running from the theatre the second the credits roll.

I give it 3/5.

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