It seems that with every subsequent Men In Black sequel there is constant rumours of chaos during production and major issues concerning actors schedules that plague the finished production leaving a disjointed, lumpy mess so malformed, it resembles one of the scum of the universe the MIB’s regularly are called to arrest. Regardless of how accurate these stories actually are, it certainly felt true of the first sequel, an ugly spasm of a movie that utterly missed the focused comedic surrealism of the orginal in favour of unsubtle cameos and endless callbacks to the first film.
And so, years later, when the planets aligned and Will Smith’s schedule finally cleared, came Men In Black 3, the trilogy caper that no one asked for that came armed with the only weapon a desperate franchise with no where else to go can rely on: time travel.
After numerous years as partners, MIB agents J and K are finding their relationship strained but after alien assassin Boris The Animal escapes from a prison on the moon, he goes back in time in an attempt to change the past. And change it he does because Agent J Awakens to find the world subtly changed with no one at MIB headquarters having a clue as to who Agent K is due to a nasty case of him being murdered back in the 60’s. So after procuring some handy dandy time travel tech, J travels back in order to retroactively save the younger, but still ridiculously monosyllabic, version of his partner from the clutches of Boris while simultaneously swinging by The Factory and Cape Canaveral for action scenes and general good times.
If there is anything good to take away from MIB 3 is that it’s thankfully not as a hateful experience as it’s immediate predecessor, although it’s still a hell of a long way from matching the original.
A huge benefit is actually the removing of the increasingly sour faced and VERY tired looking, co-lead Tommy Lee Jones after the first 20 minutes and replacing him with a stern-browed Josh Brolin pulling off an uncanny impersonation. It’s the shot of new blood the series needs and yet still doesn’t change the fantastic character dynamic that the whole trilogy is based around. Will Smith continues doing his Will Smith thing and it’s to his credit that his usual schtick still hasn’t worn thin… yet. Jermaine Clement from the magnificent Fight Of The Conchords seems a tad miscast as the emotionally and physically spikey Boris (and you suspect he knows it judging by his oddly unfunny performance) although he still fulfills the basic bad guys requirements but it’s Michael Stuhlbarg as the gentle, excitable multidimensional being Griffin who steals the show.
The witty cameos and concepts that litter the film vary from sublime (Andy Warhol revealed as a cranky MIB plant played by Bill Hader) to aggressively pointless (Nicole Scherzinger seems purely cast for her ample cleavage) but despite the new actors and the time travel gimmick (Rick Baker’s on set alien effects are amusingly more ’50’s throwback inspired), returning director Barry Sonnefeld seem reluctant to reinvent the wheel, chucking in uninspired CGI chase scenes that are neither exiting or hugely funny.
In fact the overwhelming feeling of this third go round for the intergalactic earth protectors is very much of the “that’ll do” variety, a feeling all too common with most sequels put out in similar circumstances by Sony.
Hardly an embarrassing failure but worlds away from a series high point it seems that the biggest obstacle the Men In Black have to continually face isn’t Boris The Animal or even Edgar Bug, bug the long gestation periods between movies that leaves audiences in a state of apathy whenever a new installment is announced.
That and the ungodly mixture of too much budget vs. too little script.
Hardly a disaster of cosmic proportions but still nowhere near an out of this world success either, Men In Black 3 is sadly as memorable as a Neuralyzer flash to the face.