Men in Black 3
Starring Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg and Alice Eve
Ten years ago Sony Pictures had a broken franchise on their hands. Sure they probably eked out a small profit on that sequel, but the backlash from critics and audiences had told them that Men in Black was just a one trick pony. The funny thing about time, though, is that it clouds our memories. So some rising star in the Sony universe must have noticed all the re-booting that every studio was giving to their own tent-pole franchises and thought it might be a great idea for this one too. I bet they also asked for a huge promotion, the corner office, and a hot secretary. So off they went into the company vault and pulled out the dust collecting creation. Of course, this particular franchise had a few faces that needed to sign up otherwise, after all, what would Men in Black 3 be without Will Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K?
The funny thing is getting those two back seemed to have been the easy part. There was the issue with a script that no one could agree on. It was reported that filming began with a bare minimum of screenplay and production was shut down for a while until someone could make sense of the storyline. With so much riding on this film, it’s no wonder that Sony didn’t employ a team of witch-doctors to fix it. Instead they hired Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder) to serve as the proverbial script-doctor. After seeing the film I would say that he succeeded in keeping the story true to the franchise and outside some sappiness at the end, stuck to the same winning formula of the first film.
Another bump along the way had the very public debacle involving Rip Torn (Zed) and a drunken binge ending with him inside a bank, after hours, claiming that he mistook it for his own house. (I must admit that after seeing pictures of his house and the bank it did bear a remarkable resemblance) I have to believe that this incident caused the decision-makers to move on without his character. I think it was a big mistake because that is one of the glaring problems with this film. There aren’t a lot, but after The Avengers set the bar so very high for this summers blockbusters, it’s going to be hard not to nitpick movies like these. Anyway, the job of directing stayed with M.I.B. veteran, Barry Sonnenfeld, and the musical score was once again entrusted to the genius catchy rhythms of Danny Elfman. Other than these folks, everyone else is new.
The story line goes like this: after a time-traveling villain kills K (Jones) in 1969, J (Smith) must travel back to prevent his partner's murder and save the world – again. The film starts out typically enough with an introduction to the film’s bad-ass-bad-guy, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) who, by the way, hates being called the Animal. Boris is missing a limb and has a real hatred for the man (K) who took it away from him so many years ago before locking him up in a space prison. Boris, like any proper incarcerated serial killer, has an adoring fan (Nicole Sherzinger) who risks everything to help him escape. Obviously she never watched the Jerry Springer show or she would have known where her infatuation would leave her.
Boris, who has a disgusting symbiotic relationship with a projectile-spitting insect, makes his way to Manhattan, then time-travels back to the source of his longing. As this drifts to the background we find ourselves watching a familiar scene, Agents J and K are sent in to investigate complaints of an alien nature. As you’ve seen in the trailers, the discovery makes you want to rethink that planned trip to Wo-Hop in NYC’s Chinatown.
Before zip-lining through history we do get to meet the new MiB chief: Agent O (Emma Thompson). Thompson’s skills are so thoroughly wasted in this effort as they only use her to create a story arc between her character and Agent K’s, both in the past and in the present. (Alice Eve plays the younger O with only slightly more air time) The theme repeats itself often as we learn how all the characters intertwine though fate. To help navigate the past and present chronologically altered time-streams is the last remaining member of an alien race by the name of Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg). Griffin is first seen at a “60s” pop party hosted by none other than Andy Warhol (Bill Hader), who is of course not who we think he was – or maybe he is and they know something we don’t.
Most of the movie does take place in the sixties and Sonnenfeld made sure it would be visually thrilling to look back at our culture. The cars, the clothes and the attitudes are hysterically celebrated. Intertwining real events to the fake ones isn’t unique, but it’s always fun to see when it’s done smartly.
Sonnenfeld erases the pathetic excuse of the first sequel (M.I.B. II) as he returns the franchise to it’s roots by matching geeky-cool CGI with laugh-out-loud humor. While Smith’s character gets the lion’s share of screen-time and best sight gags, jokes, etc, the true stroke of genius was bringing in Josh Brolin to play the young Agent K. His impersonation was so dead-on that you wonder if Mr. Jones wasn’t the family milkman.
If the franchise does see a fourth installment hopefully they’ll find an easily explainable way to have both the older and younger Agent Ks coexist at the same moment. “What’s that,” you say? If the younger and older version of the same person was to co-inhabit the same moment in the space-time-continuum then all life as we know it would cease to exist (according to Doc in Back to The Future)? Just remember two things; first, everything we think we know about time travel we learned from movies, and second, you haven’t seen this movie yet. HA!