Ten years after the release of the previous installment, direct Barry Sonnenfeld and stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return for Men in Black III. Mired in a controversial production cycle ever since being announced in 2009, Men in Black III uses an idea of Smith’s to have his Agent J travel back in time to the 1960s to meet a younger version of Jones’ Agent K.
After a routine assignment in New York City, Agent J (Smith) awakes to find his partner Agent J (Jones) was killed 40 years previous. Confused he realises that terrible alien criminal Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement) has escaped from Lunar Prison, traveled back in time and changed history. J must follow him back and prevent Boris from changing history with the help of the younger K (Josh Brolin).
Men in Black III falls into the trap of a TV show season finale as it plays the narrative for nostalgia and sentimentality. This is understandable with the long break between installments and Tommy Lee Jones’ obviously advancing years, yet the true heart of the franchise was the relationship between Smith and Jones and the levels of humour they can bring. It’s a shame then that Jones disappears after the first ten minutes only to reappear at the end and smith seems determined to almost cry with understanding and pathos when he should be making the audience laugh. The failure to find humour from the tired premise makes Men in Black III easily the dullest and least interesting of the trilogy thus far.
The narrative of Men in Black III is an interesting take on the classic time travel staples, and the visit to Andy Warhol’s (Bill Hader) Factory is the highlight, noticeably because it injects some fresh characters and neat ideas into the fray. Michael Stuhlbarg’s Griffin for instance is a member of a race of aliens that can see the outcome of every eventuality, which allows for some wonderful near-misses. Unfortunately aside from him Men in Black III is as stale as a film about interesting ideas can get. Worse than this, they truly squander the opportunity for an original and neat villain in Jermaine Clement’s Boris the Animal.
Clement is such a physical actor, with an incredible voice that it is surprising that the filmmakers of Men in Black III would choose to make him physically unrecognisable while also distorting his voice. A talented comic performer, Clement’s choice of films have not helped his career and while he was the best thing in Gentlemen Broncos, his big-screen outtings have been a crushing disappointment. The wasting of his unique talents is just part of a greater problem though. Men in Black III has a very talented cast, including Emma Thompson and Alice Eve and yet the only actor to come out of the film with any praise is Josh Brolin.
A misused villain, a tired, formulaic plot and little to recommend it other than a few entertaining scenes with Josh Brolin and the always excellent work of Rick Baker. Men in Black III was the third installment of a franchise that was best left alone and has now official run its course.