“Men in Black” had a promising beginning. The premise of the
stereotypical, stoic, no-nonsense government agents in black suits
working to keep the space alien population on Earth and elsewhere in
the universe in line was fresh, with massive potential for follow-up
Will Smith, with a huge screen presence emerging, thanks
to “Bad Boys” and “Independence Day,” was perfect as the new
up-and-coming Agent J, and teaming him up with the deadpan Agent K,
played by Tommy Lee Jones, was inspired, as Jones, not known as a
comedic performer, used his dour persona to masterful humorous effect.
It was a smash, to the tune of more than $300 million at the box
office in 1997. Then came the sequel. Not so good. Thus followed a
long period of getting a part three off the ground and on film. It
finally came to fruition this year.
“Men in Black III” has its fine moments but also its misfires and
with its release early in the blockbuster season, it already feels
dwarfed next to “The Avengers,” and there are the subsequent
“Spider-Man” and “Dark Knight” movies soon to hit the theaters.
“MIB3” could be long forgotten by August.
“MIB3” initially focuses on Smith and Jones as Agents J and K, and
their partnership that is a clash of the unfazed versus the excitable
feels dated and strained, like a marriage gone bad. So it is such a
relief when the meat of the plot kicks in: Agent J travelling back in
time to alter history in order to save the world and alter the fate
of Agent K.
At that point, the highlight of “MIB3” appears in Josh
Brolin, who is perfect in absorbing Jones’s mannerisms, facial
expressions and even accent as an Agent K, circa 1969. Here, some of
the chemistry that worked so well in the original is revived with
Smith and Brolin, a feat that lifts “MIB3” from mediocrity. Although
it is unlikely, Brolin should get an Academy Award nomination for a
performance that so eerily captures what Agent K really would be like
40 years ago.
On the minus side, the villain, an extraterrestrial, revenge-minded
hitman named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) is paper thin. He
growls, he laughs maniacally, and his signature line is “Let’s agree
to disagree.” A major mistake in the script by Etan Cohen was to have
him dispatch his girlfriend (Nicole Scherzinger) so early in the
movie after she helps him break out of a lunar prison. Seeing him in
a relationship might have added some depth to his character.
Emma Thompson takes on the role as Agent O, the obligatory upper
management person with whom Agent J can butt heads. While she does
have one totally un-Thomson-like scene, her character is mishandled
by having her in some kind of an unofficial relationship with Agent K
that is inconsistent with what was presented in the original
“MIB” regarding K’s romantic life. Also, Alice Eve, recently seen as
Edgar Alan Poe’s kidnapped girlfriend in “The Raven,” plays the
younger version of O and is totally unconvincing as a youthful Emma
Then there is the issue of a revelation at the end of “MIB3” that
changes the dynamic of the relationship between J and K. I met it
with an ambivalence. While it has a sweetness to it, the idea just
does not mesh with what makes the pairing of J and K click so well.
It undoubtedly will spark some discussions among “MIB” fans on
whether it should have been incorporated.