Full disclosure - I had NO interest in watching Men in Black 3. I haven’t seen the first movie since its opening weekend in 1997 and while I remember enjoying it, I remember nothing else about it. The second movie...oooooo the second movie. I don’t remember much about it either other than really, really, not enjoying it. I seem to remember a habit of that movie pausing at the end of a scene, as though the audience would be so captured in uncontrollable laughter that a few seconds would be needed for them to calm down before transitioning to the next scene. This did not happen. Nobody was laughing to begin with so when you allow more time for people to continue not laughing, it makes for a pretty awkward experience.
MIB3 was not looking promising, with tales of production issues and a handful of weak trailers helping to effectively lower my expectations to near zero. But my wife was a little more eager and I figured if I was going to see it, it makes sense to see it in theatres. So off we went to find out if MIB3 truly was the disaster it was shaping up to be.
Admittedly things don’t get off to the greatest start. After a decent opening that introduces us to the villain, Boris the Animal, (played by Jermaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords, bizarre casting to say the least), we are reunited with Agents J and K, and it didn’t take long for me to realize that I kind of didn’t miss these characters. The first 20 minutes is essentially devoted to rehashing much of the first two movies, and instead of feeling nostalgic, I mostly felt bored. The jokes felt stale, the action wasn’t too exciting, and Tommy Lee Jones, although not as uninterested as I expected him to be, does not seem nearly as game as he used to be in these movies. It honestly isn’t until Jones exits the picture, that things take an upward turn.
Much has already been said about the time travel plot and how contrived it is but I’m thinking it was born more out of “holy shit how did we do one of these movies if Jones doesn’t want to be involved?!” than out of a genuine desire to tell this story. It’s all pretty basic stuff, with J jumping back to 1969 in order to save K from Boris, who has traveled back in time to kill him. As with many time travel movies, the moment you start to break it down it all falls apart pretty quickly, so it’s best not to think about it too hard.
The first sequence with J in the past contains many of the movie’s highlights, as they do indeed play up the racial angle and have some fun with it. In a movie where a lot of the jokes fall surprisingly flat, these parts worked well and reminded me that god dammit I do love me some Will Smith sometimes. He’s essentially doing his usual routine here, but it’s been so long since we’ve last seen him do it that I honestly didn’t mind that much.
Soon after we are introduced to Josh Brolin as the younger Agent K and it is then we are given the absolute highlight of the film. Josh Brolin is quite something in this. He plays the character perfectly and it never comes off as just a Tommy Lee Jones impression, though he certainly does nail that aspect. No this is exactly who the K character would have been in 1969. Brolin steals every scene he is in and at some angles, resembles Jones to such an extent that it is almost terrifying. If there is one aspect of this film that makes it a recommendation, it’s Brolin.
I’ve already quickly touched on the fact that the jokes in this movie are more miss than hit, but let’s expand on that a little bit further. For every one that works, there are two more that were greeted with nothing but silence from our nearly sold out theatre crowd. A lot of them are just stale, as I mentioned earlier. The first line that counts as a joke in this movie is, and I am not even kidding you, a Jerry Maguire reference. That right there tells you most of what you need to know. I won’t spoil the reference but come on you know there’s a 50/50 shot of it being either “You had me at hello” or “You complete me”. If you want to know which this is, you’ll have to see the film. You do get some good Will Smith riffs, you get some bad ones, but mostly you get blah ones. The movie isn’t aggressively unfunny, it’s putting in just enough effort that you can’t call it awful. It’s just wildly inconsistent with the humour.
Where it is far more consistent is in its total lack of action. You have a set piece at the beginning, another in the middle, and of course the climax, and that is all. The climax has some fun moments but the other two are a pretty unremarkable shoot-out, and a promising but ultimately disappointing car chase, featuring an advanced piece of technology that for some reason does not exist in the present day. Perhaps the Will Smith time travel sequence could be counted as an action sequence if you really wanted to stretch things but even then it is ruined by several close-up shots of a clearly CGI Will Smith. Really, he becomes a video game character for several seconds and it’s not as though they try and hide the effect, it’s right there in front of you. It can’t be escaped. For a movie that cost around $220 million, sometimes it is hard to see where the money went.
Looking back over this it really sounds like I hated Men in Black 3 but I really didn’t. I kind of didn’t anything Men in Black 3. It was a thing that happened, I didn’t mind when I was watching it, but now that it’s over I have no desire to watch it again and my memory of it fades more and more with each passing hour. Brolin is fantastic, there’s some good Will Smith lines and overall it holds your interest at the very least. It’s certainly better than MIBII, but can’t touch the first one. It could have been worse, but it certainly could have been better.