By: Addison Wylie
Barry Sonnenfeld’s third instalment to the popular and bizarre Men in Black series is a perfect way to cut the ribbon on the summer movie season. It also helps that this exciting slice of entertainment is a solid chapter for these characters.
After a decade of fighting the intergalactic scum of the Earth, Agent J (played by Will Smith) and Agent K (played by Tommy Lee Jones) reach a crossroad in their career. J notices K becoming gradually more crabby and shorter on words than he already is. J, who has always wanted a normal work partnership in this organization, brings up the shortage of communication to K only to be quickly silenced by his partner.
As this complication builds and builds, the one-armed Boris the Animal (a gruesome and revenge-filled creature played marvellously by Jemaine Clement) escapes from a highly secured prison located on the Moon. His plan: to travel back in time to 1969 and kill Agent K before he takes 69’s Boris’ arm and lifestyle.
Boris is unfortunately successful and takes K’s life. This means all evidence of K in present time is erased. However, J is the only person to remember his partner while everyone asks in confusion, “who’s K?”
J decides to take matters into his own hands and find the man who sent Boris back in time. J’s plan: to travel back in time and find 1969 Agent K and protect him from any danger that would come his way either from present day Boris or 1969 Boris.
The storyline may sound convoluted but screenwriter Etan Cohen has tried his darndest to make everything connect and avoid plot holes. Plot holes tend to be a common crux in time travel movies with character arcs coinciding with previous decisions that end up contradicting. While watching Men in Black III, I couldn’t find anything wrong on this first viewing. That said, I feel safe with saying that Cohen was very careful with the structuring of his script while also having fun with the source material and adding new elements.
Also, without giving anything away, Cohen does something with these familiar characters that audiences won’t expect. To even hint at what the surprise is would be an ultimate disservice to unsuspecting movie goers. Just be prepared to nod your head in approval and want to pat Cohen on the back.
One of these new attributes would be the addition of Josh Brolin as a young Tommy Lee Jones. Brolin does something with this role that is very fine crafted. He’s able to poke fun at Jones’ dry readings and K’s lack of emotion but he also takes that character and makes it more than a characachure. The character is developed in a way that shares elements with its present day counterpart but modelled in a manner that fits the late-60’s lifestyle and fashions.
Fans of the tv show Mad Men will undoubtably eat this popcorn flick up. Not only are we attracted to the flashy action sequences but the details found in the sets, the props, and the costuming are just as entrancing.
However, Cohen’s humour is not on par with everything else. The beginning exchanges between J and K feel stale; as if both actors feel like they’ve both been here and done that and wish to focus on other things. However, once J is paired up with a younger K, the energy rises and a good chunk of the punchlines out of Brolin’s mouth work. The scene where Brolin and Smith try to collect clues in The Factory by talking to an incognito MIB agent showcases the strongest comedy the film offers as well as great time period detail.
This is one of these times where we see a filmmaker find their calling with 3D technology. If you’ve seen any of Barry Sonnenfeld’s previous work, his peculiar direction towards his cinematographers is something that has a hard time gelling. The framing of each shot feels as if the displayed actor is trying to squeeze out of the screen and sit in the theatre with us.
With this new 3D technology, Sonnenfeld’s odd visuals actually end up fitting in the grand scheme of things. If you look past the moments where you can see the obvious visual effects work around Smith’s body, in these scenes where Smith is travelling through different time periods, you feel like J is going to rip through the movie screen at any moment making the action completely immersive. The same can even be said for the scenes establishing exposition. Everything is always visually gripping.
The addition of 3D has also played nicely towards the alien creations of Rick Baker and the team of make-up artists. Boris is such a slimy persona to begin with so when audiences are subjected to his hidden orifices where creepy crawlies file out, it makes us squirm in good fun.
Men in Black III is the definition of a goofy enjoyable time at the movies. It’s also a solid example of how Sonnenfeld, when he’s given the right opportunity and equipment, can produce positive results. The comedy may hit more flat notes than passing grades but you’ll be too wrapped up with the great action, the sharp visual details, but most of all, the sincerity that was applied to the project.