Movie Review: Men In Black III

Mike Finkelstein is part of a secret government organization that monitors extra-terrestrial life on planet Earth. He’s saved you all from countless alien attacks, invasions, and disturbances, and none of you will ever know. On that note, please look at the eye on the end of this device. *FLASH!* Mike Finkelstein is a film critic. Here is his review of “Men in Black III”.

Mike Finkelstein is part of a secret government organization that monitors extra-terrestrial life on planet Earth.  He’s saved you all from countless alien attacks, invasions, and disturbances, and none of you will ever know.  On that note, please look at the eye on the end of this device.  *FLASH!*  Mike Finkelstein is a film critic.  Here is his review of “Men in Black III”.

PLOT: When Boris The Terrible (Jemaine Clement) escapes his Moon prison and travels back in time to kill Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), it is up to Agent J (Will Smith) to save his partner’s life.  The only way to do that: travel back to 1969 and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to stop a massive invasion four decades in the making.

Check out the trailer:

MIKE’S REVIEW: When Columbia Pictures first announced that MEN IN BLACK III was in development, the entire movie-going public let out a collective “Why?”  It’s been ten years since MEN IN BLACK II stunk up theaters and blew up DVD players around the world, and to bring us an unwanted sequel after all that just reeked of desperation.  Yet somehow, despite all the odds (fan pushback, unnecessary 3D conversion, an unfinished script, etc), MEN IN BLACK III has given us a return to form for the franchise that we so desperately wanted, and did NOT expect to see.

This time around, Agent J and Agent K are facing Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), the last known survivor of a vicious alien race bent on destroying entire planets.  When Boris breaks out of his prison on the moon, he immediately travels back to 1969 to kill the man that put him there—Agent K.  Boris succeeds, and J, being the only one that remembers his partner, is forced to travel back to 1969 to help a younger K survive to save the day, both in the past and the present.

I walked into the theater ready to hate what I would be watching. I was terrified that we would be reliving MIB II, which to me was a mindless 88 minute blob with no purpose.  However, from the first pre-credits scene, it was apparent that Sonnenfeld and Co was back on the right track.  While the comedy was there, we were in darker territory, which meant no more overbearing storylines with Frank the Pug (although we had a nice laugh at his expense) or those damn bugs (MIB’s Jar Jar Binks).  Boris the Animal was ruthless, evil and most importantly, a real threat (a la Edgar in Part I), something made even more incredible by the fact that he’s played by Flight of the Conchords member Jermaine Clement, who is usually a subtle, sarcastic comedian.  Clement brought a real menace this time around…and I loved every minute he hit the screen.

With all that, the real winning point in this entry was definitely the younger Agent K.   Granted, it was a little strange to see Tommy Lee Jones for what can be thought of as a glorified cameo, especially since he is what we’ve come to know as the other half of the MIB.  But let’s be honest…we’ve seen K.  We know he’s irritable and crabby.  To finally get a glimpse of the character as a young man with a sense of humor, hormones and a personality was like a breath of fresh air, and a spot on impression by Josh Brolin, who steals the show, definitely doesn’t hurt the matter.

Wrapping all that up in a nice little bow is the element of time travel.  Granted, I’m a sucker for anything time travel related, but Etan Cohen created a nice little balance of cultural and technology jokes (“It wasn’t the best time for your people”/the biggest neuralyzer you’ll ever see), nostalgia (the space shuttle launch), and history (Andy Warhol).  Add on an absolutely adorable Michael Stuhlbarg as a loveable alien who could see different timelines, and we end the last half hour with a few sweet, sentimental notes that’ll make you smile.

Now, I’ve been praising MIB III so far, but that doesn’t mean it’s a perfect movie by any means.  Both Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have their eh moments, with Smith still hamming it up at times like he’s a rookie—one of my biggest peeves from II—and Jones being just plain mean.   (You’d think that after 15 years, the two would possibly warm up to one another, no?)  Also, the exposition at times is so thick, you could taste it, and we are left with some questions that seemed to be pretty important to the story…until they disappear entirely.  But, hey, in comparison to its predecessor’s issues, these only read as minor scratches that can be overlooked.

I went into MEN IN BLACK III fearing the worst, and I left the theater very surprised.  With a nice mix of darkness, comedy, and nostalgia, MEN IN BLACK III has somehow redeemed a series that was left in the dust more than a decade ago.  And while the film is more of a standalone entry rather than a summation of a trilogy or a lead-in to a part four, if this were the end, Sonnenfeld and crew undeniably left us on a high, gratifying note.  And if Columbia does decide to throw us a part four, all I can say is “Let’s see what you got, fellas…”.    

GRADE: B+

Mike’s LIKES:

1) JOSH BROLIN: You have to give the man credit…he not only acts like the character, but does a perfect impression of Tommy Lee Jones.  Brolin added the much needed boost to this series, and if it were up to me, I’d make an entry where young K meets old K.  Now THAT’D be cool!

2) TIME TRAVEL: I’m a sucker for any time travel element.  It could have failed miserably, but I really enjoyed how they used the element of the time jump, and Sonnonfeld’s take on 1969.

3) JEMAINE CLEMENT: To go from the hiphopopopotamus to this blew me away.  Clement was evil, menacing, and a great villain, comparable to Edgar in the original MIB.   I didn’t know he was capable of such a thing!

4) SENTIMENTAL: During the last half hour, our two heroes are led into pretty sentimental territory.  It was refreshing, uplifting, and will leave a smile on your face.

5) MICHAEL STUHLBERG: Stuhlberg is absolutely adorable as the innocent alien who could see different timelines. He has most of the laughs and inspiring moments, and to go from “Boardwalk Empire” to A SERIOUS MAN to this earns a lot of respect from me.

Mike’s DISLIKES:

1) MIB II PACING IN THE MIDDLE: There was a certain point where the film just seemed like it would be an elongated chase, and I had bad flashbacks to MIB II.  Granted, it didn’t last too long, and the rest of the movie was ten times better than part two could ever be, but even that little reminder of it was more than enough to jar me.

2) TOMMY LEE JONES IS JUST MEAN: K is mean, but I don’t remember him being this mean.  Seriously, it was just cruel.  I get that they were trying to emphasize how bad K is in his old age, but tone it down a little!  Let us like him at least a little bit!

EXTRA FACTS:

1) Despite J traveling 43 years into the past, Josh Brolin is only 21 years and 5 months younger than Tommy Lee Jones.

2) The zip line escape system shown at the Apollo launch pad really did exist, installed for the Apollo program for any pre-launch emergency scenarios.

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