MEN IN BLACK 3 Review

I am a huge fan of the first Men In Black film. Like, I would rank it up there in my top 10 favorites of all time. This, as you might suspect led me to really dislike the sorry excuse for a sequel that was released, count em, 10 years ago. In their absence from the cineplex alot of things have changed, but this might be why the third installation in the series feels so refreshing. Refreshing in the sense that it is reminiscent of the original film while throwing in a nice twist for good measure. There is nothing unconventional about this latest and some would say unnecessary sequel, but it lives up to every standard that was being held for it. All of the original stars are back here plus one and director Barry Sonnenfeld has of course returned as this is really his only bread and butter as a filmmaker. While I and everyone had good reason to be cautious before walking into the film and even still as the opening scene played. It began to come back to me, the excitement to see these characters go on another adventure was plagued by the blandness of the script and non existent enthusiasm of the cast. There was no spice to the routine, it was standard and I began to fear the worst: a repeat of the sequel. Fortunately something magical happens about a half hour into the film. All of the expository junk that began to clog our brains and all of the standard odd couple charm that seemed to be wearing thin between Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith was wiped away as if by a neuraliyzer and we were rendered completely charmed once again by the world in which the Men in Black exist. This is mainly due to the wonderful performance of Josh Brolin and his fine portrayal of a young Jones that re-infuses the odd couple relationship with the same engaging chemistry that made the first one such a stand-out.

Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Will Smith)
prepare to neuralyze a confused crowd.
While a big part of the problem with movie number two was that of the story, the same cannot be said for Men In Black 3. The second entry in this series was seemingly a rehash of the first with less interesting characters. The bad guy that was Vincent D'Onofrio's Edgar is a classic in my mind and while I can only remember the baddie from the second one because Smith featured her name in his song for the sequel "Black Suits Comin", (is anyone else mad he passed the task to Pitbull for this one rather than do it himself?) it's Serleena by the way. I was fearing the worst (again) when I saw the first stills of Jemaine Clement as the villain Boris the Animal. He looked rather cheesy and seemed all but standard. Expetations weren't raised after his opening scene where he enjoys the luxury of a big special effects sequence designed to provoke a nice use of 3D. In the end, he ends up not playing as crucial a part in the piece of the story that the film documents and instead provides a funny and self aware, ridiculous baddie in the vein of Edgar. After escaping from his prison on the moon Boris makes his way to earth and travels back in time to kill K (Jones) before he can again shoot off his arm, throw him in prison, and stop Boris' entire race from invading the earth. Agent J (Smith) is still trying to crack the present day K's shell after their 14-year partnership. Smith is in fine, smooth form here after taking a 4-year break from movies and is seemingly able to pick up right where he left off. When Boris goes back in time and the effects start to show in present time J experiences a world where K died 40 years before. Thus, he has to travel back in time to save his partner and you can probably guess where things might go from here.

A young agent K (Josh Brolin) has some serious affection
for agent O (Alice Eve). 
This is actually where we run into the surprise of MIB3 because for as sci-fi standard as it seems to be there is real heart here, something the second installment was really lacking in. The film has some real moments of meaning whether they be in the form of J realizing what shapes someone as a person or the value of life and the circumstances that lead to everything that occurs in life as pointed out by extra terrestrial Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg of A Serious Man). It should be noted that while Brolin gives a great performance and doesn't only imitate the vocal inflections of Jones. He is able to create a full fledged character and inhabits this man who we realize we have never really known or understood. Brolin lends the film a weight that it would not otherwise have and in doing so actually creates a chemistry that is more fun to watch than that of Smith and Jones. While this is obviously the draw of the film, and it does serve as the main highlight, what Stuhlbarg brings to the picture is even more of that credibility and poignancy. His ability, as an alien, is to see all possible scenarios in the immediate future. He is within every moment all the time. With his quick delivery and heartfelt tone he steals nearly every scene he is in. He plays Griffin with a Robin Williams kind of sensitivity and it makes all of this talk about philosophy and life on other planets and in other galaxies feel somewhat more earned. Not as jokey as we might expect, but in many ways, more profound. That may sound silly as this is essentially a crowd-pleasing summer movie, but for all the script problems this was rumored to have they seem to have conquered these nicely (although a love story between K and the new head of MIB, Agent O played by Emma Thompson in 2012 and Alice Eve in 1969, feels tacked on) and delivered a blockbuster worth thinking about.

Agents J and K are joined by Grifin (Michael Stuhlbarg) in
their quest to save the earth.
And so, it is with a sigh of relief that MIB3 turned out to be much better than expected and just as good as it should have been. While director Sonnenfeld and crew likely hope we have all forgotten about MIB2 the only real qualm I have with the latest movie is that it doesn't really compute with the story line of the first one. Usually, in a case like this, I would go back and watch the previous films before seeing the latest in theaters but that didn't end up being the case. I have seen the first one countless times and could probably quote every line and like I said before, I too would rather forget the first sequel even existed. I can accept most of what  goes on here but I distinctly remember Agent K longing to get back to a normal life in the first one because of the girl that got away. I know that he goes back to her and is then somehow brought back into the agency in part two, but that storyline was a distant memory here. It still stands the test of logic I guess as it clearly states K met O after he was part of the agency, but still, I like my continuity. What does it really matter though when it has been fifteen years since the original Men In Black came out? Most movie goers won't remember or won't care enough that not every single aspect lines up or makes sense. What does matter though is that the current experience they receive is well worth their time and their investment in these characters does pay off. As a die hard MIB fan I didn't necessarily love the film as I did the first, but it was very good when I had no doubt that it might be very bad.