Tuesday, 29 May 2012



This is a curious beast: as curious a beast as some of the Rick Baker-designed alien thingies in this surprisingly belated threequel (and really, were that many of us crying out for a third instalment anyway after ten whole years?). On the one hand it wants to reconnect with the Smith-Jones double act, but on the other the plot dispenses with Tommy Lee Jones for most of the running time and instead has Josh Brolin giving a Jones impersonation, but really makes you long for the real guy. And on the third hand (it's a Men In Black movie, it can have as many hands as it wants) the real guy doesn't seem to be particularly interested in being there; he's much older (Will Smith on the other hand doesn't look much different) and even by Jones' own grumpy standards he's more short-tempered and abrasive than usual, making you actually long for the Jones of ten or more years ago. It's trying to replicate the double-act magic by replacing half the team and, inevitably, doesn't work.

Not that Men In Black 3 is a disaster: there's still the set-pieces and spectacle, the retro production design and some good honest laughs. Evil Boglodite super-criminal Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes from the maximum security Lunar Penitentiary and vows revenge on Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) by going back to July 1969 and killing him on the day of the Armstrong-Aldrin moonshot in Apollo 11. Yet, thanks to what can now only be described as "wibbly wobbly timey wimey stuff", Agent J (Will Smith) still remembers him in 2012, so he follows Boris back to the past in order to save K and, more importantly, to ensure the creation of the Arcnet field that protects Earth from alien attack, including the sudden invasion by Boris and his Boglodite war fleet. But back in 1969 he meets up with the then young Agent K (Josh Brolin "doing" a Tommy Lee Jones impression)....

The best of the gags come with the revelation that Andy Warhol was one of the Men In Black keeping tabs on the aliens in The Factory (and begging Agent K to arrange his faked death because he can't bear to listen to any more sitar music). But the rest of it is only moderately amusing (to be honest, I only laughed out loud twice in the whole film and the Warhol bit was one of them), partly due to the loss of the J/K dynamic but probably more due to the fact that, in director Barry Sonnenfeld's own words, "we knew starting the movie that we didn't have a finished second or third act". Incredibly, they hadn't finished writing the script when they began shooting.

Men In Black 3 is yet another conversion into faked 3D, but at least Columbia are also releasing the 2D version (which is how it was shot and how I saw it). And yet again, there's little on view that makes you think you'd like the 3D effects; indeed, while watching it I completely forgot there was a 3D option in a neighbouring screen. That's how much the film suffered by being shown flat. Why did they bother? Men In Black 3 is okay: it's good entertainment although not massively funny, and there's a decent climax as J, K and Boris face off on the launch tower as Apollo 11 is about to blast off. And it's nice to see Emma Thompson as the new head of the MIBs. But there's not enough Tommy Lee Jones and when he is there he's not as much grouchy fun as he was. Overall it's a mixed bag: it's not terrible, there is fun to be had, but enough now.


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