Admit it. When you saw Men in Black 3 was coming to theaters, you shook your head in derision at Hollywood’s latest piece of evidence that they have zero creativity. I’m sure the first thing you thought was the same thing I thought, “hasn’t it been like ten years since the last one?” Yes, actually, it has been exactly ten years. And considering how perfectly forgettable was MIB2, it’s really felt like fifteen years since we saw Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones battling aliens.
What makes MIB3 succeed, where MIB2 fails, is that it isn’t simply a retread of the original movie. The annoying little pug is removed, with only a couple of well-placed pictures of it left behind. There is no nonsense involving J having issues with other agents. They toss a decent story at us instead of the half-assed nothingness from the last sequel. They replace Zed (Rip Torn) with a new boss, agent O (Emma Thompson). Most importantly, they figured out how to clone Jones by casting Josh Brolin as the young agent K. If you were hesitating on seeing this movie, it’s worth watching just for Brolin’s two-hour long impression of Jones as K. The impression was so perfect, it was as if Jones had done all of the movie and they CGI’d (yes, I just used CGI as a verb) Brolin’s face over Jones’.
The time travel aspect of the movie is the reason for getting this young doppelganger of K. In the present time, an extremely dangerous and pissed off alien called Boris (Jemaine Clement) escapes from a moon prison with the help of his girlfriend, Pussy Cat Dolls front woman, Nicole Scherzinger (just in case you are counting, she is the second female songstress to appear in a blockbuster this summer and she blows Rihanna’s Battleship performance out of the water, pun intended). Angry at K for shooting off his arm and shielding the Earth from his kin forty years earlier, Boris goes back in time to prevent those two things from happening and changes the past and future. Due to some unexplained rules of time travel, J is the only one who remembers the original timeline and goes back to stop Boris. That’s the entirety of the plot and we’ll simply ignore the paradox slapping us all in the face.
Because the plot is so simple and straight forward, the movie relies on the characters as much as the story, as well as some late 1960’s nostalgia, to keep the audience interested. Obviously, Brolin and Smith are the stars of the show, but Clement, Thompson, Alice Eve (as young Agent O), and Michael Stuhlbarg (as the alien called Griffin) fill in the gaps very nicely. I thought both Agent O’s, especially Eve, were almost criminally underused considering there is obviously a romantic connection between her and K in the past. This may actually be the one big plot hole in the film since the first movie’s ending centered around K never forgetting his wife, but we’ll go along with it because, well, it’s been fifteen years. There’s no explanation for this contradiction and the film simply drops that storyline altogether before the film is finished. It kind of felt as if there was some important footage cut from the film that would have shed some light, but it could also be that I really just wanted to see and hear (Australian accent….hghguuhghghughg) more of Alice Eve.
The most intriguing character, though, is Griffin – an alien who can see all possible futures and is constantly saying things like “oh no, we’re in this timeline” or “oh, this is a good one.” Griffin is found in the past and serves as a guide to J and K. What makes him such an interesting character is that he’s so different from what we usually see in alien movies. Plus, he’s so innocent and fatalistic that the audience can’t help but like him. Stuhlbarg definitely steals a little of the spotlight from Smith, but not so much as to diminish the importance of J. This is probably good since (and I’m only guessing here) Smith has an ego that had to be stroked a little (read: enough to make a cat bald) to convince him to reprise his role.
The biggest surprise about this movie is that it doesn’t suck like most movies with a 3 in their titles. The special effects and music are done just like the original, so it feels like reconnecting with an old friend. Brolin and Smith have a fantastic chemistry, and like I said, during Brolin’s scenes you will actually believe you are watching a young Tommy Lee Jones. Like the Neuralizer from the movie, this film will make you forget there was ever a sequel or even how silly it was that the first movie ended with K being neuralized. I know I did.
Rating: Ask for zero dollars back, since the statute of limitations has run out on MIB2.