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Men in Black III

A movie directed by Barry Sonnenfeld

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It's Only a Matter of Time

  • May 26, 2012
Star Rating:

Time travel movies are so difficult to get right. If they’re taken too seriously, the plot tends to get bogged down by confusing and abstract theoretical concepts, which often times fail to fully explain how and why certain things could have happened. If they’re not taken seriously enough, the story can fall victim to the impulsive and preposterous whims of the filmmakers. Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black 3 tells a time travel story that successfully finds a healthy balance between science fiction and fantasy. Even with some gaps in logic – which is understandable given the fact that time is barely understood by scientists, let alone by filmmakers – it operates under a comprehensible and fairly plausible set of rules. All the while, it never loses sight of the fact that it was made solely for entertainment.
It has been fifteen years since the start of the franchise and ten years since the last film was released. Given that stretch of time, it’s only natural that Men in Black 3 would showcase new high-tech gadgets and more elaborate special effects, to say absolutely nothing of the fact that it’s presented in 3D. What’s unexpected is that fewer aliens are featured. But unexpected doesn’t necessarily mean unwelcome; what the film lacks in delightfully bizarre creature effects is made up for with a plot that’s fun, clever, and surprisingly character driven. We learn more about Agents J and K in this one film than we did in the first two combined. The reward is twofold; not only is the depth of character greater than it ever has been, the humor is also more plentiful and more meaningful. It’s always better to laugh with someone we’ve gotten to know, even if only to the smallest degree.

Since the events of Men in Black II, Rip Torn’s character, Agent Zed, has died. If you look at the holographic tablet at his memorial service, you’ll immediately notice that his birth year was 19XX. His successor is the stiffly British Agent O (Emma Thompson). The aging Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) has somehow managed to become even more humorless. Out of a combination of concern and annoyance, his MIB partner of fifteen years, Agent J (Will Smith), urges him to open up. “How did you end up this way?” he asks. “Don’t ask questions you don’t want the answers to,” K replies coldly. As this is being established, we learn that our moon is home to an intergalactic prison; after forty years of being locked away in shackles, a ruthless one-armed alien named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes, intent on taking his revenge against Agent K, the man who arrested him.
When the MIB become aware of Boris’ presence in New York, J discovers that, despite his status and pay grade, there are a number of classified files he’s not privy to, such as K’s confrontation with Boris at Cape Canaveral in July of 1969. One morning, he awakens with a splitting headache and a curious craving for chocolate milk. He goes to K’s apartment; not only is he not there, a woman and several children seem to have moved in. J goes to MIB headquarters, only to discover that the agents have never heard of anyone named K. The exception is O, who tells J that K died over forty years ago. O notices J’s need for chocolate milk and deduces that he has been affected by a rip in the space-time continuum. It seems that Boris has gotten hold of an illegal time travelling device, gone back into the past, and killed Agent K. J must now go back himself, not only to save K’s life but also to save Earth from an invasion that never should have taken place.

And so, armed with a black market time travel device, J jumps off of the Chrysler Building and into the past. It’s now July 15, 1969. Although the rules of time travel dictate that there be no personal contact or sharing of information, J teams up with a twenty-nine-year-old Agent K (Josh Brolin), who’s just as dedicated to his job but is far more agreeable to be around. Clearly, whatever made him to dour hasn’t happened yet. They join forces with an inter-dimensional being known as Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), who has the ability to see every possible future happening simultaneously. Childlike without being reduced to a mentally challenged stereotype, he’s quite possibly the best character of the entire Men in Black franchise.
The plot is actually more complex and engaging than my description is making it seem. There are certain scenes that are best viewed without the aid of my review, most notably when J and young K pay a visit to Andy Warhol at The Factory. Men in Black 3 is a fun and visually spectacular movie, the latter having more to do with art direction, set design, lighting, and CGI than with its use of 3D. However, the real high points of the movie are the scenes featuring Josh Brolin. He captures the vocal inflections and mannerisms of Tommy Lee Jones with astonishing accuracy. Watching him, I thought back to the year 2008 and wondered why he received an Oscar nomination for Milk rather than for W. You cannot convince me any living actor could have better and more thoroughly embodied the spirit of George W. Bush. His talent for mimicry is undervalued, I believe.


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May 28, 2012
Yep. I saw this as a buddy flick that was meant to be fun and I just took foregranted its time travel elements which could never stand up. It had a lot of plot holes but the chemistry between Smith, Jones and Brolin (especially) saved the film for me. Great write up!
June 02, 2012
Some say this film is better than the original. I say the two films aren't comparable. Whereas the first was a comic book fantasy, this new one was much more introspective and emotional.
More Men in Black III reviews
review by . May 26, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Great Fun As a
The original 1997 film “Men in Black” was a hit and was loosely inspired-based on the comic series by Aricel comics (later on owned by Malibu comics). Despite deviations from the comic book series (Agents J and K investigated all paranormal activities that included ghosts, demons and monsters besides extra-terrestrial lifeforms), the original film was clever, funny and definitely took the viewer into this fantastic world where aliens lived among us. The chemistry between Will Smith and …
review by . June 14, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
*** out of ****    "Men in Black" was released in 1997 to positive reactions from both critics and movie-goers alike. It was praised for its innovative premise, inventive creature designs, and a believable chemistry shared between the leads. In 2002, a sequel was released; and neither fans nor critics were impressed. After that little mishap, it was made pretty darn clear that no one really cared whether they continued the franchise from that point on or not. Well, after a ten …
review by . May 30, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
      Playing it safe is not always the resolution to achieve success with your movie. Was playing it safe this time helpful? On one hand it was because the final stage was better set than the previous one. One the other hand it wasn't because they relied too much on Josh Brolin and on the franchise' popularity. It's irritating because I realized that they could have made something more epic if they had given more heart to the project. I'm also satisfied at the …
review by . June 06, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
The original MEN IN BLACK was memorable because it was a quirky sci-fi movie that had just the right balance of comedy and action. MEN IN BLACK 2 followed in that same vein, but the film wasn't as strong and felt more like a retread. MEN IN BLACK 2 was released in 2002 and a decade later (due to script issues, scheduling conflicts, and budget problems), the boys are back in MEN IN BLACK 3 and while the film isn't as funny as the original, it's a far superior film to MEN IN BLACK 2.   …
review by . July 11, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
In 1997 the first Men in Black movie came out.  It was different, it was weird.  It exceeded expectations.  So when Men in Black 2 came out in 2002 it was exciting to see... but they did nothing to expand upon anything.  No new characters, new rules or anything.  And then they backtracked by trying to write Tommy Lee Jones back into the movie which meant that our villain was... stupid.  Men in Black 3 doesn't have to try to be better than the second movie because …
review by . May 23, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
'Men In Black 3' Two Jews On Film Agree It's The Best One Yet (Video)
   By Joan Alperin Schwartz      Okay people...They are back...      Those alien fighting dudes, in their black sport jackets, white shirts, skinny ties, shooting gadgets that can wipe your memory clean, faster than you can say 'The Martians Are Coming'      Not only are they back, after a fifteen year absence, but...Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Will Smith) are better than …
review by . May 24, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
        It has been 15 years since J was recruited by K to join the Men In Black and a decade since the last time we heard from these agents.  Time has not been kind to this franchise, which really should have just stopped after the first movie.  But after such a successful original story, and huge star power from Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones you can't blame the producers for trying to recapture the magic from the original.  That is what Men …
Quick Tip by . September 10, 2012
posted in Movie Hype
Saw this on board the Singapore Airline flight just last week. Not bad entertainment and certainly feels like a trend on the recent moviesl the handover of old cast to the new (ie. Batman, Spiderman, Bourne Legacy, etc...). Except this one goes back in time to the partner in his youth. An end to triology perhaps?!
About the reviewer
Chris Pandolfi ()
Ranked #5
Growing up a shy kid in a quiet suburb of Los Angeles, Chris Pandolfi knows all about the imagination. Pretend games were always the most fun for him, especially on the school playground; he and his … more
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