Men in Black 3: The Great MiB Film That Could Have Been

Posted: June 29, 2012 by J. Marcus in Film, Film Review, Science Fiction
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This week I had some time to kill, so I did what anyone with nothing better to do WOULD do.  I went and saw Men in Black 3.  The film reunites Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as Agents J and K (respectively) who are in the 14th year of their partnership.  This movie’s twist… TIME TRAVEL.

Now I’d usually be obliged to say “spoiler alert” right around now, but the simple fact of the matter is… I tend to feel that pretty much anyone who was going to go see this movie already has.  If you haven’t, please stop reading now so that I don’t dash whatever expectations you may have left of this film.

Coming out of the theater, two things struck me immediately about this film: 1) I kinda liked it and 2) I CERTAINLY liked it more than I liked MiB2.

The biggest crime, in my opinion, that this movie commits is that it should have taken place 12 years ago (or should have at least been the story they told in MiB2.)  MiB3 seeks to tell you the secret origins of J & K’s relationship as well as just how and why K is such a grumpy guy in the first place.  The answers to these mysteries are incredibly sweet, but lose MOST of their impact because the story had to take place 14 years into their relationship.  It also calls into question why K recruited J in the first place.  Like most heroes whose origins are too-retconned, a lot of the nobility of the character is watered down.  In this case, while J did chase down a cephlapoid on foot and that DID count for something… but would K have really fought as hard for him had they not had this secret history?

The villain of the piece, Boris the Animal, is imminently forgettable.  While terrifying, his motivations are actually a maguffin.  He’s got a grudge against K and travels back in time to kill him at their last encounter.  There are tons of questions that this raises, but again, if you treat the whole thing as a maguffin, you’ll be a lot happier.  Also, remember that time travel stories are rarely done to everyone’s satisfaction.  If you can keep yourself from thinking about it too much, you should be fine with the story as presented here.

Agent O, as played by Alice Eve and Emma Thompson was a fine addition to the cast, but was given inexplicable sexual tension with Josh Brolin/Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K.  Why do I say it’s inexplicable?  Because in the first film, K is pining for the lost love of his life who he had to ditch to help start Men In Black.  In the second film, we find they got divorced because he was still obsessed with things beyond his scope despite having all his extraterrestrial knowledge neuralized out of him at the end of the first film.

So to have this other relationship pop out, seemingly, out of nowhere seems a little too convenient for story purposes.

One thing that most people seem to agree on (myself included) is Josh Brolin’s uncanny knack for channeling a younger Tommy Lee Jones almost effortlessly.  Watching Brolin work is amazing and allows you very easily to imagine that you are just seeing a younger version of Agent K.

Rick Baker’s effects work was, once again, wonderful to watch.  Baker took an uncanny extra step of designing period aliens for the 1960’s scenes — when Agent J walks into the 1960’s MiB headquarters, he is surrounded by aliens that looked like they jumped right out of the B movies of the 50’s and 60’s.  In fact, in one scene you get to briefly glimpse Baker’s take on the Metaluna Mutant from the film This Island Earth.

This should be the last MiB film, or at least the last one with this cast.  While Tommy Lee Jones threw himself into this role with as much gusto as Agent K will afford him, he does look a little tired and ready to retire from more active/action roles like this one.  Will Smith has grown tremendously as an actor and has started to show his years a little bit.  As such, he’s not really suited for rookie patrol in this kind of film anymore either.

While this film wasn’t anywhere near my ‘top 20 movies of all time’, it was an enjoyable enough way to spend an afternoon.  I’m hoping that wasn’t simply because my expectations had been so incredibly lowered by everyone else’s review though.

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