Tuesday, June 12, 2012
Men in Black III
All the way up to the movie's release, I was very skeptical about Men in Black III. It just didn't seem to have much going for it. The second movie was just sooooooo bad. Director Barry Sonnenfeld hadn't released any movies of note since the first Men in Black, though in his defense, he's done some great work on television in the intervening years. I can't even think of the last Will Smith movie that I bothered to see (I think it was Hitch, maybe? Ugh.). It was widely reported that they had to shut down production weeks into the shoot to rework the second and third acts of the script, not usually a good sign.
Well, my wife and I happened to be driving through Roswell, New Mexico the week Men in Black III came out, so despite our reservations, we just couldn't resist the delicious symmetry of it all. And, I am shocked to say, despite all prior indications, the movie works.
The story follows J (Will Smith) on a journey to 1969 to prevent a vengeful time traveling alien biker from assassinating a young K (2012: Tommy Lee Jones, 1969: Josh Brolin), and thus opening Earth's defenses for his race to invade the planet. The story is fast paced, light and breezy, thankfully ignoring the trend to make everything darker these days. Sonnenfeld and his screenwriters did good work reducing the time travel aspects to the most simple level possible, and the movie doesn't become a mess of paradoxes and plot holes (though I'm sure you'll find some if you look).
The real joy of Men in Black III is the cast. Surprisingly, Will Smith, who cemented his superstardom with the first movie, is actually the weak link. He's fine and likeable, but compared to everyone else, who were all really performing, Smith just coasts and does his thing.
Sadly, Tommy Lee Jones' role is pretty much an extended cameo, but Josh Brolin's impersonation is so uncanny that you never seem to miss him. You just think of Jones as K and Brolin as the same man at a younger age. Brolin walks away with much of the movie, I think.
Jemaine Clement, of Flight of the Conchords fame, transforms himself completely as Boris the Animal, the one-armed biker alien with a scorpion monster thing that lives in the palm of his hand. He does great work, and is every bit as scenery-chewing and hilarious as Vincent D'Onofrio was as "Edgar" in the first movie. I was surprised Clement was able to play menacing so well, because when you see him in real life, he's anything but.
Finally, my favorite character in the movie was Griffin, played by Michael Stuhlbarg. An alien refugee out of sync with time, able to see all pasts, presents, and possible futures at once. He's a very endearing and quirky character, and Stuhlbarg brings a surprising amount of depth, and even sadness, to him.
I was genuinely surprised by how much I enjoyed Men in Black III. It's not perfect, but neither is the first one. I'd probably say they're both at around the same level, both light and funny summer afternoon entertainment. It's nice to see the series revitalized and enjoyable again. Also, getting to see it in Roswell, where all of this alien mythology began for us, really made it into a memorable experience.