Film Review: “Men in Black 3”

by Gordon Elgart on May 25, 2012

Will Smith in MEN IN BLACK 3

starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson

written by: Etan Cohen

directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld

MPAA: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content

In a world full of unnecessary sequels, Men in Black 3 might stand as one of the most unnecessary in history. The second movie is nobody’s favorite, and it’s been ten years since we last saw the adventures of Agents J and K as played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. If only the filmmakers themselves didn’t seem to consider this movie so unnecessary, it might have been better. While there are several decent moments, it mostly feels like a cheap, cobbled-together mess of a movie.

The basic plot, and many of the surprises, are ruined in the trailer; but to sum up, you should know that Will Smith’s Agent J needs to travel back in time to 1969 to work with Agent K in the past. 1969 Agent K isn’t played by a digitally altered Tommy Lee Jones, thank god. Instead, in easily the best performance in the movie, he’s played by Josh Brolin. He absolutely nails it. Were this a better movie, we’d be talking Oscar worthiness. He does a better Tommy Lee Jones than Tommy Lee Jones does in this movie.

Now, I saw this film in 3D, and if you’re considering seeing it that way, please don’t. Right from the beginning, it’s awful. The film starts with a moon prison escape by extra-dangerous criminal Boris the Animal, hellbent on revenge against Agent K for a reason we’re soon to find out. At the end of this first scene, there’s a shot where Boris is on the moon, standing in front of this prison, and the 3D post-conversion makes this one of the worst looking shots I’ve ever seen in a major studio movie.  That’s a continuing theme. Every time there’s a scene that’s aggressively 3D, it looks horrible. And because 3D projections are darker in general, the film looks drab and poorly shot. Avoid the 3D projection at all costs.

This is supposed to be an intricately plotted movie where we learn secrets about the characters, but there are big questions unanswered (“What happened to you, K?”) while other big questions are answered without having been asked. The actors are all game, and even funny at times, especially Emma Thompson as Agent O and Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin, a character who can see all the infinite timelines that can be created by time traveling. But there are both expository and payoff scenes missing, so the whole thing is unsatisfying.

In an odd twist, character ages are established for the Men in Black, and it’s a bit surprising. We find out that Agent J is 48 or so (Will Smith is 44). Agent K is 72 (Tommy Lee Jones is 66). Agent O is about 65 (Emma Thompson is 52). That makes this one of the first movies in Hollywood history where every major role is played by someone younger than the character. That’s either progress, or they thought their audience would be too lazy to do the math. Probably the second one, because there’s a dogged laziness running through this movie.

You’ll often hear people defend lousy movies by saying “Oh, it’s just a popcorn movie.” And I promise that will happen this weekend when MIB3 is discussed, because it’s the nicest way to admit when a movie is just bad.

Men in Black 3 opens nationwide today.

Gordon Elgart

A music nerd who probably uses that term too much. I have a deep love for bombastic, quirky and dynamic music.

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