After watching Men In Black III, I have no problem pretending that Men In Black II ever existed. When that sequel came out in 2002, nothing really worked in its favor — not the lame villains (we’ve never been more tired of Lara Flynn Boyle), not the dialed-in performances, not the lame story, and definitely not the weak Michael Jackson joke. But here, ten years later, we have a threequel that’s more fleshed out, maybe not so big on laughs, but definitely filled with chuckles and plenty of nifty special effects. Plus, it actually serves a purpose. It should’ve been called “Men In Black II: For Serious This Time."
In the film, Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) are still helping keep aliens on Earth from going bonkers, with some help from new agency leader O (Emma Thompson). K’s getting bitter, though, especially upon learning about Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), a vicious alien criminal who’s managed to break out of a cyber prison, swearing revenge on the older MIB. When K goes disappearing out of nowhere and an invasion of Boris’ peers on Earth sets in, J finds himself in a peculiar situation where he has to travel back in time to 1969, via a time jump, to find out what went wrong — and fix it before time literally runs out.
When he arrives in 1969, things couldn’t be trippier. He finds the MIB lab to have changed almost completely, with a neuralizer that resembles a cancer treatment chamber, complete with disco lights. He also finds a young agent K (Josh Brolin) unaware of what’s happening, but interested to team up with Agent J. Meanwhile, Boris has his own agenda, both as a young biker and as the older freak that transported from the future.
Where Men In Black II slogged through its sorry excuse of a story, Men In Black III glides right along, thanks to not only some solid chemistry between the actors, but plenty of fun moments, like when we’re first introduced to Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), a friendly alien who looks a little too much into his own future. We also learn that Andy Warhol (Bill Hader, in a hilarious bit) isn’t an alien at all, but rather an MIB guy who’s getting a little fed up with his image.
There are times when things don’t mesh, like how the 3D isn’t used often enough to justify forking over the extra $5 (despite a spectacular free fall from a building and a humorous fight involving a large fish) and how time jump provider Jeffrey Price (Michael Chernus) isn’t on screen often enough. You’d think a nerd of his caliber would be a little more useful.
But a lot does work in the film’s favor. Sonnenfeld directs with a steady hand, not letting action sequences get out of control while also keeping a good perspective on characters. He also gets great support from his characters. Smtih and Jones, while a little older than the last go-around, continue to have great chemistry, and Thompson provides plenty of depth — all while keeping a straight face. Clement makes a fun little villain, even if he overdoes it a little, and Stuhlbarg is delightful as an unlikely ally.
Still, if anyone steals this show, it’s Josh Brolin as the younger K. What he does in nailing down his best Jones impersonation is really sensational to watch, and he picks right up where the older Jones leaves off with Smith. It’s fun seeing him work, and it's definitely a change of pace from his other serious roles, like True Grit and No Country For Old Men (also with Jones).
And the effects are great, from the little alien effects created by Rick Baker (watch out for old and new favorites alike) to a sweet-looking recreation of the Cape Canaveral shuttle launch. Again, though, it would’ve been great to see more advantage taken with the 3D format.
Men In Black III isn’t the best threequel we’ve seen, but it’s a huge improvement over the last film, and it puts the series in a respectable realm again. Whether we’ll see a fourth film is probably a lot to ask for, but it’s nice to have a sequel that at least makes a difference. And doesn’t have any Lara Flynn Boyle. Whew.