Men In Black 3

Agent K: "There are things out there you don't need to know about."
Agent J: "That's not the lie you told me when you recruited me."

I left the theater with a smile. But it turned quickly into a frown as I pondered what was wrong with this movie. I spent the entire way home coming up with plot holes, inconsistencies, and paradoxes. Although I don't think it matters, because all of the Men In Black movies have had giant plot holes and inconsistencies.

In this third installment of the series, they used a time travel gimmick to bring out some new sight gags (including a couple of uncomfortably topical civil rights jokes), replace Tommy Lee Jones with a different actor for a majority of the movie, and use one of the most important events of the last century as a set piece. Using the late sixties as a time travel destination is fine, and it could've had some really interesting implications, especially with an African American lead. But they skirted around that for some comedy that didn't work, which ultimately made the entire effort just feel like lazy storytelling.

Will Smith turned in his standard likeable performance, but for some reason the character's flaws stood out more than usual this time. I don't think I can excuse how idiotic his character is when he's stumbling over answers and only succeeding because of dogged determination. Sure, he might work well as an agent physically, but he hardly has the brains for the job. It irked me because there were some extremely simple research and investigation steps that he didn't even attempt throughout the course of the film. He should be in the same league with the likes of Patrick Jane, Luther, Veronica Mars, or maybe even Sherlock Holmes; they all could've solved the villain's plot in a couple of minutes. Maybe it's just that I couldn't buy someone with that much responsibility using sheer luck to protect the planet.

I did love Josh Brolin's imitation of Tommy Lee Jones as a young Agent K. He managed to combine the dry delivery that is the core of the character while also injecting some heart. There was also a new character introduced named Griffin (who is described as a 5th dimensional being) that was just delightful. He was a bit random, lighthearted and quirky, and he kinda stole the show in the second act. He was also a much nicer addition to the cast of loveable background aliens than the pug or the worm aliens. I also liked the villain. He was physically powerful and intimidating, as well as pretty unique. But like everything else in this movie, he was underutilized, underdeveloped, and easily forgotten.

The visual effects were slick and polished. The CGI creatures managed to look real, which was impressive. But I think they went a little too much into the look of things, and forgot that story is the most important thing. On my way home I thought of about twenty solutions to the narrative problems they could've used instead of the ones they did. Heck, they could've just added five minutes to the end of the film and solved two of the most glaring issues. I guess that's one of the problems with writing time-travel stories. They seem easy and fun, but they can just as easily fall into a quagmire of contradictions and paradoxes that create a situation that's impossible to resolve neatly. Unfortunately, Men In Black 3 didn't succeed in solving that story dilemma.

Bits:

They covered the absence of Agent Z (Rip Torn) by replacing his character with Agent O (Emma Thompson), who had almost no screen time at all.

The worm aliens came back for a cameo, and there was a large picture of the Pug in Agent J's apartment.

The giant world's fair globe that was a featured set piece in the first film was shown for a few seconds as they sped by it in a chase scene.

Boris the Animal, the main villain, had two looks. One of them looked like a modern biker, the other looked like a demonic reject from Easy Rider.

The 1960's versions of the neuralyzers were over-sized, clunky, and gave the impression that were gonna give some kind of strange radiation poisoning. I thought that was a fun detail. Also the lack of the familiar gadgets was one of the few good plot contrivances.

It might sound strange, but I really did like MIB III. Except maybe I liked it for what it was trying to be, instead of what is was. There were a few too many narrative flaws and loose ends for it to be considered a great movie, or even a good movie. Of course, none of the MIB movies were really that great, but at least they've all been fun. MIB III was serviceable, neither topping the second outing, nor falling short of expectations. But at this point I don't think that's enough.

2 out of 4 stupid time travel devices that force you to jump off of skyscrapers.

J.D. Balthazar is a confirmed nerd who loves most things sci-fi or fantasy-related.

5 comments:

ChrisB said...

Great review, J.D. I'm not usually a fan of sequels and it sounds as though this one falls into a lot of those traps. I'll wait for the DVD -- as I do most of the time anyway. :-)

Matthew L said...

Hmmm...I just came from watching MIBIII a second time, first time was on Friday. I had the opposite reaction, I really enjoyed it as did my friends.

Were there plot holes and such, sure. Could J have handled things better than he did, sure. But I didn't really see that as the point of these movies.

For me MIB is about J and K, their banter and their comradarie. I still enjoy the first one the most, but this sequel was better than the second one, IMO.

Juliette said...

Brother really enjoyed this, more than we expected to. I think a few times we were the only people laughing so maybe it just appealed to our sense of humour!

Juliette said...

That should say Brother and I. I'm really tired!

J.D. Balthazar said...

I just wanted to clarify, I did actually enjoy this movie a lot. I just felt they didn't really do anything super special or even improve much on the last one. Still it was a lot of fun.