Men in Black 3 - Review

Back in 1997, the original "Men in Black" was quite a very unique movie and one of the finer examples of a pure fun summer blockbuster. Though actually based on a widely unknown short comic book series (whose publisher later got bought by Marvel), the first "Men in Black" movie felt very original and furthermore established Will Smith as one of THE blockbuster-actors out there (largely due to the fact that this guy is just incredibly charismatic).
Despite its huge success, MIB was one of those awesome movies that wouldn't necessarily ask for any more sequels. It was a great standalone experience.
But then MIB2 came along, which basically recycled too much of the original and added only microscopically little aside from a new villain. Logically, the last thing people really wanted was a MIB3. But well, following Hollywood's need to transform every movie into a trilogy, there comes MIB3.
Featuring a time travel plot and Josh Brolin as a new additional lead, things actually don't look as grim as expected for this installment. So how does it hold up?

The plot:
An alien criminal kills the young Agent K in 1969, altering the timeline, changing the Agency and placing the Earth in danger. Veteran Agent J (Will Smith) must travel back in time to 1969 to before the murder and work with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save him, the Agency, the Earth and humanity itself. (source: IMDb)

Though mainly dealing with a new time-travel plot, there are quite some plot elements that MIB3 recycles from its predecessor MIB2. Just like in MIB2, there is AGAIN some backstory of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) that he wants to keep secret from Agent J (Will Smith), leading to J wanting to solve the mystery. One can tell that this is very much just like in MIB2 with Agent K's alien princess backstory.
With that said, MIB3 starts up very unpromising and slow. It's all "been there, done that" territory.

It explains quite well why the first MIB movie from 1997 worked so well: Everything was new and exciting. Watching Will Smith getting used to the MIB itself was incredibly fun. Now that Smith is already established as a member of the MIB, it takes a good amount of comedic fuel out of the movie. Making it hard for the sequels to come up with a good story that improves upon what we already know.

However, though MIB3 starts very slowly and unimpressively, it gains much momentum when the time travel plot kicks in.
The time travel aspects about MIB3 are exactly the kind of new ideas that the MIB sequels needed. The changes in time make for many comedic situations. First of all, the changes that Agent K's disappearance caused in the present, that practically make it an alternate universe, and second, Agent J's time travel to save young Agent K.
Overall, the time travel plot actually works. It proves that MIB3 is a big improvement over MIB2, both in story and comedy.
The plot not only feels like an MIB movie but also a bit like "Back to the Future". Jokes are not entirely focused around aliens this time but also on time-related issues, like ethnic separation in the 60's, etc..

The biggest surprise for me was the fact that MIB3's plot features a very emotional facette and a rushed but also very moving ending (although some might say that that certain ending cam out of nowhere) on a level that's new to the franchise.

Regarding the acting, Will Smith expectedly does very good again. He just fits the role of Agent J like a glove (probably because the entire character has been made around the concept that Will Smith would play him). Like in every Will Smith blockbuster, he again makes for a great and ridiculously sympathetic protagonist. Although it was still funnier when he was new to all the MIB stuff in MIB1.

Josh Brolin does a wonderful job as young Agent K. It's a 100% match. Both with looks and acting. For me this change was the main reason why MIB3 worked (next to the time travel). Yet i'd still say that Tommy Lee as the old Agent K was way grumpier and therefore a better match as a partner for Agent J (because it was funnier that way).

MIB3's new villain called "Boris the animal" lacks quite a bit of character. He is probably at the same level of blandness like Serleena from MIB2. Mostly that's the result of his little screen presence and weak dialogue. Aside from shouting a lot and shooting some kind of arrow thingy, he is basically a joke. It's funny how the dumbest villain of the entire trilogy, the roach alien from MIB1, managed to be both funnier and more threatening than all the criminal "masterminds" of the sequels.

Predictably, Tommy Lee Jones has only very little screentime, due to the fact that his role is impersonated by Josh Brolin for 90% of the movie. But seeing Tommy Lee only  for about the first 15 min of the movie is pretty lame.

Action- and effectswise, MIB3 turns out to be extremely watered down compared to the previous flicks. While that doesn't mean that there isn't a whole bunch of imaginative and well executed alien designs to gaze at, the movie focuses much more on dialogue and the comedy than on action/effects.
Looking back at it, i can only recall about 3 action scenes from the entire movie, which are "okay" but far far away from spectacular.

All in all, MIB 3 is neither exactly a big rescue for the franchise nor is it a necessary sequel. While being far not as good as the awesome first part from 1997, it is a solid sci-fi comedy with Will Smith in expectedly great shape, better jokes (compared to MIB2), a great performance by Josh Brolin, and an interesting new time-travel plot. It makes MIB3 a better-than-expected and competent sequel, that makes for a good time but nothing more. It won't gain the franchise any new fans and i am still convinced that the MIB series is pretty much sucked out and should definitely end now. Out of all the three movies, people are still going to remember the first one instead of the forgettable sequels.

At the end of the day, it's remains a pretty pointless movie but at least you can see Smith in his black suit for (hopefully) one last time in "Men in Black 3".

Final Verdict: 4 out of 10


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