Release Date: May 25, 2012 (3D/2D theaters and IMAX 3D)
Studio: Columbia Pictures (Sony)
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Screenwriter: Etan Cohen
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Nicole Scherzinger, Alice Eve, Michael Stuhlbarg
Genre: Action, Comedy, Sci-Fi
MPAA Rating: PG-13 (for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content)
Official Website: MeninBlack.com
Has it seriously been 15 years since the original Sci-Fi comedy hit the big screen? I was there and saw it five times in the theater. I recall “forgetting” when to tell my sister to cover her eyes during the scary or gross parts. As much as an impact that the first film made on audiences everywhere, most of us have tried to forget that the 2002 sequel ever existed. Ten years later, we’re given a third MIB installment that is much more than a sad attempt of saving a tired franchise.
In true Men in Black form, Agent J (Smith) takes it upon himself to preach emotional forthcomingness to Agent K (Jones). The film’s opening sequence shows the two at a much higher stress level, which they take out on each other in their own way. Meanwhile, an intergalactic terrorist named Boris “the Animal” is making a break for it from a moon based jail - K arrested Boris and crippled him back in his prime of 1969. Having escaped, Boris not only vows revenge on K, but intends to rewrite history by going back to 1969 where his race was exterminated before they could go through with their massive attack on Earth.
What does J have to do? You guessed it, go back in time as well to make sure things happen as they’re supposed too. But Jay may discover something that will change his viewpoint of K forever.
Both the 2002 sequel and this third installment feel like two 2 hour long episodes of what could have been part of a Men in Black TV show. (How long do you think that show would last?) However, movie number 3 provides a much more substantial plot with well planed out comedic gimmicks, character developing moments, nostalgic sentimentalities of a movie many of us grew up loving, and a villain that doesn’t annoy the Hell out of us!
In a cinematic undertone that whispers an apology for the last film, Sonnenfeld delivers a time travel story all about restoring the past and making things right again. But even with this trip to 1969, we, as an audience, are exposed to very unfamiliar territory – hefty oversize jetpacks, motorcycles that seemed to have come out of Star Wars Episode 3, Neuralyzers that use a dial up connection, and many other bits of intergalactic technology that look familiar but foreign at the same time.
However, the time jump to my parents childhood bares very little resemblance from what my mom and dad and history class taught me. Ok, sure, there’s one instance where a group of hippies stroll by without a care in the world, with a few shots of mid 60′s automobiles, to let us know what time period we’re in. But 5 minutes later we’re back to that pure, white, and utterly clean science fiction look that has become the MIB trademark. Even J’s run-in with the bigoted police, while hilarious, presents a lacking perspective on a troubling time where race relations have been considered a moot point. This is odd since, right before J leaves, he’s warned that 1969 “wasn’t the best time” for his people. A race reference is prefaced in the beginning, but dismissed just as quickly…come one, give me more than that Sonnenfeld!
This significant flaw doesn’t detract from the overall enjoyment, but for those of us looking for a clear historical setting, it’s hard to swallow. But with every flaw, a bright light is provided in the form of a pleasantly annoying paranoid precog hypochondriac who finds his gift of foretelling the outcome of every possible butterfly effect situation a “pain in the ass.” This provides some of the more humorous and wonderfully hopeful moments in the entire film.
Will Smith is as awesome as ever with his hilarious facial contortions and constant bickering with everyone he deems an idiot, and makes for a perfect match up with MIB new comer, Josh Brolin. By the way, if I had never known of Brolin prior to this film’s release, I would have sworn they took Tommy Lee Jones and used some form digitalized facial grafting to make him look 30 years younger. I love Jones, but if some type of MIB reboot were to ever be in the making, Brolin should be at the top of the “Agent J” casting call.
For me, like many others around my age, Men in Black is most prominently a nostalgic trip down memory lane. I was just finishing middle school and MIB part 1 was my number one VHS to watch after my Saturday morning cartoons were done. Now, 15 years later I still love the franchise that told tales of anonymous intergalactic police officers that were constantly watching out for us. The film may be pointless, more focused on the humor, random one liners and cliche acts of heroism, but it still sends out a tiny message of hope that someone, somewhere, is watching out for us…and that’s a pleasant thought.