DIR: Barry Sonnenfeld • WRI: David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson, Michael Soccio • PRO: Laurie MacDonald, Walter F. Parkes • DOP: Bill Pope • ED: Wayne Wahrman, Don Zimmerman DES: Bo Welch • Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Alice Eve
Men in Black III comes 15 years after the first offering and 10 years after the second. Over time, we have learned our lesson about sequels the hard way, and now assume that anything that comes after the original will suck all of the charm from what we originally fell in love with. Somehow, the Men in Black have timed their return perfectly and proven that, occasionally, sequels can add something special to the original.
For the forgetful: the Men in Black are a secret government agency dedicated to keeping track of aliens on Earth and dealing with any potential threats. They are as conspicuous now as 15 years ago, but when you have many gadgets available to you, one needn’t worry about being questioned. Nostalgia is the ultimate key here as we remember the previous offerings throughout.
Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and his young recruit Agent J (Will Smith) are under the instruction of Agent O (Emma Thompson). It’s important to be up-to-date on the alphabet in this agency and it seems as though our heroes are continuing to do well since we last visited them. Of course, this is the movies, and all good things must come to an end.
The hilarious Jemaine Clement plays an ugly alien named Boris the Animal who has managed to escape from a maximum-security prison on the Moon. Whilst this is inconvenient by anyone’s standards, unfortunately Boris has a major vendetta to settle with Agent K for the small matter of shooting his arm off. He hatches the ingenious plan of going back in time and killing Agent K. When K disappears without a trace, it seems his prodigy is the only one to notice. As J questions his absence he is met with odd looks and the information that K has been dead for years. The only option for J is to travel back in time and rescue his mentor from the alien threat before he is ultimately lost to time.
Josh Brolin expertly plays the young Agent K. So convincing is his performance that the audience would be forgiven for thinking that it is simply Tommy Lee Jones wearing an obscene amount of prosthesis. As soon as Brolin speaks in his effortless Jonesian drawl, we can almost feel the relief director Barry Sonnenfield is said to have felt at his convincing portrayal. His performance is so close to perfection, that it is almost unnerving until we settle into it.
Much has happened since the first Men in Black movie hit our screens. The one noticeable shift in attitude between this and the first movie is that the semi-outsider narrative evident in the aliens then, has been transformed into an insider narrative as the alien threat walks amongst us unnoticed. It may simply be a sign of the times, but it is an important shift in social attitudes and is very effective here. It’s also refreshing to see megastar Will Smith has remained grounded enough in his meteoric rise to Hollywood royalty to effortlessly recreate the often-silly scenes required here.
So whilst it’s easy to remain unenthusiastic about the onslaught of sequels we are subjected to, this third installment of the Men in Black franchise is different. Packed full of ingenious monsters, hilarious comedic moments and excellent performances, Men in Black III is not to be missed. Men in Black III manage to escape the danger of becoming dated by time and Brolin’s performance alone is worth the price of admission.
Nostalgia viewing at its finest, offering a surprisingly satisfying emotional payoff for something we weren’t aware we had been missing.
Rated PG (see IFCO website for details)
Men in Black III is released on 25th May 2012