Sigh…remember when Will Smith used to make awesome movies?
Once upon a time, eons ago in the year of 1997, came a movie called Men in Black, which paired the Fresh Prince and the old, tough-as-nails Fugitive hunter as cops policing alien activity on Earth. It was a fun popcorn muncher when it came out, and inspired me to wear my first suit when I was only 10-years-old. Everyone cried out for a sequel and we got one: it was basically the same exact plot as the first only marketed with product placement up the whatever-aliens-call-ass. But it still made a ton of money, so another sequel was bound to come up and take the story in a fun, new direction…right?
“Sure, we did. But first, we’d like you to look into this little light”
Oh foolish, foolish Ha-Ra. The only things they changed were just a different Agent K, a different bad guy, and a different time period. That’s it. Don’t believe me? When a lone alien (for the bad guy is ALWAYS alone for some reason in these movies) threatens Earth, it’s up to Agent K to teach Agent J the ropes in his world of the Men in Black. And that sort of plot doesn’t make any damn sense if you’ve already seen the first movie.
Some pretentious film snobs call this kind of a film suffering from “Sequelitis” but I prefer to give it a more appropriate name: “Ghostbusters Syndrome.” See, Ghostbusters II starts the same way as Ghostbusters I: the team is down on it’s luck, no one believes their ghost theories, Sigourney Weaver has a sexually tense relationship with Bill Murray even though they never fulfill it until the end, etc. And if you’ve seen the first movie, you start asking questions like: did the city of New York completely ignore the giant Stay Puff Marshmallow Man that stomped around Times Square? Did anybody see the ominous black sky in the middle of the day that was spewing pure evil? Was no one pissing their pants at the sights of ghosts all over the city?!
How could you miss the man with no dick?
Likewise, Men in Black III suffers from the same exact problem. They establish in the film that Agent J (Will Smith) has been with the Men in Black for 14 years, but in all that time Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) barely talks to him and J has little idea about the more complex secrets of the agency EVEN when he’s their top agent. So when K is killed in the past by his old arch nemesis, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), J goes back in time to the 1960s to save K. In the process, he runs into K’s younger self (Josh Brolin doing an honest-to-God amazing impression of Jones) who teaches J the ropes of working in 1960s New York to save the world.
So yes, it’s Men in Black I all over again, but thankfully the film doesn’t plunge to the depths that were sunk in Men in Black II mostly because they dialed the product placement down considerably. But since I’ve been ragging on the samey-ness of the series, let’s pretend for the sake of argument that you really were hit with a neuralizer and have never seen the first two movies. How does this one stack up then? It’s more of a “meh” film really.
Like watching a face made of mush…or just watching Tommy Lee Jones’ face
At the film’s heart, it’s a sci-fi action comedy but the film only provides sparing amounts of each of those three genres. The jokes and one liners in this movie don’t really entertain, only serving a chuckle or two throughout the whole film. But there’s one bizarre moment (if you’ve seen the trailer, you know what I’m about to mention) where Will Smith says “I’d have no problem pimp smacking the shiznit out of Andy Warhol.” Really, Will? Shiznit? No one hasn’t used shiznit since before Facebook was even created. The Internet recorded it as a word around 2003…and…shut up, I’m at least doing more research than what the writers or Will Smith did when coming up with dialogue.
The action’s hit and miss. There’s two fun fight sequence at the beginning of the film, but the film runs out of steam and switches to all jokes until they hit the obligatory chase scene and final fight with a time limit to it. And while these four scenes were fine, I couldn’t take my eyes off the BAD special effects. Maybe because I wasn’t having too much fun, but I could really see the computer artists’ handiwork all over the movie and it didn’t blend in with the scenery too well.
As for the sci-fi, it’s nonexistent. The reason the first Men in Black psyched me up so much was because it was a fun new world to get lost in much like Harry Potter, Avengers, or Star Wars. It would explain the methods of the agents, all their tools, the relationships between aliens and humans, etc. And they did it all in 2 hours flat. In this movie, you see some aliens and some space guns but they’re kinda…there. They don’t serve any purpose but to advance the plot, so the world seems uninteresting to get into. So if the world’s not interesting, it’s hard to want to save this world at all.
How do you make a film with jetpacks boring?
Even with these weaknesses, I’ll give credit where credit is due and say that all the actors really act their asses off (unlike certain “professionals” in Hollywood). Will Smith still has chemistry with Tommy Lee Jones, and he develops an equally strong bond with Josh Brolin in this movie. And holy shit, does Brolin nail an impression of Tommy Lee Jones with posture, walking, voice and all. Jemaine Clement has some fun with the bad guy, but he’s really not in the movie all that much to care a lot. Though he does look and sound an awful like an ultra-wrinkled Tim Curry.
One more gripe about the plot before I wrap this shit up and neuralize this movie from memory (won’t be too hard). The ending features a “twist” that’s just plain cheap and baffling at the same time. Cheap because it tries to get an emotional rise out of you, and baffling because it makes the events of the first two movies make less sense when you stack them up against each other. The rules of time travel in this movie also aren’t too much fun, but then again time-travel rules in movies are always a dicey proposition.
My brain suddenly started hurting when I tried remembering this
You might be better off skipping this installment in theaters and wait for a rental. The lower cost will let you appreciate the film a bit more, and it’s nice to kill an afternoon or weekday night. At least until they make Men in Black IV where they’ll feature K teaching J how to tell a more contemporary joke.