Review: Men in Black 3

Was anyone asking for a third Men in Black film? Apparently, the heads of Sony Pictures Studios were only listening to themselves. In a time where every cash cow franchise is utterly spent (see what I did there?), Sony became so desperate for money that it went ahead with a production whose script had not even been completed when cameras rolled. With an entire decade of distance since the limp sequel of the franchise, Men in Black 3 yearns for freshness, and although it features solid performances, wild effects and even a moment of resonance, it can’t help but be an exercise in blandness.

The film’s problems begin with the execution of its story. As mentioned, Sony Studios was crazy enough to go into production without even having completed the second and third acts of its script. Despite these issues, the plot of Men in Black 3 is actually fairly solid considering this disastrous decision, the problem lies with the overall execution. Many interesting ideas are put on the table, from time travel to parallel universes, but nothing is ever explored to its full potential. A sampling is provided of the numerous narrative and visual possibilities, but nothing ever comes to fruition. Instead, we’re treated to story that lurches from scene to scene without much urgency, despite the ticking clock of our heroes needing to fulfill their mission in less than 24 hours. When an alien felon named Boris the Animal escapes a high security prison on the moon, his sights are set on going back in the past and killing off his primary adversary, K. When K suddenly disappears from existence, J needs to go back in time and prevent the murder from happening.

There is incredible cinematic potential here, but Men in Black 3 fails to explore much of it. However, the standout aspect of the film is Josh Brolin portraying a young Tommy Lee Jones to an absolute tee. His work is consistently funny and astonishing, and even Jones in the modern day continues to be the best unlikely comic actor around. Believe it or not, the film’s weakness from the ensemble is Will Smith. With forced enthusiasm and stale comedy, Smith seems to be off his game, especially since Men in Black 3 is his first film in four years. Another bright spot in the film is Michael Stulbarg, who gives a fun performance as the alien Griffin, who is able to see all of the parallel possibilities of the future and past based upon people’s actions. Its certainly an exciting concept, and Griffin’s dialogue hints at how many directions the film could go, but it ends up leading nowhere.

Although it went through a rushed production, Men in Black 3 is a surprisingly stylish film, with compelling cinematography that feels conducive to 3D (though I saw it in 2D), lovely and purposefully elaborate alien designs and makeup, and Danny Elfman’s signature score. The CGI is readily apparent in almost every shot, but it feels appropriate nevertheless. What is most surprising about the film is the emotional conclusion is reaches, giving the entire trilogy an unexpected resonance, as well as providing a relevant reason to making a third film in the first place. Men in Black has always had a lot of fun aspects to it, but the ending of this film gives it a human core, which redeems many of the film’s rote and familiar aspects. Somehow, despite all of its narrative issues and lack of imagination, Men in Black finds a purpose to stay relevant and meaningful, even when much of it and the sequelitis ailing the rest of Hollywood feels so disposable.

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~ by romancinema on May 30, 2012.

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