Thursday, 3 January 2013

Film Review | Men In Black 3 (2012)

I'm a big fan of Men In Black, and whilst it's not a patch on the original, I've never hated Men In Black 2 quite as much as most others seemed to. It was a sequel with some very good ideas (and a few incredibly bad ones - I'm looking at you here Frank The Pug), but nothing to tie them together leaving the whole thing lacking focus, direction or care. Essentially there was no real reason for Men In Black 2 to be made other than to make money off the success of the first film, and it really showed through the finished product. Ten years on, and everyone involved in the franchise had nothing to lose in making Men In Black 3. They weren't capitalising on the success of a recent franchise, nor were they committed to complete a trilogy story arc. Men In Black 3 had a new freedom to be whatever film it wanted to be within an established universe. Just as the lack of care was evident throughout Men In Black 2, so the intention, craft and heart involved in making Men In Black 3 is equally as clear.

Men In Black 3 sees alien criminal Boris The Animal (Jermaine Clement) escape from a prison on the Moon to exact revenge on the man who put him there, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Boris' plan involves travelling back through time to murder K before he can imprison him, which leads to K's partner J (Will Smith) following him through time to 1969 in order to stop Boris and prevent the catastrophic effects K's death in the past will have on the present.

From the start, the film knows how to play to its strengths, not least the cast. There is of course the welcome return of the pairing of Smith and Jones, falling back into their slick and entertaining double act as soon as they appear on screen. However, the opportunity for banter between the two is reduced significantly from the first two films with Jones' reduced screen time, an unfortunate but unavoidable side effect of the nature of the plot. Thankfully it also leads to the strongest piece of new casting in the film, namely Josh Brolin as the younger version of K that J teams up with in 1969. Brolin's performance is a hybrid of a classic stereotypical agency stiff and an impressively accurate Tommy Lee Jones impersonation, resulting in a strong and charismatic turn from the actor. The partnership of Smith and Brolin never reaches the heights of Smith and Jones, but the two have palpable chemistry and prove an enjoyable pairing throughout.

There is strength in the cast elsewhere, with Clement putting in an impressive performance under a huge amount of prosthetics and CGI as villain Boris; he never quite reaches the exquisite creepiness of Vincent D'Onofrio's Edgar from the first film, but Boris poses a palpable threat whilst being more than suitably repulsive. Emma Watson is fine as Agent O, replacing Rip Torn's Agent Z from the first two films as Head of MIB, but is given frustratingly little to do. Michael Stuhlbarg as alien Griffin also does well, bringing an ethereal quality to the character whilst never becoming annoying.

There are some sound action sequences throughout, although all but the finale feel a little brief and unspectacular leaving you wanting something more. However, it's clear from the start that Men In Black 3 isn't interested in rehashing the action-based ideas from the first two films; this is a film primarily concerned with emotion. The true payoff doesn't come until very late on in proceedings, but when it does it's easily one of the most touching moments to come out of a sci-fi film in recent years.

Whilst it never manages to reach the heights of the original, Men In Black 3 is consistently superior to the first sequel to the point that comparison isn't even worthwhile. It's a film that stands as an enjoyable and well-made blockbuster on its own, whilst at the same time doing things with the franchise that very few people ever expected it to, not least adding a welcome and heartwarming new dimension to the well-established duo of Agents J and K.


1 comment:

  1. I read up to "Jermaine Clement" and then lost 45 minutes watching Flight of the Conchords music videos. Gah!