“Men In Black 3” Review
Men In Black 3
– for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content.
Director: Barry Sonnenfield
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson
Running Time: 1 hour, 45 minutes
Theatrical Release Date: May 25, 2012
In Men In Black 3, Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back… in time. J has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men In Black, but nothing, not even aliens, perplexes him as much as his wry, reticent partner. But when K’s life and the fate of the planet are put at stake, Agent J will have to travel back in time to put things right. J discovers that there are secrets to the universe that K never told him — secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save his partner, the agency, and the future of humankind.
(from Sony Pictures)
In 1997, Sony launched a successful summer blockbuster in the dark alien comedy, Men In Black. It featured elaborate creature designs for things that inhabited earth but were hidden in plain sight from the masses. The story involved an NYPD officer named James who runs down a criminal, not knowing he’s an alien, and comes in contact with a secret government organization that specializes in extraterrestrials, called the Men In Black. He teams up with hard-nosed, stone-faced Agent K and the Men In Black–as moviegoers know them–were born. Five years later, the film’s first sequel released, a disappointing venture that felt forced from the get-go (In a way similar to how Back The Future II had to write Jennifer out of the story after the first movie ended with her in the time machine with Marty and Doc…since the filmmakers never intended for there to be a sequel). Too much of the story wasted time getting K back into the picture after he retired at the end of the first film. The alien characters were also weak, the script was a mess, and a finale that based around the World Trade Center had to be completely rewritten and reimagined after the 9/11 attack happened while the film was in production. The whole result left a bad taste in most MIB fans’ mouths, which left the interest in a third film pretty low. Still, in 2010, Men In Black 3 was greenlit and many couldn’t help but wonder why? Anticipation hasn’t been very high, but those who loved the characters fifteen years ago may be interested in casually revisiting the story now just for the nostalgia. The end result was surprisingly satisfying.
The constant for all three Men In Black films has been three important components: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and director Barry Sonnenfield. While Sonnenfield has helmed each film, the tone of the sequels has never matched the original. Because of this, the sequels have suffered greatly from some form of sequelitis or another, and it’s been unfortunate given the quality of the original movie. But as the then-fifty-year-old Tommy Lee Jones has become the now-sixty-five-year-old Tommy, changes have had to be made for these films to work in a way the first film did. However, this has yet to be the case. A good portion of MIB II saw J (Smith) trying to return K (Jones) back to his former self, while MIB 3 writes the aging actor out of most of the film intentionally. My favorite moments of Men In Black had revolved around the chemistry between Jones and Smith, and it was bittersweet to see Jones not get near as much screentime in the third film than he had in the beginning.
But while Jones steps out for a good chunk of this film, the character of K is not at all absent. Josh Brolin (Goonies, True Grit) slips on the shoes of a younger K when J travels back in time to 1969 to help K stop an alien invasion from happening in the future. Brolin does a spot-on impression of Tommy Lee, which is likely to make many viewers forget that they’re not really watching a younger Jones on screen. And the chemistry that Smith has with Jones is dually reproduced as well. Emma Thompson appears as a new character named Agent O, who wasn’t in the previous films but apparently has some history with K and the agency. It messes a bit with the continuity of the series, but what she brings to the film helps make the inconsistencies forgivable.
Still, it’s the inconsistencies in Men In Black 3 that make the film seem lazy in its execution when you stop to think about it. The plot creates its own rules for time travel, which are seemingly broken for a plot device during the finale which works visually as well as for the story’s sake, but really doesn’t make sense when you really think about it in the context of the time travel “rules” the film has established. This kind of sloppy storytelling therefore only cheapens the overall story (and is a little insulting to the viewer’s intelligence). The other inconsistency lies within the backstories of J and K. The time travelling creates some confusion as to whether or not some of these ‘revelations’ make sense over the course of the film trilogy, but if this movie stood alone, that wouldn’t be such a problem. However, it doesn’t stand alone, so some diehard fans may have a hard time accepting some of the storytelling directions the movie chooses to go in. Still, this particular story adds for more human elements for both J and K, and focuses more intensely on their relationship as friends together (while the first film was bringing them together and the sequel focused more on a romantic relationship for J).
The villain for this outing is an alien who has been kept in quarantine on the moon for forty years. Somehow, he was able to maintain a distant relationship with a woman who helps bring about his escape from prison. Comedian Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Concords, Dinner For Schmucks) plays “Boris the Animal,” and he proves to be a frighteningly formidable foe for the MIB team. He rivals Edgar from the original film in his purely grotesque appearance, but he overall feels intensely more cartoony in appearance than Edgar had (Rick Baker’s makeup job on that film was incredible). MIB II suffered greatly from introducing increasingly more goofy and cartoony-looking characters, which is more tastefully and carefully handled here (for the most part). MIB II went painfully overboard, especially with the misstep of taking a tiny gag of a talking pug dog from the first film and blowing it up to an unwelcomed sidekick role in the sequel (and the worm guys didn’t need bigger parts either). Thankfully, Frank the pug is nowhere to be found (except for maybe via a photo hanging on a wall) in MIB 3. The over-the-top and elaborate creature designs are still present in this film, but Sonnenfield is more careful to use them as a little salt and pepper this time around instead of focusing too much on them as he did previously. What I like most about the first Men In Black is that the story had focused so much on the idea that these aliens could really exist in our world, while MIB II had started to present everything a little more in a fantastical fashion, which more or less began to ruin the groundwork laid by the 1997 film. MIB 3 falls somewhere more in the middle, trying simultaneously to balance familiarity with a freshness that a ten-year gap between the movies should offer (although I still favor the original Neuralizer design over the new, sleeker version). The overall presentation of MIB 3 is indeed flawed, but Sonnenfield and company did a fine job making it a considerably more fun ride than the last entry.
The content for Men In Black 3 is pretty much on the same plane as the first two movies. Boris is a pretty hideous fellow, with tendril-like feet, fingers, and eyebrows, with a gross opening in the palm of his hand that allows for a crab/spider-like creature to crawl in and out of it. The sight of most of the things Boris does is likely to terrify any young viewers–and anyone else squeamish about such things. The profanity is a lot less than the first movie, but there is still quite a bit of minor profanity mixed in with a handful of “S” words and a few uses of blasphemy. The sexual content is considerably lessened from MIB II, where a grossly exaggerated French kiss between Boris and a girl (with his long tongue) at the start of the film is the worst of it. The violence, however, is some of the series’ most brutal yet. Boris shoots spikes out of the palm of his hand using the little crab-like creature, and we often see them connect with a victim’s forehead and leaving a mildly bloody mess (with views of the spikes sticking out of the victims, who often wear varying degrees of horror on their frozen faces). It’s a little more graphic than you might expect, especially from a film that seems to target pre-teens when it’s otherwise surprisingly intense (I mean, they even followed-up the first film with a cartoon series!).
In the end, none of us really needed a Men In Black 3, but the final product is a thoroughly entertaining and fun action comedy that helps erase the lasting distaste most have for Men In Black II, therefore redeeming the franchise a little. While the opening scene that introduces the film’s villain is rather underwhelming, and these’s a looming sense of “Oh… this again?” until Smith and Jones really get cracking during a great action sequence in a Chinese restaurant, Men In Black 3 is about as fun as any fan of the franchise can expect, and while it might not live up to the quality of the 1997 original, it’s a decent sequel and an enjoyable sci-fi buddy comedy.
– John DiBiase, (reviewed: 5/25/12)
Parental Guide: Content Summary
Sex/Nudity: Boris’ girlfriend visits him in prison and we see her in a busty, cleavage-revealing dress. Boris sticks out his long tongue which goes into her mouth as she moves in to kiss him. We then see her cheeks bulge as Boris’ tongue pushes around inside her mouth; We see a 1960’s club that has some women in some skimpy clothing and fashion dresses, including a man dressed as a woman; J makes a comment to K about him fraternizing with another woman agent a time or two (suggesting they had slept together in the past); J and young K check out two models walking by and J makes a fleeting comment about not previously realizing all models are aliens and that he had to learn the hard way.
Vulgarity/Language: 6 “S” words, 9 “d*mn,” 8 “h*ll,” 6 “a” words, 2 “b*lls,” 1 “p*ss me off,” 1 “Chr-st,” 1 “J-sus,” 1 “g*dd*mn,” 1 “G-d”
Alcohol/Drugs: A man tells J he has to get “high” in order to time travel and J acts disgusted in thinking the man is suggesting drugs (he doesn’t say that, he just assumes), but the man clarifies that he means “high” as in “height.”
Blood/Gore: Throughout the entire movie, Boris shoots spikes out of his hand, which can frequently be seen sticking out of the forehead of his dead victims’ bodies; In the opening scene where we find Boris in prison, he shoots the guards with spikes, causing some to stick out of the guards’ foreheads and bodies with a little blood; We see an alien victim with spikes sticking out of their face and body with green blood; Several aliens are disintegrated into slimy goo when shot by the MIB guns; A woman is shot in the head with a spike (a little blood); A man is hit in the chest with a spike and is killed. We see some blood on his clothing around the wound; While not really gory, we see Boris missing an arm for much of the film; A younger Boris holds on to a platform which freezes his hand, to which K shoots and obliterates it off of his body.
Violence: Some intense sci-fi, creature-related violence; A guard puts his finger into a cake which unleashes a crab/spider-like creature that latches onto his hand, causing him to scream in terror. It then shoots out spikes that hit the guard in the forehead and elsewhere on his body, killing him, and then another guard. We then see it enter an opening in Boris’ hand; Boris kills many humans and aliens throughout the movie by impaling their head with spikes and other areas on their bodies, often pinning their arms and body to a wall or other surface; K fish-slaps an alien; A fight breaks out in a Chinese restaurant where a series of aliens are shot by MIB guns and obliterated into goo; J pounds a man’s head in, flattening it because he’s really an alien; A woman alien shoots her tongue out at Jay, seizing his arm. He then pulls her head into a counter top; A large fish tries to eat J, but he squirts it in the face with mustard and it spits him out a window; Boris chases K to the top of a building and shoots various spikes at him which land in the surface of a door. J and K, while holding on to the door (which comes off the hinges), then fall off the building and fall a significant distance while the door slows their fall on the way down, but they are OK; A man tazes J; Boris kills an alien with spikes; A woman is hit in the head with spikes, killing her; J uses an alien’s head as a bowling ball after knocking another one unconscious with a bowling pin; A man punches another man in the face twice; J and K hop on circular bikes to chase Boris on a motorcycle. Boris’ bike crashes into a wall and explodes; J jumps from a building of great height to travel through time using a device; K fights an alien on scaffolding while J does as well. J tackles an alien after being hit with spikes and falls a great distance; An alien is consumed by fire and dies; K shoots an alien’s arm off and it falls a great distance; A man is shot in the chest with a spike and dies; A man shoots a grotesque alien and we see it blow up; We see a meteor crash into a satellite (and other sci-fi/comedic violence)