SUB-GENRES: Action / Comedy
DIRECTED BY: Barry Sonnenfeld
WRITTEN BY: Etan Cohen (story and screenplay); Based on the comic by Lowell Cunningham
PEW PEW: This is the most dramatic of the three MiB films and, as such, the action provides much higher stakes than we are used to in this franchise.
CAT FOOD: The effects of time travel are explored, as well as the dynamics of interpersonal relationships.
And now, after being disappointed that the first film was essentially just the setup for a second, and after being thoroughly impressed by said second film, we finally come to the only MiB film that I had seriously never seen. Released and based ten years after the second film, Men In Black 3 is easily the most dramatic film in the series, resembling more of a serious action flick than a straight up comedy.
The film revolves around the titular organisation, which is quite secret and operates off the grid and separate from any government institution. The duty of the Men In Black is to monitor alien activity on and off planet Earth, with the goal of keeping them out of the public eye, and ultimately to keep them and the Earth safe.
When a powerful alien convict named Boris the Animal escapes from a prison on the moon, he plots a course to travel back in time and kill the man who a) shot off his arm, b) put him in prison, and c) invented a device which brought about the end of his extremely hostile alien race. That man just happens to be Agent K.
Meanwhile, Agents K and J are having problems relating and their partnership has become greatly strained in the ten years since we last saw them. When K suddenly disappears and the world around J changes dramatically, it’s eventually put together that Boris succeeded in killing K in the past. Agent J must then travel back in time to stop Boris and to make sure everything happens according to original history.
While the second movie was ridiculously fun but immaturely so, Men In Black 3 is markedly heavier. There is a great deal of sentimentality happening and the weight of the situations makes the stakes much higher than they’ve ever been in the franchise. There is a great deal of character building that hasn’t really happened before, and we really get down into the relationship between Agents J and K.
Beloved regular characters like Frank the Pug and Agent Zed have passed on and the maturity level sharply contrasts the first two films. The film is still really enjoyable, but it’s a tad suffocating from a dramatic standpoint. For those of us who loved the previous films, this is a hell of an adjustment to make. The jokes still fly, however, but they’re a great deal more subdued. Many of the quirks that made the other films so unique are almost entirely missing from this one. There aren’t even that many crazy aliens to see (although those we do see are fantastic!).
On a more positive note, the film very interestingly explores time travel. One of the characters is a five-dimensional being who can see alternate timelines almost at will. We get a Dr. Manhatten-style crash course in continuity that is pretty cool, and the character’s ability does get amusing from time to time. While it’s perhaps not as exciting as MiBs 1 and 2, this movie is definitely just as interesting. Even the method one must employ to jump through time is uniquely humourous, as is the franchise’s style.
While Tommy Lee Jones is around, the interplay between he and Will Smith is as golden as ever. They don’t even look like they’ve really aged that much in the ten years since Men In Black II. Once Agent J goes back in time, he meets up with a younger Agent K played by the extremely talented Josh Brolin. Brolin’s performance is exceptional as he mimics Tommy Lee Jones’ trademark detached and cantankerous professionalism. You really do buy that this is a younger version of the man.
So while Men In Black 3 is a great deal heavier than the others, and it doesn’t quite deliver as much in the way of comedy, the movie is still a really cool thing to watch. Its plot is engaging and its situations are quite a bit more emotional than your average action comedy. Children, however, probably won’t enjoy it at all. With many cool moments and characters, there is a lot to enjoy about the film, just don’t expect nearly the level of fun that its predecessors delivered.