MEN IN BLACK III
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Written by: Etan Cohen (screenplay), Lowell Cunningham (comic)
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Chernus, and Michael Stuhlbarg
Nothing heralds the return of Summertime at the box office like a Will Smith film. After the overblown special effects extravaganzas that were the original MEN IN BLACK and its piss-poor sequel MEN IN BLACK II, comes the third in the franchise, MEN IN BLACK III. While it’s far from perfect, it’s certainly an entertaining and fun ride. Buried under the heap loads of futuristic gadgetry, you’ll be surprised to find there’s an actual story there – one with heart!
During the prologue, our anti-hero – the be-goggled, molar-mouthed Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) – has outwitted the guards and escaped from his lunar based prison. His nefarious plan is this: Head to Earth and go back in time to kill Agent K before he both takes his arm and establishes a security field around the planet that prevents Boris’ alien race, the Bogladites, from invading. Meanwhile, back on Earth, Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are doing what they do best – trading dry, witty barbs and solving mysterious intergalactic crime. Things start to go pear shaped when a noticeable shift in the universe happens. Agent K’s apartment isn’t exactly his any longer, and worse yet, Agent O (Emma Thompson) informs us that K has been dead for forty years. Duh-duh-duh! J is then forced to take matters into his own hands. He must travel back in time to 1969, tasked to save both a younger K (Josh Brolin, who delivers a mean Jones impression) and the planet from unfortunate circumstances. He finds Agent K – and he’s nice! Enjoying his pre-curmudgeon partner, the two set out to solve the mystery of where baddie Boris will turn up and how to defeat him. Will (see what I did there?!) they be able to succeed? If you’re “Jones”-ing to find out the answer, go check it out for yourself.
Though many of us grew tired of MEN IN BLACK II, MEN IN BLACK III really brings the story back to the heart of what made the original so successful – the pairing of a funny man (Smith) with the straight man (Jones). Going back in time to explore how K lost his innocence to become the stoic, acerbic agent he is was a stroke of genius on director Barry Sonnenfeld and screenwriter Etan Cohen’s parts. Not only can they explore this intricate relationship, but they can have it play out in an entirely new world setting – New York City in the late 60’s. Smith delivers a funny joke about the cultural climate of time – one I don’t want to spoil. The city is rich in characters like Andy Warhol (Bill Hader’s impression is a stand out) and his muses, and also in alien mutants like the future-predicting Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg, who’s like Robin Williams crossed with Elijah Wood). And when they do the big reveal, I gotta say it made me a little bit weepy. Call me mushy, I don’t care.
3D technology is utilized magnificently here. Most surprisingly, this is probably the most successful up-convert to 3D that I’ve ever witnessed. Makeup effects from the talented Rick Baker, special effects work from supervisors Ken Ralston and Jay Redd, as well as visual effects by Sony Pictures Imageworks provide a magical trifecta. They all pop out from the screen. In the scene where Boris enters the electronic shop to find salesclerk Jeff (Michael Chernus) playing around with the merchandise, the scene turns into a spectacular laser show, shooting out right at the audience. It’s all-encompassing and astoundingly beautiful. I must admit, I did tend to magpie out at all the clever and shiny new inventions in this film. And there are a lot of them. Whether this is a good or a bad thing is up to you.