Review: Men in Black III


The actual review for Men in Black III follows, but I just wanted to get something off my chest.

I am severely disappointed that Will Smith did not make a new rap song for this movie. While the Pitbull single is a catchy remix with some admittedly enjoyable sampling, it’s absolutely ruined by the fact that Pitbull “raps” over it. I’m not saying that Will Smith is a maestro of the genre, but at least he knew how to make a fun song for a movie’s single. Pitbull doesn’t even take a stab at describing the plot of the film! That’s like rule number one when you’re writing a rap song for a movie.

Anyway, don’t let my disgruntled opinion on the film’s hit single make you think that the movie is terrible. It’s actually quite a bit of fun.

Men in Black III
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Release Date: 5/25/2012
Rated: PG-13

It’s not really a challenge to be better than Men in Black II. That movie took two great actors, a great premise and aliens and made them feel boring even though it was only about 90 minutes long. Thankfully once something is a franchise it usually gets another chance and MiB is definitely a money making franchise. So it is that eight years after the second film we get a third one. The long gap in time has thankfully washed away most of the bitterness from the second movie, and the filmmakers have concocted a story that smartly moves the aging Tommy Lee Jones into more of a supporting role. This is the Men in Black we enjoyed in the first film, just not quite as good.

The third film picks up eight years after the second and finds Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Jones) still working together to save the earth from evil aliens. We’re also introduced to Agent O (Emma Thompason) who has taken over for the now departed Zed. Jones is quickly dispatched from the film as a dangerous prisoner he captured, Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement looking nothing like Jemaine Clement) escapes from prisons, travels back in time and kills Agent K at the moment he was supposed to kill him. This wipes K from history (though little else changes) and the only person who can remember him is J. Thanks to a few hints the MiB figure out that history has been changed and J is sent back to rescue K.

Back in the 1950s J meets younger K (Josh Brolin) and the two team up to kill Boris and save K. Probably the biggest treat of the film, aside from the fantastic retro alien work that briefly appears, is Brolin’s spot on Tommy Lee Jones. He and Smith banter pretty much effortlessly and indeed the interactions between them are better than the ones between Jones and Smith. It’s J and K’s dichotomy that made the first movie work so well, and thanks to Brolin that chemistry is back in this film. It also helps that the producers wisely made it excusable for Smith to act like a rookie again thanks to the fact that he is in the past. A lot of the humor and charm that came out of the first movie was from Smith’s antics as he got acclimated to dealing with aliens.

Sadly, Brolin’s K is more of a parody than a character in and of himself for most of his time on screen. While the film does eventually open him up, it’s unfortunate that he didn’t get a bit more time to show off. Boris, who is definitely one of the more creatively designed aliens, does get some good screen time, but despite the film’s best attempts never becomes as menacing as they want him to be. It’s also unfortunate that the time travel angle was clearly not planned for as contradictions and holes appear between this film and the previous ones. This is especially true for Agent O, who suddenly appears in this film as an important character throughout the history of the MiB and yet was never once mentioned in the previous movies.

All this said, it’s really the Will Smith show for most of the film, and I really don’t see why that’s a problem. As stated before, the return of the befuddled, yet arrogant Agent J really plays into Smith’s abilities. This is the load mouth, quick talking Smith that we all fell in love with back in the 90s and it’s nice to see him back in action after less brash roles since the last MiB. He hasn’t lost much of a step either as he’s still able to dole out slapstick as well as his one-liners. One of the best parts about the franchise is simply watching Smith get smacked around by different aliens and in that regard MiB III delivers in spades.

The most important thing is that Men in Black III is actually fun. Unlike its turgid predecessor this film is actually enjoyable to watch because it actually looks like a film people wanted to be involved in. i don’t know if the franchise should continue in movie form (MiB the TV show, anyone?) based solely on this outing and the rapidly increasing age of the stars, but if this is the end it’s not the worst way to go out.

Matthew Razak
Matthew Razak is the founder and Editor-in-Chief of Flixist. He has worked as a critic for more than a decade, reviewing and talking about movies, TV shows, and videogames. He will talk your ear off about James Bond movies, Doctor Who, Zelda, and Star Trek.