Thursday, 14 June 2012

Men In Black 3 (Film Review)

To make this short: Not bad, better than the second, worse than the first, needed to be more focused.
To make this an actual review: Men in Black 3 is a film no one asked for and restarts a franchise which has effectively been dead for years but proves to be an okay film. It lacks the overall quality of the first but it seems that the people putting this together really looked at what didn’t work with the second instalment and tried to avoid those problems.
The plot this time revolves around time travel. Several years after the first film, with no mention of MiB2 so for all we know it’s been retconned, a powerful criminal known as Boris (the Animal) escapes from a lunar prison. Having rotted in a cell for forty years and the rest of his race wiped out due to K, the first thing on his mind is to correct everything which went wrong all in one stroke. Briefly trying, and failing, to get the satisfaction of personally killing K in the present Boris travels back to 1969 and changes events for his younger self to kill his old enemy during their first encounter. Despite all of time being changed J somehow remembers the original timeline and is sent back to correct it while Earth is being invaded and destroyed.
While the film could have easily failed, what saves it is its choice of actors and how they’re written. A most notable improvement over the last film is definitely how it treats J. Will Smith’s character actually feels a lot more like a seasoned agent than the outright rookie with a few years under his belt. He still makes mistakes, still acts the screwball at times, but he’s far more competent and doesn’t need K to win every battle. Better yet while Tommy Lee Jones is side-lined for almost the entire film, Josh Brolin makes a scarily good young K. There’s never a point where you think of them as separate characters but at the same time Brolin’s K has enough differences to show he hasn’t been grinded down by his job and can still crack a smile.
The supporting cast are all similarly well-chosen and well-acted. There’s no real weaknesses in performances, though sometimes writing, and all of them do fairly well with what they’re given – notably Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin. Unfortunately though, he can’t be talked about without ruining his first scene. One who can be talked about, and is probably the film’s biggest selling point is the film’s antagonist: Boris. Jemaine Clement‘s Boris, no really that’s who is playing him, is a vast improvement over Lara Flynn Boyle and is arguably the best villain of the series. While not as iconic as the cockroach guy, he has a direct connection to one of the protagonists, some genuinely interesting abilities and manages to effectively balance out humour and threat without the two diminishing one another. He’s also probably got the most unique design out of all of them, appearing as just a mass of claws when in his natural form, and while trying to pass himself off as human looks like a fusion between Batou and Hagrid with Tim Curry’s villain voice. He's definitely what helps this film hold up even if he has a surprisingly limited screentime.
Despite all these strengths there are some fairly glaring weaknesses. It’s clear that once you remove some of the time travel elements it is something of a retread of the second film; J still has things he doesn’t know about, there’s someone trying to destroy the world, a McGuffin is needed to stop this all and it’s the basic plot you already know. Not to mention one very questionable part involving K after the threat is over which feels out of place with the other films. Some of the effects also seem visibly sub-par, with the CGI paling in comparison to both of the previous films; especially when it comes to some of the environments. The physical props and effects are perfectly fine, especially the stuff used for Boris, but there are a lot of times when you see computer generated effects which look like they’re from the mid-90s.
Atop of all this the writing feels weak in a lot of places, things are just brought up and then abandoned in a few places. The most obvious one is where there’s a surprisingly aware moment in which someone does note that due to J’s skin colour he’s likely to be treated differently than he is today and should be careful – but this only ever results in one joke scene. Along with this there are some hints that the MIB of this time is more interested in protecting humans rather than aliens, but it’s never used. This is never really a big problem except for one point: it’s never made entirely clear why exactly J remembers the correct timelines, it is brought up but the reason for it is never properly explained even when the film ends. You get more of an answer on the Wikipedia article than you do in the film itself. The same goes for a lot of the humour; while it’s fairly good throughout there’s not as much laugh out loud moments as you’d expect leaving a lot of the film’s success down to its actors.
At the end of the day Men in Black 3 is okay. It’s an enjoyable film but it isn’t the return to form people wanted and doesn’t really justify restarting a franchise which has been dead for about a decade. You’ll not end up regretting seeing the film but with a lot of much better stuff still in cinemas at this moment you’d probably better spend your money on something like Prometheus, Snow White and the Huntsman or, hell, going to see the Avengers again.


Men in Black and all related characters and media are owned by Columbia Pictures.

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