Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Will Smith, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg, Emma Thompson, Bill Hader and Tommy Lee Jones
I saw this film, on a Saturday night, with a group of friends and those are the exact conditions to watch this film. This is a film, which is not meant to be taken too seriously, or have its plot hole ridden time travel plot examined but instead a film to sit back and simply enjoy. The film moves along at a breakneck pace, never becoming dull and is consistently entertaining and inventive. It may have had a troubled production; it may be a third film in a supposedly tired franchise and may have the kiss of death, which is 3D, and due to those things this film is so much more intelligent and inventive (Used that word three times now but it really does sum up this movie) than it had any right to be.
The heart of the Men in Black series is the chemistry between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Will Smith is an actor who is the definition of star power and charisma, he is one of those actors who could attract millions to the cinema just to watch him reading the phonebook. He carries this entire film, never looking like an actor who is picking up the cheque but as somebody whose infectious energy and enthusiasm rubs off on the audience. While Tommy Lee Jones is missing for the majority of the narrative, his spirit and character is maintained through the performance of Josh Brolin. Brolin is rightly getting the majority of the critical praise for this film and his performance transcends the label it has been given of a, “Tommy Lee Jones impression” His younger Agent K is a character with more dimensions than what Tommy Lee Jones has to play with in the present day, with smiles and a personality shining through the professional facade.
However Smith, Jones and Brolin are not the only performances which steal the show, with there being a surprising amount of talent amongst the supporting performances. Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) is unrecognizable as Boris the Animal (It’s just Boris) thanks to Rick Baker’s sensational make-up and he is clearly relishing every single over the top second of his character. His villain is one that has great moments of comedy (His character laughing with the hippies got one of the biggest laughs I have heard in a cinema this year, myself included) and is very creatively designed with moments of genuine horror and threat, with his humorous side never contradicting his villainy and vice versa. It is through the balancing act regarding the film’s villain that another of the film’s strengths is illuminated, which is its playful tone. This is a film which despite the threat of the end of the world, never takes itself too seriously and not in a frustrating, but rather refreshing manner. This is a film, which has the playfulness of the ride at Universal Studios, which prior to this film was the fondest memory I had attached to this franchise.
The film is surprisingly dynamic visually, with director Barry Sonnenfeld having a lot of fun with the effects and toys at his disposal. The time jump scenes, which appear to have been shown in their entirety in the trailer, are just like being on a ride and not in a way which suggests its a ride rather than a film but that the film is a ride in a way that many films of this ilk should be, yet few are. The action and chase sequences are always coherent and fun to behold, while all the gadgetry has some of that old-school James Bond charm with a sci-fi twist. While there are also many visual easter eggs lying in the background such as Tim Burton and Lady Gaga being registered aliens on the Men in Black screens and numerous visual nods to the much loved talking dog of the prior films.
The film is also much funnier and wittier than one would expect from the third film in a series. The scene where young Agent K and Will Smith’s Agent J visit Andy Warhol (Played by Bill Hader) is genuinely hilarious with the film playing on its sixties aspect in a couple of interesting and amusing ways, even if they could have been developed or explored slightly more. Michael Stuhlbarg (Of A Serious Man and Boardwalk Empire fame) gives a great supporting performance here with a really interesting character and I hope to see him in more films of this kind in the future, in leading roles.
On a final positive note, the film has a really intelligent and emotional plot twist, which was surprisingly effective. Now while I really enjoyed watching Men in Black 3, loved the pace and tone, the performances, the twist, the villain and the design, it is by no means a great film. The troubled production does show in certain elements that feel as if they were cut abruptly or didn’t flourish in the way that was planned, I am thinking specifically of Will Arnett (Of Arrested Development fame) showing up for literally 20 or so seconds as Will Smith’s new partner in the adjusted modern day. His brief appearance and waste of his talents may lead many Arrested Development fans to proclaim, “COME ON!” in their minds. I was also expecting the film to be a little more playful with its use of 3D, with its presence in this project being an unnecessary accessory that the film could do without.
Finally there are undeniable plot holes and elements you wish had received more of a focus and more development. However while these are all relative nitpicks that prevent Men in Black 3 from being a GREAT film, it is a great experience if viewed in the right circumstances. I would happily see Men in Black 3 on the big screen again and purchase the Blu-Ray such was my appreciation of the design and enjoyment of the performances. This is no masterpiece but it is a great way to start the official summer movie season and is an above average piece of popcorn entertainment, that does what summer blockbusters promise to do, yet what probably few will this summer.
Apart from The Dark Knight Rises, The Amazing Spiderman and Prometheus, I can’t help but feel that with The Avengers, Men in Black 3 and stretching back a bit further, The Hunger Games (Ok much further), that we have already seen the best of what Hollywood has to offer this summer, or even this year, in the blockbuster department.
By Movie Parliament Prime Minister,
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