14 years. It’s been 14 years since Agent J was recruited by Agent K into the stylish ranks of the Men in Black. Agent J seems to take pleasure in reminding us of this, because he mentions it several times. One cannot help but wonder, however, how things have managed to look exactly the same, down to the very font. It’s both a remarkable achievement, and a somewhat sad state of affairs. Men In Black 3 feeds off my generous nostalgia, but is it enough?
The threat to Earth’s existence this time is one Boris the Monster, who escapes from his lunar prison in order to go back in time and stop Agent K, then a young junior agent, from cutting off his arm and preventing his people from invading Earth. Agent J is the only one aware of the changes Boris has wrought on the timeline, so he must jump, or fall as the case is, back in time in glorious 3D to save K, and by extension the world.
One group of scientists must be very pleased with themselves while watching their creation on screen, because they have surely invented cloning. Josh Brolin steps in to play a young Tommy Lee Jones, and the results are hilarious and almost creepily accurate. It almost made me wish they made a Men in Black 4 set entirely in the 1970s. I mean it when I say almost, however, because the rest of the film suffers from weak writing, bad plot devices and a very clearly phoning-it-in Will Smith.
The whole opening sequence in our own time looks like it was filmed right after they wrapped for Men in Black 2. The banter between J and K hasn’t evolved at all in ten years, and therefore feels incredibly dated. The feeling of nostalgia helps with this problem to a substantial degree, I admit, but if you’re not a huge fan of the two first movies, you should really just give this a miss.
Once we’re back in time – finally, the audience sighs – there are some new jokes thrown in, but the actual plot buts its head in awkwardly whenever J and K try to rekindle their bromance. It’s like the film can’t decide what to give screen-time to. Both the villain and the alien Griffin, who is their main helping hand, feel like background noise. Add to that the fact that the bromance never really flares to life, and you’re left with very little that really works. I won’t spoil anything, but there is a plot twist thrown in so badly at the end I wished desperately it had been left out. The whole thing felt awkward and manipulative.
That said, Men in Black 3 should also be praised for doing exactly what we expect. As a big fan of the original, I loved that they didn’t try to “reboot” it in any way. I think my favourite part is the look and feel of the Men in Black office in 1969. We get lots of fun and weird aliens – though the graffiti alien from the trailer is left out – and an early-Bond meets Mad Men feel to the office. And so what if Agent J is still surprised by the strange things that continue to happen to him after 14 years?
Nostalgia can only forgive so much, however, and I do wish they had refocused the plot, got a better villain, and had more fun with Will Smith stuck in 1969.
Dice roll: 3