© 2012 Ray Wong
It's hard to believe it's been fourteen years since the first Men in Black hit the big screen and made Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones one of the best movie buddies of all times. Well, they're back for more!
Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement) escapes maximum security prison on the moon and returns to Earth. His mission? To go back in time and kill the person who put him in prison (and shot off his left arm) in the first place: Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones).
When he succeeds, it's up to Agent J (Will Smith) to figure out how to chase after Boris and fix it -- to prevent K from dying in 1969. It's not just about saving K, but also saving the world. Looks like by killing K, a global defense system wasn't deployed and Boris has led his people from his planet to attack Earth.
Once J travels back in time, he must outsmart Boris and track him down before he kills young K (Josh Brolin). But he's also not supposed to have contact with K. Of course, he ends up doing just that, getting all mixed up in situations with K. With the help of an alien who can see multiple possible futures, J must find a way to save K and the world without seriously messing up history.
After four years of absence, Will Smith (Seven Pounds) returns to his root to play one of his most successful roles, Agent J. It's amazing how little Smith has changed in the last fourteen years -- he is still energetic, sassy-mouthed, and witty, and reminds us why he was (and maybe still is) one of the best action stars in this universe. More amazingly, he looks almost the same as he did.
In comparison, Tommy Lee Jones (Captain America: the First Avenger) didn't age as well. But the old pro still got it. Reprising the role of Agent K must a piece of cake for Jones. He's the same droll, grumpy, mysterious character we've come to love. Now, what is even more impressive is that Josh Brolin (True Grit) successfully impersonates Jones as young Agent K in both mannerism and speech, but also adds his own take to the character and a few twinkles in his eyes.
The supporting cast is pretty good too. Jermaine Clement (Dinner with Schmucks) let it all hang out as Boris the Animal. He's over the top, outlandish, loud and obnoxious, exactly what the character calls for. Emma Thompson (Nanny McPhee Returns) is a welcome addition, replacing Rip Torn as Agent O, Director of MIB and K's object of affection. Michael Stuhbarg (Hugo) gives a great performance as Griffin, an alien who can see multiple futures. Mike Colter (Salt) is charming as the colonel, and Alice Eve (The Raven) is sexy as young Agent O.
Written by Etan Cohen (Men in Black II), the story goes into the realm of time-travel, which is not easy to do. Ever since Back to the Future successfully made time travel plausible (in movies, of course), it's been a tough way to tell a fresh story with it. Sure, there are plenty of holes to go around -- what time-travel stories don't have them? But at least Cohen makes the plot fun. Who doesn't want to go back in time and meet young Agent K and see if he's the same grump?
Still, the giant plot holes can be distracting. I really had to check my brain at the door with this one, or else I wouldn't have been able enjoy the repartee, and the tremendous relationships between these beloved characters. I think that's the key. While the plot is moves with maddening pace and the sight gags and jokes keep coming, Cohen never loses sight of what really make the series click: the characters, especially J and K and their relationship, and that makes the ending even sweeter as we truly explore how deep and far that relationship goes (no spoilers, here).
And director Barry Sonnerfeld (Men in Black II) knows that, too. That's why he cast Josh Brolin in the role of young K. Brolin has matured as an actor, and he bears such resemblance to Tommy Lee Jones. The chemistry between Brolin and Smith is so good (and yet remain true to the chemistry between Jones and Smith) that we may want to see more time traveling stories in the MIB series, so that we can see them together again. Sonnerfeld also keeps the spirit of MIB intact. It's as if ten years hadn't passed since the last one.
Truth be told, I could have done without the second MIB, but this third installment is a good complement to the original. It completes the circle. I sure hope they make more of them, but if they ever stop at this one, I'm glad that at least they're back in the black.
Stars: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson, Jermaine Clement, Michael Stuhbarg, Mike Colter, Alice Eve
Director: Barry Sonnerfeld
Writers: Etan Cohen (based on comic by Lowell Cunningham)
MPAA Rating: PG-13 for sci-fi action violence, and brief suggestive content
Running Time: 103 minutes
Script - 7
Performance - 7
Direction - 8
Cinematography - 8
Music/Sound - 7
Editing - 8
Production - 8
Total - 7.5 out of 10.0