As you may or may not know, the Men in Black movie series was initially adapted from a comic book written by Lowell Cunningham and illustrated by Sandy Carruthers. There were two 3-issue series published, one in 1990 and the other in 1991. The series was initially published by Aircel Comics, which was bought by Malibu Comics, which was bought by Marvel Comics. And the purpose of me telling you all this is so that you know why this movie is showing up on this blog, since we do try to stick with only properties that began as comic books. The first movie was a fun adventure pairing the charismatic Will Smith with incredibly stoic Tommy Lee Jones. The second movie, while enjoyable at times, was a mess a movie that spent too much time trying to undo the ending of the first movie so that there could be a second movie. The third movie sits somewhere between the two. Most of the time it is humorous, but there are times when it gets a bit sloppy. Full review after the break. I promise to keep spoilers to a minimum.
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Written by Etan Cohan, David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson & Michael Soccio
Will Smith as Agent J
Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K
Josh Brolin as Young Agent K
Jemaine Clement as Boris the Animal
Emma Thompson as Agent O
Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin
The movie begins in the present, but really, the bulk of the movie happens in 1969. As you learn from the previews, someone travels back in time, and kills Agent K. Agent J is the only person that remembers K because of some time fracture, is the only person that remembers the way the timeline is supposed to be, and must go back in time to change history back to the way things were. In the past, he runs into Agent K, and they team up to stop Boris the Animal.
I won’t lie to you. There are a few things that could be considered plot holes. There’s an inter-office romantic angle that’s alluded to between Agent K and Agent O which kind of conflicts with Agent K having a long lost lover in the first movie. Sure, the two romantic interests can easily coexist in a “if you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” sort of way, but it struck me as odd. There’s also a moment when Agent J uses the time travel device to go back a few minutes. I figure it should have taken him back in time so that there were now two Agent Js at that point, but it didn’t. It sent him back to that point so he could redo the next couple minutes. That seemed odd to me.
I’ll also admit that there are some very cheesy moments, but most of them belong to Jemaine Clement’s Boris the animal. It’s some bits of dialogue that didn’t come off as funny as they were probably meant to be. I felt that outside of the prison escape, which was cheesy, Boris didn’t get enough screen time. Sure, we are shown how vicious of a killer he is, but I would like to have gotten to know him a bit better. Of course, it could be that there really wasn’t anything to know. It’s possible that all there was to the character was that he was an assasin sent by his planet to remove anything that stood in the way of his people attacking. And I mean this about the younger version. We know what is driving the older version. He lost an arm, watched his people get destroyed, and has been in prison for 40 years thanks to Agent K.
To me, the best part of this movie is Josh Brolin’s portrayal of a Young Agent K. The facial expressions, the voice inflictions were a wonderful impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K, while still being able to add a bit of youthful exuberance to the role. It’s nice to take a look at what Agent K was like before he was the grizzled old man that we’re used to seeing. In the movie, Agent J asks Agent K what happened to him, and his response is simply “I don’t know, it hasn’t happened it.” But we do find out what happened. And it is something that will change how you look at the series. I’m not going to tell you what happened, but it is something that’s very moving.
Also, the character of Griffin was a nice addition to the movie. This character is an alien that can see all timelines at once. The character is played with a hopefulness that is difficult to not be moved by, but he’s also a very thought provoking character. There’s a scene where they are at Shea Stadium, and he’s showing Agents J and Young K the 1969 Mets winning the World Series (because he can see all timelines at any time), and he’s going through the set of coincidences needed to get everyone to this moment in time so that the Mets could pull of the miracle and win the World Series.
In closing, in the time between Men in Black 2 came out, and now, I never thought, “hey, I wish they would make another Men in Black movie.” However, I’m glad that they did. And while I wouldn’t begrudge anyone for continuing the series, I don’t think they should. I especially don’t think they should go the Bourne Legacy route, and just replace the main character. This is a series defined by the interactions between Agents J and K, and this third film did a wonderful job of wrapping things up and tying things together. I recommend that you see this movie. It might not be worth a full price, 3D ticket, but it’s definitely at least worth a matinee ticket.