You have to feel sorry for the Men in Black. They really didn’t stand a chance. It was fifteen years ago now when they first appeared on our screens to protect us from the scum of the universe. Now, with all the people in capes running around who seem to be doing a fairly good job, everyone has forgotten about the secret organisation whose members dress like the Blues Brothers.
They’re not entirely blameless in all this however. They have after all absent from the big screen for ten years, ever since Men in Black 2 was released and disappointed pretty much everyone. They were forgotten as a franchise, but remembered as a late 90s cult hit that seemed so fresh and new. But now the Men in Black are back with Men in Black 3, a film Will Smith has been publicising as the best in the series. He really couldn’t be more mistaken if he tried.
Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement), a particularly rubbish villain, escapes from his prison on the moon and swears vengeance against the man who put him there, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). So Boris travels back in time and completed erases the aged Agent K from history. This forces Agent J (Will Smith) to follow Boris back in time, and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to try and prevent his impending disappearance.
You have to bear in mind that this is a film that has been stuck in development hell for nearly eight years. There was at one point talk of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones teaming up to write the script for MIB3 themselves, which would have been more appealing than the corporate-made tosh we’re given here. Apparently it was Smith who came up with the time travelling idea, which would be appealing if someone had actually took the time to write it before filming started. Around midway through filming, the production had to take a break while the director Barry Sonnenfield, Will Smith, and some writers took some time to write the rest of the unfinished script, because what they’d filmed so far was all set to spin out of control. Even this is no excuse for the ridiculous plot hole when Jones’ K disappears. How is J the only person who remembers him? No explanation is given for this, unless we should assume that Will Smith is so cool that the laws of time literally have no effect on him. It is such a stupid plot hole, you have to wonder how come some prop guys or child extras didn’t go to the director to voice their concerns.
In a strange way you are thankful that Smith came up with the time travelling idea, because if he hadn’t it would have meant more screen time between him and Tommy Lee Jones, which in this case would be a bad thing. Poor Tommy Lee looks very tired, and doesn’t even seem to be trying during the fifteen minutes or so he spends on screen. Maybe he’s upset he doesn’t have more screen time? Or maybe he’s read the script and can’t wait to get as far away from the set as possible? What’s more likely is that he’s now 66, and so is perhaps a little too old for all this. If this had been written when Smith and Jones wanted to do it themselves, he would have been 58. Given that the chemistry between Smith and Jones was a key part of what made the first film so enjoyable, seeing it all go to hell here is a very unpleasant and depressing sight.
Thank goodness then for Josh Brolin, that only actor in the film who seems to be on form. Brolin manages to master the very difficult art of impersonating while making the character your own. Michael Sheen is an expert on such matters. Here Brolin nails Jones’ accent perfectly, while the same time giving him a little more youth and vigor.
It’s probably for the best then that MIB3 disappears among the vast collection of blockbusters on our screens this year. The best thing to do right now is stick on that special edition DVD of Men in Black, and remember how utterly superb it was. Because, if you haven’t learned any lessons from the disaster that was MIB2, then going to see Men in Black 3 could well be the most disappointing experience you have in the cinema this year.
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