Riding roughshod over the last outing it seems the decade has done wonders for Sonnenfeld’s hold on the series and the time-travel device allows for new light to be brought to the characters. Men in Black 3 isn’t a vastly different direction for the franchise but the series feels complete now, the Men in Black bow out with a bang.
The supporting characters are given far more to do than in the previous films, Emma Thompson is a lot of fun as Agent O (her eulogy at a fallen colleague’s funeral is hilarious) and Michael Stuhlbarg’s orphaned alien has a curious power which lends the overarching story an emotional power and poignancy. The ridiculous retrofuture weapons and vehicles are back in full force and the tone is as childishly excitable as before but the series has changed, and the addition of Brolin to the cast is a masterstroke. Usually bringing time-travel into the equation signals a dearth of creative spark, allowing filmmakers to replay all the old songs in an effort to please the fans rather than gain new ones – not so here.
The cartoon psychics and garish alien deigns are back in force, Rick Baker and his effects team doing some excellent work, and it’s good to see the Sahara-dry deadpan humour of Jones/Brolin and Will Smith’s elongated limbs back on screen with a decent story. One of the highlights of each of the Men in Black Home Entertainment releases has always been the accompanying VFX featurettes and the work revealed here is astonishing.
The script isn’t perfect by any means. Smith, Jones and Brolin elevate it enormously with the ramshackle/stoic counterbalance which made the first film so engaging. The development of the relationship between our two leading agents is the focus of the narrative rather than a by-product of the defeat of this year’s monster. Brolin’s pitch-perfect Agent K is far more than just a Tommy Lee Jones impression and is why the film succeeds. Seeing Will Smith’s Agent J back in the 60s is fun for a while but instead of drowning the audience in anachronistic superfluity there is a brief scene in which a couple of racist cops are put in their place. The key to spotting a lacklustre script is the flogging of a single idea, to death and beyond.
Far better than expected Men in Black 3 feels like a fitting end to the series. And please, let this be an end.
As sated above the VFX progression reels are a lot of fun, and there’s a neat an inoffensive (and thus barely illuminating) making of documentary which is worth a watch. The weak gag reel is a given but far more rewarding are the design featurettes which look at the period setting and the alien designs created. Nothing is mind-blowing but all are welcome and well produced.