Despite being nothing more than a flawed nostalgia exercise, JIM ROSS reckons there’s enough here to make you want to suit up with Will Smith and co again
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld
Nostalgia is rarely an unequivocally good thing in cinema. Revisiting old favourites after a long absence has rarely proven fruitful. The hallways of multiplexes are probably still littered with ticket stubs for disappointing and late-to-the-party blockbuster sequels such as Indiana Jones & The Kingdom Of The Crystal Skull, Scream 4 and the like. Against better judgment, however, Barry Sonnenfeld and company have decided to give us a third Men In Black film 10 whole years after they tired everybody out with the second installment.
The plot is complex. It hinges on Agent J (Will Smith) needing to go back in time and save the life of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), who has been killed by a former adversary, Boris ‘the Animal’, whilst travelling back in time to avenge his previous maiming and imprisonment by K in 1969. In 1969, J and the younger K (Josh Brolin) must help save Earth from an invasion (handily tied in) in the ‘future’ by finding and killing Boris, played by an absolutely unrecognisable Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Conchords.
The time-travel plot seems odd at first glance, but is actually a clever way of injecting some life into the J/K dynamic and the film as a whole. Josh Brolin is pitch perfect as the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones, keeping the character familiar through his capturing of Jones’s essence and voice, but allowing new ground to be explored. In addition, pitching a confident young black man into the racially-tense 1969 setting affords some good, and otherwise unavailable, joke opportunities.
Not all of it works – the whole film feels slightly flat and still lacking the energy and inventive humour of the original, and the time-travel elements introduce plot holes the size of Will Smith’s ego in the (unfinished at time of filming) script. Clement’s role requires him to do little more than growl and shout. In a world where millions watch Mad Men, for the 1969 setting, you would also perhaps expect more in terms of production design from a film with a budget of $375 million – MiB3’s 1969 is a lot closer to that of Austin Powers.
A rather expensive and flawed exercise in late-90s nostalgia this may be, but it delivers enough humour, action and even pathos come the final reel to make it worth watching. The performance of Brolin, screen presence of Smith and the unexpectedly heartwarming finale make this an apt conclusion, going some way to forgiving the team for the dreadful 2002 sequel.
Sonnenfeld and company have done a perfectly acceptable job here, but it might be advisable for them grab one of those neuralysers and erase memories of the franchise so they’re not tempted back again.