The original MEN IN BLACK film was better-than-average summer popcorn entertainment that has proven far more durable than anyone might have predicted. The inevitable sequel was…well, merely inevitable, and that’s probably the nicest thing anyone can say about it. I don’t know that anyone was expecting a third installment at all, especially 15 years after the franchise first hit movie screens.
MEN IN BLACK 3 assumes that we’ve all been hanging on to the dream of a threequel, and charges ahead as if everyone knows the score coming in. That’s fine by me, as it breezes right by the continuity refresher course that I figured was obligatory under the circumstances. The story wastes no time, jumping right into the action as the villainous Boris the Animal (played with restrained scenery-chewing by Jemaine Clement) escapes incarceration on the moon, and immediately declares his plan to take revenge on the man who put him there, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones, whose screen time borders on an extended cameo.)
Thankfully, the good guys don’t have to struggle to figure out what Boris is up to. After a quick bit of expository mission planning, Agent J (Will Smith, who clearly ages at half the rate of normal humans) has time-traveled back to the late 1960s, where he has to stop Boris from killing K. Director Barry Sonnenfeld wisely avoids what could have been an easy fall into Austin Powers territory, and focuses instead on getting to the best part of the movie: Josh Brolin’s startlingly accurate turn as young Agent K. Brolin’s tribute to Tommy Lee Jones is nothing short of amazing, but he takes it beyond mere caricature; his uptight 1960s alien-hunting cop has a warm heart for Agent O (Alice Eve in the past, Emma Thompson in the present) and a firm belief in the crime-fighting power of pie.
There’s a surprising little emotional moment in the third act that, while ultimately unnecessary, ties a nice bow on the whole package. The effects are well done, but some sequences were definitely intended to exploit the 3D. The film was intended to shoot in 3D, but that was abandoned early on in favor of 2D production, followed by conversion; I’m not sure if any of the more bombastic scenes were actually filmed in 3D, but they definitely threw some action items at the audience, with varying degrees of success.
MEN IN BLACK 3 is a worthy successor to the first film, and I’ll accept it as an apology for the second. Here’s my big problem, though: What I want now – and I’d be willing to bet that I’m not alone in this – is more of Josh Brolin’s Agent K in the franchise. Heck, I’m not even sure I need Will Smith at this point.