When you get to the third sequel in a successful franchise, you owe it to the audience to step up the game and take some risks. The first rule should be “don’t take your audience for granted.” Unfortunately Men In Black III is just the same old stuff in a slightly different wrapper.
Exhibit A: The plots of the three Men In Black films. In MIB an evil alien threatens to destroy planet Earth. In MIB II an evil alien threatens to destroy planet Earth. As for MIB III? Yup, you guessed it. (Sorry for the spoiler – but I’m really not spoiling much, I promise.)
Secret agents, flying saucers, and extraterrestrials offer all the possibilities in the universe, and yet the folks at Columbia Pictures were apparently so devoid of creativity that all they could come up for the third installment was a rehashing of the first two. (You could almost hear those same thoughts running through Tommy Lee Jones’ head as he delivered his lines with even more bored indifference than usual.)
To be fair, MIB III is not without its charm. Josh Brolin is uncanny as the young Agent K, and Will Smith’s time travel back to the 60s (where a neuralyzer fills an entire room) is fun, even if it’s an entirely unoriginal concept. The creepy escaped convict (from a prison on the moon) “Boris the Animal” is probably the best evil-alien-hellbent-on-destroying-the-planet since Edgar in the first MIB, and Andy Warhol as an MIB agent is a clever touch.
Unfortunately both Agent Zed and Frank the Pug are absent from the third film, with the late Zed being replaced by Emma Thompson as a somewhat bland Agent O. In the absence of Frank (one of my favorite MIB characters), MIB III introduces Griffin, an alien who has the ability to see multiple outcomes in multiple parallel universes. Griffin is a fun addition and one of the bright spots in the film. (For the observant Frank fans, he does make a brief appearance on a billboard as a Coney Island attraction.)
All in all, Men In Black III makes an entertaining Saturday matinee. The action is solid, there’s whole new batch of squishy aliens to look at, and the retro 60s vibe is integrated into the story in a way that’s fun without being overbearing. But in a summer filled with the likes of The Avengers and The Dark Knight Rises, I couldn’t help but be disappointed. I suspect that MIB III will be the last Men In Black sequel, (at least with Tommy Lee Jones – I just don’t think he’s got any more left in him) and it’s sad to think the franchise will go out with this whimper of a film.
Dave_P studied fine arts and film history and is a graphic and web designer, and a diehard movie fan. David has been involved with a variety film festivals including the Cinephile Film Festival, the PRIDE Film festival, and the Manhattan Short Film festival, and is currently the director of the Dark Carnival Film Fest in Bloomington, Indiana. (www.darkcarnivalfilmfest.com)