Saturday, 26 May 2012

Review: Men In Black 3 (3D)

CAUTION: Yen's blog contains harsh language and even harsher notions of propriety. Reader discretion is advised.

Men In Black 3 / Mib3 poster

Men In Black 3 (or MiB³ if you're down with The Kids*1), in 3D.
105 mins / Dir. Barry Sonnenfeld

I'm wasn't convinced. I didn't see the Men In Black films back in the day as I suspected they were just a summer-blockbuster vehicle for a post-ID4 Will Smith. Having watched them both in recent weeks, it appears I was right. The first film's likeable enough, but with no real warmth or feeling. The second is piss-weak, full of unlikeable characters and effects that look worse than the previous installment five years earlier.

But y'know what? I liked the trailer for MiB³, and Smith's way better now than he was back then, so why the hell not, eh?

The Plot: When intergalactic criminal Boris The Animal escapes from the Lunar Max prison on the moon, he's determined to wreak revenge on the MiB agent responsible for putting him there. Jumping back in time to 1969 he kills Agent K, erasing him from history, so that he can pave the way for an alien invasion of Earth. Now it's down to Agent J to unravel the mystery of how and why, stop Boris and save his partner...

The Good: I like a time-travel film, me. Now there's a temptation when you send your characters back to an iconic time (in this case, 1969) to try and condense all of that culture into a five-minute intro piece, shoehorning in celebrities and events of the time. MiB³ does fall into this trap a little, although after the pointless appearance*2 of Andy Warhol, the writing settles down and we get the time-travel used properly. Not 'cleverly' as such, but properly. There are shadows of Back To The Future hanging over the final set-piece, but that's only to be expected, and it's nice to see characters remembering that they have a time-travel device and actually using it.

A nice stylistic touch is that once J jumps back to 1969, all of the aliens milling about immigration in MiB headquarters look like original-era Star Trek xenos. Look, I enjoyed it, and I don't even do Trek.

But the real heart of the film lies with Michael Stuhlbarg, evoking the spirit of Robin Williams' Mork (including a bit of fourth-walling at one point). His character Griffin is a humanoid-alien who can see all possible outcomes of a situation, the joke being that he's never entirely sure which universe he's in until events occur. Griffin is funny, touching, and more interesting than any other character in the film.

That said, Will Smith is on great form too, and it's good to see the evolution of an actor over the three films. Not that MiB has taught him his craft, but each film is like a snapshot of him at a different level. Josh Brolin and Tommy Lee Jones work well as a double-act (even if they're not together on-screen), fleshing out a character that desperately needs it. Everyone else is pretty much phoning it in, I'm afraid. Secondary characters have never been MiB's strong point. Not 'awful' as such, but given very little to work with.

As for the ending? No spoilers here, but I suspect some will think of it as a shark-jumping moment. Personally, I quite liked it. Forced as it is, it brings a bit of depth to characters I'd been struggling to like for three movies.

The Bad: A lot of the sharpest gags are in the trailer, so they have a little less impact when you see them again in a less punchy setting. It's also worth noting that there are sections in that trailer that aren't in the movie at all ("Two grown men, talking to the wall…"), but that's becoming more and more common these days.

Is it just me, or does the subplot with Agent O go completely against the subplot from MiB with Agent K's coma/wife? Y'know, if we're supposed to think of him as a sympathetic character, an'all?

When J acquires the time-jump device, he asks its owner how, if time has been changed, he's the only one who can remember Agent K. "Oh wow!", says Price, "That must mean you were there!", setting up a callback/explanation that never really appears, as it still makes no sense when you actually think about it. You'll need to watch the film to understand why this doesn't work, as an explanation would be a bit spoilery, I'm afraid.

The Ugly: Jemaine Clement as Boris The Animal. He's not a particularly competent 'villain' (although I suspect a lot of that's down to how he was written), but Clement's voicing of the character is truly bizarre. It's trying to channel the camp of Tim Curry and pomposity of Simon Pegg, but with the charm and wit of neither.

The Third Dimension: It's there, it works, but it doesn't really bring anything to the party. The VFX are fantastical enough to not need 3D, but I suppose seeing a bunch of aliens lurching out of the screen is a nice callback to the B-Movies of old, so I'll forgive it. But if you're on the fence, you won't lose much by seeing it in 2D.

Worth £8+? For me, yes, but I suspect I enjoyed it for different reasons that the filmmakers intended.


In Short: Building on the strengths of MiB, but not falling into the traps of MiB2. Tricky starting, great ending. Better than it has any right to be, in all honesty.

*1 And I am down with The Kids. In fact The Kids ring me if they want to know what's down. Hence their largely awful fashion sense.
*2 Don't get me wrong, I like Bill Hader, but other than a device to introduce Griffin's character the appearance of Warhol is just 'hey look! It's someone famous from the sixties! How whacky is THAT??'

• ^^^ That's dry, British humour, and most likely sarcasm or facetiousness.

• This is a personal blog. The views and opinions expressed here represent my own thoughts (at the time of writing) and not those of the people, institutions or organisations that I may or may not be related with unless stated explicitly.

1 comment:

  1. Good review. Nobody was really ever praying and wishing for the third film in this series, but it wasn't all that bad. I still had plenty of fun with Will Smith and I thought James Brolin's whole impersonation/performance of Tommy Lee Jones, was spot-on and added a whole lot more comedy to the final product.