In a universe full of sequels and remakes it’s easy to lose faith in the presence of intelligent life out there among the mess of blockbusters thrown at the masses on a regular basis. In the case of “Men in Black III” its third movie status was working against it as well. The trilogy curse is nothing to scoff at and this third film embraces its history.
This time around (still under the direction of Barry Sonnenfeld) Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back and keeping the universe in line. Aliens are still live among us and someone has to make sure we don’t know about it.
Unbeknownst to them an old foe of K’s, the awesomely named Boris the Animal (the almost unrecognizable Jemaine Clement), has escaped his lunar prison and set off to kill K. Sounds simple and sinister enough. Of course it isn’t, Boris doesn’t just want to kill K, he wants to kill him before he has the chance to shoot his arm off and imprison him. He succeeds and K vanishes from his time stream. The end.
Just kidding. This is where it gets time-travel complicated. The only trace of Agent K’s existence (beyond his recent/not so recent death) lies with Agent J, who miraculously remembers his old partner. With the help of Agent O (Emma Thompson) he travels back in time to correct the past and save his partner.
The past happens to be 1969, just days before the first moon walk, and the recently revised death of Agent K. Despite warnings to avoid the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) at all costs. Agent J quickly finds himself in the custody of his future partner. Once J reveals most of the truth to K (another no no), they’re off again (or for the first time) to save the universe and K.
There’s just one more piece that makes this puzzle of time and space work. It’s with the help of Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), a being with the ability to see all possible futures, that “Men in Black III” manages to be a rather sweet story about the impact of one person and the influence the smallest of choices can have. It’s epic, it’s funny, and although not as flashy (aside from the occasional neuralizer) as it’s predecessors (to its credit) it’s a welcome and heartwarming addition to the franchise.
This movie works because they know their strengths and use them. Few can deny who the foundation of this franchise is. No offense to Mr. Smith, he is a valuable part of the equation; however, the prospect of a Men in Black universe without Tommy Lee Jones, the essential premise of this film, is a bleak one indeed.
Of course, Josh Brolin as the younger Agent K only needs about five seconds of screen time to prove that he is up to the challenge. In a frighteningly accurate portrayal of 29 year old K (who’s clearly seen several rough decades) Mr. Brolin steals the show, until Tommy Lee Jones shows up again of course. It’s not a caricature, it’s not an impersonation, it’s an unbelievably brilliant performance found in an unlikely place. I wouldn’t be even remotely shocked if the next Men in Black film turned out to be a prequel. He’s that good.
“Men in Black III” has history, two movies of it, yet it manages to stand on its own just fine. Fans of the franchise will like this film. Those who haven’t seen any of the Men in Black trilogy, give it a try. It might surprise you. It’s an intergalactic story with heart and humor and history. What’s not to like?