a critiQal film review Men in Black 3 (2012)

Plot: Agents J (Smith) and K (Jones) are back... in time. J has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men in Black, but nothing, not even aliens, perplexes him as much as his wry, reticent partner. But when K's life and the fate of the planet are put at stake, Agent J will have to travel back in time to put things right.

521 words (Est. Reading Time 2m 36s)

After a long hiatus between films, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones are back for Men In Black 3! But, after the solid success of Men in Black (1997) and Men in Black II (2002), did this summer’s sequel be able to carry on the strong series, or was this just another Hollywood-churned sequel-for-profit?

Will Smith is back as Agent J, and quickly falls back into character. Since this is the first film in the series that doesn’t have Smith doing double-duty as actor and singer, it seems he should be able to focus more on the acting part. Unfortunately, it also seems like he isn’t quite as invested in the success of the film, and doesn’t quite show the same flair he did in the previous films.

As for his co-star, Tommy Lee Jones, well, it seems like there’s a reason he’s not around for much of this film. The few glimpses of his aged visage seem to showcase just how old he’s gotten – a sad reminder that actors, like the rest of us, aren’t ageless.

Josh Brolin is a newcomer to the series, but his portrayal of a younger Agent K is impeccable, and really the biggest delight of Men In Black 3. While Jones and Smith seem a bit more jaded to the fun (despite Smith continuing to be the comic relief of the film), Brolin’s deadpan delivery hearkens back to previous films where Jones and Smith were still excited to be in the series. Emma Thompson is decent enough as the new boss, and the unrecognizable Jemaine Clement is a suitably evil villain in his portrayal of Boris the Animal.

That might be in part to the script this time around, as there seems to be more emotional and psychological baggage for the characters in Men In Black 3. While it’s normally good for the characters to convey deep emotions, the comedy element that was such a big part of the first two films seems more forced amongst these deeper heartfelt moments. Writer Etan Coen, known for quirky comedies like Fargo (1996), seems to be a solid choice for scriptwriter, yet Men In Black 3 still seems to be lacking something.

There are still the plethora of strange aliens, but a few familiar characters are missing. Not only is Zed (Rip Torn) no longer in the picture, both Frank the pug and Jeebs (Tony Shalhoub) – memorable characters from the previous films – are also noticeably absent.

While some familiar faces aren’t around anymore, both Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return, and Josh Brolin as Jones’ younger self, is easily a highlight of the film – but there’s something just a bit off about Men In Black 3. With it’s deeper emotional content and tragedy for it’s characters, the film seems to have almost forgotten what made the series so much fun – it’s irreverent wit and humor. Almost, but not quite, as Men In Black 3 isn’t without it’s laughs.

But, on the whole, the viewer might walk away feeling a bit nostalgic for the previous films, instead of excited about continuing the series into Men In Black 4 – and that’s not a good sign.

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