Watched Jun 03, 2012
Eric Forthun’s review:
I don’t think anyone had high expectations for Men in Black III, and that’s expected. It’s been hampered by an awful production history, with a soaring budget, extensive reshoots, and numerous people working on the script at different times. It all doesn’t really work on screen, with some of the time travel stuff just not making sense at all, but the experience does provide something we never thought we’d see: some development with these characters and new approaches to the material that never crossed our minds before. These characters are full-fledged now, and that’s an exciting surprise in and of itself. Sure, the movie itself isn’t all that good, and I can easily write up about the film’s flaws and inconsistencies. But when we appreciate these characters this much and see how appropriately paced the film is (it’s only 105 minutes, which is an impressive feat for a blockbuster), the movie feels commendable, even if we know deep down that this is not a very good film.
I won’t budge on the plot. It involves going back in time to save Agent K’s life, and the elaborate scheme hatched by the hero and villain doesn’t really work when we apply any logic about the space-time continuum to the film. Then again, the film has aliens, a lunar prison base on the moon, and some whacked-out weapons that defy the logic of the real world; does it matter if a few elements don’t make a whole lot of sense by our standards? Not at all, but it does feel slightly off-putting that we get developed main characters with some nice traits of humanity when the film strays so much from such an idea. Agent J has always been one we like: he’s played by Will Smith, after all, who’s one of the most charismatic, and well-versed, actors working today. When we hear some stuff about his father and their relationship, it feels a bit too expository, almost as if the film is throwing that in there in hopes of making the audience feel like something is going to happen. It does, and when we see it near the end of the film, it works.
There’s a new philosophy applied to these characters. Agent K, while typically the grumpy, quiet type, is seen new and improved as Josh Brolin, with a little bit of pep applied to his step. He’s a charming actor, one I’ve always appreciated, but he embodies this role in the purest form of the word; he becomes Tommy Lee Jones for so much of the film that I honestly forgot he was acting. He just felt like the role he was playing; maybe that’s because he’s more of a character actor and can do such a thing, since most actors you see as their infamous roles. Here, Brolin is just doing his thing to the best extent he can, and it makes almost all of those scenes work and not feel hokey. Anyone else in that role would’ve bombed because, simply put, they can’t hold up against Jones.
I won’t address the humanity brought to these characters, but it doesn’t feel forced. It’s a bit unrealistic and slightly gimmicky, but in a world like this, is there really any sense of nuance? I think enough of it is applied to these characters, though, to make us understand where they stand as individuals. That’s enough about that; I won’t talk about spoilers, even if there really aren’t any. There’s some inventive moments in the rest of the film as well, with the most inspired bit being Bill Hader playing Andy Warhol, who’s actually Agent W. He’s pleading with them to take him out, to fake his own death in hopes of never having to do this work again, but they just ignore him. Hader has comedic delivery that elevates the scene, and playing off Brolin there works magnificently. Another bit was chuckle-worthy more than anything else, but it was somewhat smart: showing Lady Gaga and Tim Burton on the alien-tracking list, with the men in black monitoring them. It’s a quick sight gag, but it’s effective.
Most of the film is just that: effective. It’s not a strong effect, nor is it a bad one, but it’s sufficient for popular entertainment in the sea of summer films. There haven’t been any key standouts (outside of The Avengers, which I’ve seen twice), and this most certainly won’t be one of them, but it’s an experience I enjoyed because I liked these characters more than I remembered. They’re likable people for different reasons: K is given humanity when we didn’t think that was possible, and J is made more human by simply providing some backstory on him. It’s nice when there feels like a sense of effort was applied to a film that could’ve been easily phoned-in; the filmmakers at least wanted to make an attempt at telling a story, even if it has way too many snags along the way. It’s a film I’d recommend to pass time, so long as you like these characters; even if you don’t, though, you might after this.