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Friday, May 25, 2012

Men In Black III

Well, who the hell saw this coming.


Also up at Channel24


What it's about

After Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) is murdered in his youth by a time-travelling, villainous alien, it's up to Agent J (Will Smith) to go back to 1969 to prevent this from happening. Teaming up with a young Agent K (Josh Brolin), J finds himself in a race against the clock to both save his partner and prevent a future alien invasion from taking place.

What we thought

However much comic book movies are all the rage right now, it's hard to imagine that anyone was clamouring for a resurrection of the cinematic adventures of the Men In Black – certainly not after the frankly woeful Men In Black II did everything it could to torch all the goodwill that the original film engendered way back in the mid 1990s. And yet, here we are, ten years later and the Men In Black are back and in far, far better form than anyone could reasonably have hoped.

If nothing else, it's a true pleasure to see Will Smith back to wisecracking, likeable form after a string of underwhelming, MOR (at best) fare. Hell, considering that he hasn't acted at all since 2008, it's just good to see him again. Smith is, very simply, one of the most charismatic and funny screen-presences of his generation – he's so charismatic, in fact, that he manages to make otherwise irredeemably awful tripe like Bad Boys 2 entertaining – and Men In Black III is testament to that fact. He appears in something like 90% of the film's entire running time and, for all else that the film gets undeniably right, he is clearly the glue that holds it all together.

Brilliantly though, Smith more than has his work cut out for him as the film is packed to the gills with exactly the kind of things that made the first Men In Black such a success. It's been a while, so for those who are too old to remember the first film or too young to have seen it in the first place, Men In Black was a delirious mix of fun set pieces, relentlessly funny gags, an ingenious premise, nice performances, killer chemistry between its leads and, lets not forget, a boatload of terrifically imaginative sci-fi weirdness. Being the third instalment, Men In Black III obviously can't hope to match the freshness of the original, but it succeeds spectacularly in every other area.

Tommy Lee Jones is once again in gruff form as the perfect foil to Will Smith but it's especially impressive that their electrifying chemistry doesn't go away once Smith's J retreats to the past and teams up with a much younger, less curmudgeonly K. Josh Brolin does the world's greatest Tommy Lee Jones impression but, best of all, he works off Will Smith in pretty much the exact same way that Jones does. Without this consistency, the film would never have worked; with it, it soars. The rest of the cast is top notch too, but I for one would have loved to have seen more of Emma Thompson/ Alice Eve's Agent O.

Performances aside, the most important key to the film's success lies clearly in its writing. Screenwriting veteran, David Koep has had his highs (Jurassic Park, Spider-man) and he has had his lows (Angels and Demons, Snake Eyes) but his work here is surely some of his best yet. The story itself is refreshingly focused and, though he does falter on some of the background gags – Lady Gaga an alien? Surely not! - most of the film's many, many jokes hit their targets square on. An extended gag at Andy Warhol's Factory is especially great.

He does a wonderful job too, with the franchise's trademark imaginative wackiness, not least with the introduction of a “fifth dimensional” alien who proves to be a central part of the film's plot. It also certainly doesn't hurt that he and director Sonnefeld (and, presumably, the million and one technical artists who worked on the film) have come up with one of the most visually spectacular time-travelling effects we have seen to in film to date – which also, incidentally, happens to be the only part of the film that justifies the otherwise typically worthless 3D.

Admittedly, MiB III is not entirely without its flaws – I know this is kind of a weird complaint in an age when most blockbusters are far too long but I almost wanted more of the characters and more of the kooky scifi – but it's an astonishing amount of fun and proves that it's never too late to come back from the brink of tired obsolescence. It may not quite be up there with The Avengers but once you've seen Whedon's superhero masterpiece (and what have you been doing with your life if you haven't) Men In Black III is more than worth a look for all fans of top-drawer Hollywood blockbusters.

  

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