Men in Black III (2012)

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Movie Review written by: Born Movie Reviews
RT Critics Rating: 6.9/10

Born Movie Reviews' Rating: 7/10

MEN IN BLACK III (2012) - Barry Sonnenfeld

The stage is set. The lights are down, replaced with constant strobe lights engulfing the shooting gallery. There is a handgun on the table. You, a soldier, spontaneously hoist the weapon towards the distance as the blazing alarm sets off, launching several cardboard displays of extraterrestrial aliens at your sight. Without hesitating, you pull the trigger at the unfamiliar creatures. But a smart-mouthed man next to you, a rookie police officer, shoots an innocent girl display instead. To his logic, he refused to kill a muscular alien brute hanging from a street light since he is just "working out." Of course, how would you like it if somebody comes running into the gym and "bust you in your ass while you're on a treadmill?" Unorthodox from the practices of the US Marines and Navy Seals yet respects the presence of alien life within our world, James Edwards passed his qualification exam and became a member of the unknown society Men in Black.

Men in Black was a game-changer, a pioneer in science fiction filmmaking where it introduced the idea of extraterrestrial life already living in our world while a secret society shields us from ever knowing their existence. Our protagonist pair is Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and rookie Agent J (Will Smith), protecting the Earth from the scum of the universe.

Men in Black strived with its creativity and fast-paced humor. Though it lacks storytelling depth, it makes up its flaws with an infectious spectrum of zany jokes and eye-popping visuals. It is a quirky movie, phenomenal for the adults and science fiction fans, but maybe terrifying for younger audience members.

With a box office performance of over $500 million against a $95 million budget, Men in Black inevitably received a sequel, a lousy one. With recycled jokes and more disgusting alien designs, Men in Black II came forth as a movie that is more appalling than it is appealing. Virtually identical to its predecessor five years ago, Men in Black II falls into the pit of formula-replicating madness, lacking rhythm, wit, and originality.

It has been ten years since another Men in Black film came out, and we were left with a disappointed state for those years. Finally a third film was announced, same cast and same director. Again, in response to hearing a sequel's release, I ask the question: What is the story about? To say I am disappointed with the result is a little too vague, for Men in Black III's storyline toys with the formulaic idea of time traveling. The two most cliche plot points just had to go together: Aliens + time travel. This cannot get any more hopeless for the Men in Black franchise. I walked into the theater expecting nothing, and I was surprisingly disgusted by the film's first act.

Out of all things to throw into a second sequel, Men in Black III just had to come up with an even more repulsive villain conceptually. With a disappointing and severely ugly first act, the film exposes its screenplay at its worst. After presenting mildly offensive themes to the Chinese, Men in Black III hustles its narrative with noise, messy visuals, and wheezy humor. Will Smith, my favorite African American actor, has lost his touch. His fast-paced improvisation-like dialogue no longer exists here, as if he ran out of ideas, trying to squeeze a funny line through. Tommy Lee Jones, despite his funny accent and consistent straight face, critically unveils his old age. With the used-to-be-memorable chemistry missing, the pair seems to be just standing in front of the camera, unaware of what to do next, unsure how to carry the plot forward. This strength was the very crux of the original film, and here it is lost in the drain, regurgitated back out of an alien fish.

However, to my greatest amazement, Men in Black III somehow pulls itself together starting the second act. Clever enough, Sonnenfeld chooses the year 1969 for Agent J to go back to. Imminent to the Apollo 11 lunar rocket launch, the background environment of the second and third act all belong in a more open-minded setting. Surprisingly, this is where the jokes start to get legitimately funny. They are ironic, dramatic in which we as audience members know the context of the situations but the characters themselves do not. With finally found creativity, Men in Black III quickly begins to crawl out of the hole it dug itself in.

Josh Brolin impersonating Tommy Lee Jones is phenomenal and is the greatest strength in Men in Black III. His act itself is what makes the film worth watching. With his straight face and his hilariously accurate voice, Brolin revives the chemistry between Smith and Jones. As a result, the charms are back and the characters are charismatic once again in addition to a conclusion that satisfies my expectations, possibly even going beyond them. Furthermore, I like to stress on the fact that I was enthusiastic over the missing appearance of the talking dog that infected the second film. However, I was disheartened by the replacement of MIB head Zed, Emma Thompson as Agent O. Very disheartened.

In conclusion, Men in Black III is fairly watchable. After suffering a messy and unorganized first act, the film manages to pull its strings together and deliver a film better than its predecessor, thanks to more creativity, a fine performance by Brolin, and still a little sense of intelligence. It lacks the silliness that drove its predecessors, but at least it does not risk falling into the silliness itself and losing focus on its narrative. It finally lowers down the nastiness of the aliens and increases the humanity stories with thematic materials that make us think, discuss, and re-interpret. A clear improvement over Men in Black II, but inevitably inferior to the original source material. Nevertheless, it is reasonably entertaining, a partial return of the franchise, inventive but still not enough to make me desire a second viewing or another sequel. From the Washington Post, "It's hard to imagine [a Men in Black IV] -- let's hope it finds that delicate balance between the yuks and the yucks."


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