Friday, May 25, 2012

'Men in Black 3' Review - A Great Sequel to Finish the Series

It's hard to believe that it's been fifteen years since Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones graced the screen in those black suits and shades in the first 'Men in Black' film. The film was an instant hit with audiences and critics alike, and helped solidify Will Smith's fame as a box office star. It's been ten years since we've last seen the men in black suits, and I was almost beginning to think that 'Men in Black 2' was going to be the end of the series. But if you know Hollywood, nothing that's worth money is left alone for long, and this series is no exception. After a rather turbulent and unusual production, including a long hiatus and an unfinished script, 'Men in Black 3' arrives this weekend hoping to win over audiences once again in the way the original did. Bringing back Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as Agent J and K, as well as director Barry Sonnenfeld in the director's seat, and a turn by Josh Brolin as a young version of Agent K,  'Men in Black 3' while not a perfect movie, is a vast improvement over its predecessor and a fun way to spend a summer afternoon at the theater. Especially considering the circumstances.

When an evil alien murderer, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), escapes from a maximum security prison, he seeks revenge against the man who put him there and took his arm, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). Looking to rewrite history, Boris goes back in time and kills Agent K, erasing the future version from existence. Agent J (Will Smith) is the only one who realizes that K has been erased from existence, and in an effort to save him, J goes back in time to save his partner. But nothing is as easy as it seems, and J teams up with a young version of K (Josh Brolin) to save the future.

I was always hoping that we would get a third 'Men in Black', but as time passed after the second film, I started to think that there was a chance it wouldn't happen. While the first remains one of my favorite science fiction/comedies of all time, the sequel, while fun, was a step backwards for the series. I was really hoping the film would deliver for me in a way more like the first and less like the second, and I can absolutely say that the third film delivers, and is a huge step up from the second film. The film is not only incredibly fun and full of the 'Men in Black' style humor, but this movie was actually surprisingly heartfelt in a way I never expected. But the movie wouldn't be nearly as good if it wasn't for the cast behind it, and thankfully, everyone involved delivered.

It's great to see Will Smith finally returning to not only movies, but the summer blockbuster. His absence, at least for me, has been a sad thing, and I definitely missed having him on screen. So I'm glad to see that his return is in one of his most famous roles, and he slips right back into as if he hadn't left it. His Agent J is an older, more tired version though, who is looking for more out of his friendship with Agent K now. He doesn't want it to be just work related, something K doesn't seem to understand. Tommy Lee Jones plays K just as well as ever, but he's much more tired and burned out this time. K is hurting, and it's a bit sad really. He's not the K we've grown to love, and the one that J knows either. But the chemistry is still there, and so undeniable, which just goes to show why these two have become one of my favorite duos in cinema. But it's Josh Brolin who really shines as Agent K in the past. He's perfected Tommy Lee Jones' K absolutely perfectly. It's honestly almost scary how well Brolin slid into his role, because you'd think they really found a way to get a young Tommy Lee Jones in the movie. Everything from the facial expressions to his voice is just dead on, so much so that his chemistry with Will Smith is exactly the same. It's honestly one of the best performances I've seen where one actor takes over for another, and his performance alone makes the movie worth a look.

The supporting cast is good, but underused. I enjoyed Emma Thompson as Agent O, but she's only in the movie for about ten minutes, which just wasn't enough. Then there is Alice Eve, who plays the young Agent O who is barely used in the movie period. I really wish that they'd explored the relationship between her and Agent K more, because I can just imagine the comedy that would have come from her and Young K flirting. It would have been absolute comic gold. Jemaine Clement as Boris, the movie's villain. Jemaine is good, albeit a tad creepy and over the top, but that is easily the point of the character. He's just a sleazy, dark, murderous alien set on revenge, and it's a very interesting role for Clement. My favorite supporting role was really more of a cameo, and that was Bill Hader as Andy Warhol. It's a great little scene between Hader, Smith, and Brolin that is one of the best parts of the second act. It's just very entertaining and I very much enjoyed it. Hader is comedic gold, and I'm wondering how long it'll be until the rest of the world realizes it as well.

I was definitely glad to see that the movie kept its humor from the first two in tact, but not so over the top like the second. This is much more like the first movie in that department. I really do like the story, but I'll definitely say that the second act seems to drag a little, which I assume probably has to do with script not being finished during production. It's not a fatal flaw against the movie, but it definitely hinders it. That being said, the meandering second act is absolutely made up for in the fantastic third act, that not only is a fantastic close for the movie, but it also brings the series full circle in a way that I hope they don't try and make another. It's a perfect ending point for the series, with an incredibly surprising twist at the end that I didn't see coming. I actually felt my jaw go a bit on the ground, and I have to say, it's a great pay off. It's this surprising twist, that really plays on the emotions of those who love the series, that really elevates the final act into solid gold. Like I said, it's definitely a fitting end to the series, and I hope that they don't mess with it after this.

Sonnenfeld really did a great job directing under the circumstances, and I think he really pulled together a solid movie against the odds. He keeps much of what fans love about the first two, such as an appearance from characters such as the Worm Guys, that really makes this a treat for fans of the series. I also have to add that Rick Baker's creature designs in this film are completely incredible, and by far some of the best designs I've seen in quite some time. Baker proves once again why he is one of the best in the business, and his designs are just great to look at.

'Men in Black 3' may suffer from an overlong second act, but that doesn't hinder the movie too much in the end. Has it been too long since the last one? Maybe, but I feel like the wait between the films may have worked in its favor. Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and Josh Brolin are all great, with each of the actors playing K are a perfect match with Smith's J. The movie is all the right parts humor and action, while also adding a rather wonderful heartfelt twist to it. With help from solid direction, the movie beats the odds from such a troubled shoot and ends up coming out on top. While it isn't the first movie, it's definitely a step up from the second, and an absolutely fitting sequel to the original, and a solid finale to the series. This is great summer entertainment, and a perfect way to spend the afternoon this summer at the theater.

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