The Sons of Katie Elder

The Sons of Katie Elder
"First, we reunite, then find Ma and Pa's killer...then read some reviews."

Monday, August 5, 2013

Men in Black 3

Released in 1997, the original Men in Black is the rare film. It's really smart, but it's really entertaining too, a great example of what a summer blockbuster can be. It made a whole lot of money -- some $589,000,000 -- and naturally led to an inferior sequel that couldn't live up to the original's success. Not surprisingly though, that sequel made a whole lot of money too. Not exactly an immediate follow-up, but here's yet another sequel, 2012's Men in Black III.

Working for Men in Black, Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) have been partners for 15 years now, working together to police extraterrestrial issues all over the Earth. Their partnership has just been dealt quite an issue though. A former Boglodite assassin, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), has escaped from a prison on the moon, shaking off 40 years of a sentence. He wants revenge on the man who put him away back in 1969....Agent K. After one run-in with Boris though in NYC, J wakes up one morning to find himself in a world where K never existed. What happened? Did his partner up and disappear? How about a solution? J has to go back in time to 1969 when these "new" records indicate K was killed. Who does he quickly find upon arrival in 1969 New York City? His old partner, but he's far younger. Hopefully J and Agent K (Josh Brolin) can work together to save the world in time.

I grew up watching the original Men in Black so after not especially enjoying the first sequel (to put it lightly), I was skeptical about a second sequel. Maybe the 10 years apart from the series was a good thing, but this was a really good continuation of the series. Director Barry Sonnenfeld gets back to basics, putting together an entertaining mix of science fiction, action and comedy that made the first movie so special. And let's be honest, how do you make science fiction better? Duh....time travel. J going back to 1969 adds a cool element to an already pretty solid story. Overall, that mix is there though. There's some gross-out moments, some good action scenes with all sorts of futuristic technology, and a surprisingly emotional ending. This is a movie that sat in my Netflix queue for most of eight, maybe nine months, but I'm glad I caught up with it.

It's pretty cool, even a little odd, to see Will Smith return to the series that helped make him a huge international star. When this film had been released, it was 15 years since the original hit theaters. 15 years for goodness sake!!! Maybe I'm just feeling old. In the years since, Smith has shown he's not just a movie star, but an actor too. Here, he's a movie star. Smith is a fun, cool movie star, his smartass and deadpan delivery landing just as well in 2012 as it did in 1997. Unfortunately, Tommy Lee Jones looks to be here because of some sort of blackmail obligation. He looks downright bored, no energy at all. I love TLJ as an actor, but this is almost painful to watch. Thankfully, he's only around for about 15 minutes of actual screentime.

As for the rest of the movie....Smith and Josh Brolin show the kind of chemistry that Smith and TLJ did in the original. It ends up being the best part of the movie by far, but there's a twist. Brolin isn't doing an impression the way commercials/trailers would have had you think although to be fair, he does a spot-on Lee Jones. The best twist is that we're meeting the Agent K character before the event that turned him into the Agent K we know. What is that event? We never find out for sure, but it's cool to see K crack a smile, make a bit of a joke, and basically not be the emotionless K we do know. There is a natural chemistry between the duo, and it plays well anytime they're on-screen together. Clement too is a great sci-fi bad guy, creepy alien rival. Also in the cast is Emma Thompson as Agent O, the new head of Men in Black, with Alice Eve playing her 1969 self, Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin, an alien with the ability to see countless futures in an instant and holds the key to the universe's survival, and Nicole Scherzinger as an associate of Boris the Animal.   

While the movie is never slow, things pick up when J heads back to 1969 in a cool time-bending sequence when he jumps off a skyscraper to jump back in time. The technique is used again later with similar results. The look and style of the films come through back in 1969 as J explores the hippie, druggy subculture of the late 1960s. We even meet Andy Warhol (Bill Hader) but with a twist. The story twists and turns as J and K bond -- K assuming J's ridiculous time-traveling explanation is true -- and try to save the world from Boris' wrath. The timing is solid too, letting the story deal with the Apollo 11 launch and the eventual moon launch, the MiB agents heading to Cape Canaveral in a cool final sequence, with Mike Colter playing an army officer in charge of the launch's security. It is an ending that surprised me in not just delivering a solid twist, but how effective emotionally it is.

That's the movie. It was a big surprise, getting back to what the original Men in Black was so good at. It's fun, exciting and I enjoyed it throughout. I suppose that's a good thing because a fourth MiB flick is in the works. Yeah for sequels! Oh, and Pitbull sings too so we've got that going for us. Listen HERE.

Men in Black III (2012): ***/**** 

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