Sunday, July 01, 2012

Men in Black 3

movie review: in the picture

Men in Black 3 ***

Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Michael Stuhlbarg, and Emma Thompson
Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Tagline: Back to the past… to save the future

When the agents of the “secret government organization that polices and monitors alien activity on and off of planet Earth” first took over the big screen in 1997, the world simply couldn't resist their charm. Men in Black was a huge summer blockbuster, and in many ways, it deserved to be; it was amusing, exciting, inventive, and altogether entertaining.

But that was 15 years ago.

A sequel, MIB (2002), missed the mark on most counts, and was all the more disappointing because of the standard set by the original. So the news of a third Men in Black film was understandably met with a mixture of excitement and trepidation, although the latter outweighed the former when it was revealed that production had to be halted midway to finish the script. Was this going to be another subpar attempt to capitalize on the success of the sci-fi comedy series? Or would they manage to salvage the franchise with this third offering? The result, it turns out, lies somewhere in the middle.

The story begins when an alien criminal, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), escapes from a prison on the Moon where he has been locked up for 40 years. Seeking revenge, he goes back in time to kill Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), who shot off one of his arms and captured him in 1969; the repercussions of his actions alter the present. It is now up to Agent J (Will Smith) to follow Boris back in time, stop him from killing K, and save the world from an alien invasion.

The time travel premise may seem standard for a science fiction film, but it is made interesting by two stellar acting performances. The first one comes from Michael Stuhlbarg who plays Griffin, an alien with precognitive powers, who is probably the most fascinating, and perhaps even endearing, character of the movie. Tangled in a web of possible futures and alternative realities, Griffin guides our heroes who seek the optimum timeline. The second and most impressive performance in the film comes from Josh Brolin who portrays young Agent K. His deadpan take on Tommy Lee Jones' laconic K (Jones himself is missing for much of the movie) is simply impeccable, and ultimately it's his performance that steals the show.

Barry Sonnenfeld's third time at the helm of a MIB project, the film can't compete with the original, but it's certainly an improvement on its predecessor. As always, lots of special effects are on offer, and there are a number of retro-futuristic gizmos and interesting aliens (courtesy of makeup expert Rick Baker) that will please the fans of the series. MIB3 keeps the viewer engaged for its 106 minutes runtime, and to offset the predictability, it even delivers a surprise payoff by way of a touching ending. And not only does it invoke nostalgia, but it also gives us a new perspective on our favourite MIB agents. It isn't the most original film ever made and it may require you to suspend your disbelief on occasion (and ignore a few plot holes), but the film does benefit from some impressive performances by its cast, and for those who are willing to give in to the premise, MIB3 offers a fun, enjoyable ride.

- Sameen Amer

Instep, The News on Sunday - 1st July, 2012

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