Title: Men in Black III
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Screenwriter: Lowell Cunningham (comic), David Koepp (screenplay)
Cast: Will Smith, Tim Burton, Alice Eve, Josh Brolin, Justin Bieber, Tommy Lee Jones, Emma Thompson, Bill Hader, Lady Gaga
Screened at: NYC, 5/21/12
Opens: May 25, 2012
There are those who say that if a movie projects inspired special effects, the story matters little. As Boris the Animal (Jermaine Clement) states five or six times, “We’ll have to agree to disagree.” Whatever the ambitions of a film, without a story together cum dialogue to die for, a film—like a play or a book—lacks soul. Take for example what I consider the best time-travel story of our own century, Stephen King’s “11/23/63: A Novel.” When a teacher reads a riveting story by one of his students about how fifty years ago his father killed his mother, his brother and his sister, he is determined to go back in time to rewrite history, and while he’s at it he will opt to prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from killing President Kennedy. The novel has romance, sci-fi, suspense, melodrama, all of a high order and, yes, there are special effects in the book except that the CG comes not from the writer but from the imagination of the readers. Compared to Barry Sonnenfeld’s “Men in Black 3” which admitted has bold computer graphics, the King novel is the superior medium, the better choice.
Technologically, there is nothing wrong with MIB 3. We watch as Agent J (Will Smith) drops from a New York skyscraper, flicking the switch on a portable time gadget just in time to prevent his demise and to propel him back to 1969, a time in which, as one character notes, “things were not so great for your people.” Even a cop who stops Agent J for speeding in a stolen Cadillac asks how somebody “of your ethnic persuasion” can afford a $6,000 car and an expensive black suit. Take the way that Boris the Animal can stop his enemies by extending his hand: a clever and scary spider-like creature which is obviously computer generated attaches itself to your body but can also rescue you if you’re the right bad guy by chewing apart the chains that bind you in your cell.
Kudos to the extensive and expensive tech team who quickly throw 3D objects at us while we sit in our seats with the glasses, particularly awkward for those who have to put them over our own specs with the added feature of making everything seem dark.
This time Tommy Lee Jones takes a back seat, given maybe fifteen minutes of screen time while his 1969 self as Agent K is played by Josh Brolin, whose assistant is the fetching Alice Eve as Agent O complete with the teased hair which was de rigueur at the time. The words appear to come from Brolin’s mouth but the voice seems that of Jones, a neat effect but, again, not something that would make the story much more riveting. Moving at a rapid pace, the movie features Agent J’s backward ride to 1969 to prevent Agent K from being killed by Boris the Animal. Smith and Brolin do just fine as a team, not too many hostile wisecracks to shoot at each other, though for a while the two must agree to disagree on the best way to stop the murder and deal with Boris with extreme prejudice.
What we have here is a sci-fi buddy movie with no romance and with scripter David Koepp’s mechanical screenplay taken from Lowell Cunnigham’s Malibu/Marvel comic book. Barry Sonnenfeld was on board as director of the 1997 and 2002 versions, the latter poorly received by critics. How the public receives a movie is something else. This feature will do well at the box office, leading the inevitable MIB 4.
Rated PG-13. 106 minutes © 2012 by Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online