Men in Black 3 illustrates logic from another world

Ten years on from the lacklustre sequel, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones return to the black suits and sunglasses for Men in Black 3.  Regardless of the quality of the series’ follow-ups, at least fans have been spared ridiculous titles (2 Men 2 Black, M3n In 3lack?).  Fortunately, this time around director Barry Sonnenfeld has put together a fun popcorn flick that contains some great sequences and laughs, even if it is entirely devoid of logic.

Men in Black return to cinemas for a third time 25 May

While the focus on MIB3 is still on fighting off rogue aliens, in this case the threat posed by Jemaine Clement’s Boris the Animal, an added element of time travel is clumsily introduced.  The idea is that Agent J (Smith) must travel back in time to stop Boris from killing of Agent K (Jones), who has himself travelled back in time to do exactly that.  The problem with introducing time travel into a story is that it needs to be either keep simple or time needs to be dedicated to the head spinning issues that arise.  Instead of opting for the former Men in Black 3 attempts to complicate matters whilst ignoring the Pandora’s Box of plot holes it opens.  When Boris’ deed has been done and J awakes in a world where K has been dead for 40 years, J is the only agent unaware of the fact.  Questions that beg to be asked are: who would have recruited J if K had died and if Boris was not stopped back in 1969, why is it only now that his alien brethren are attacking New York City (yes, that old trope again)?  And those are just the queries raised out of the gate.  When String Theory is later added to the equation, the waters only become muddier.  Of equal frustration, is the fact that Men in Black 3 goes to great lengths to set up something that will prove to drastically alter Agent K’s demeanour, yet fails to deliver the reveal it teases.

However, looking beyond the plot that manages to come together out of- if nothing else, sheer stubbornness, there’s no denying this is a fun movie.  The script, penned by Tropic Thunder scribe Etan Cohen (no, not the Fargo/Big Lebowski Coen brother), is surprisingly funny and pushes the bounds of taste typically expected in a PG rated film.  The biggest positive the time travel provides is the performance of Josh Brolin as a young Agent K.  The speech pattern, the looks, even the walk; Brolin absolutely nails it.  Unfortunately Jones does not get a lot of screen-time, but makes his surly mark any chance he gets.  Sixties’ era biker-Boris is amusing as well, and Clement does a great job sharing the screen with himself.  Smith, who ties it all together, is his usual likeable, sassy self.  For better or worse, he brings nothing unexpected.  In one of several minor roles, Bill Hader turns up briefly to play out a terrific Andy Warhol joke, an easy highlight.  Also worthy of mention is the subtle humour found in 1969’s MIB HQ: from retro aliens to monitoring Richard Nixon, there’s no denying everyone ran with the idea.

Across the film, the alien designs leave little impression beyond a Chinese restaurant scene.  Why Boris is “the Animal”, a title he himself loathes, is never explained and his traits are odd, but unspectacular.  Per usual, the added 3D provides little benefit in Men in Black 3.  Agent J’s initial time travel sequence stands out as the one moment where the 3D works, but that is hardly worth the extra charge or dealing with the dimming effect for.

How enjoyable Men in Black 3 is depends on how badly the illogical plot holes will grate on any given viewer.  There’s no doubt Smith, Jones, Brolin and Sonnenfeld manage to pack a lot of entertainment into 100 minutes.  Yet, the disregard shown to its audiences’ intelligence by the failures of the plot, make it difficult to wholeheartedly recommend.  It goes a great way to redeem the series after the painful sequel, but also should serve as the final chapter.  Let’s hope the temptation of Men in Black: Back 4 More proves easy to resist.  7/10

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