Review: Men in Black 3 (2012)

Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld
Starring: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin

It’s hard to pinpoint exactly why Men in Black 3 was made. It’s not that it’s another unworthy sequel by any means; I found it to be quite enjoyable, however nearly a decade after a failed second go with the agreeably engaging comic book-turned-film franchise, the studio’s intentions become questionable. Cash-grabbing aside, I’ve always had a soft spot for Agents J and K as their initial exploits benchmarked an important time in my film-viewing career. From effective humor to a wonderfully imaginative central premise, the original Men in Blackis, to put it plainly, a treat for all thanks to both its personality and that of its slick titular suit-wearing protagonists.

Although trying entirely too hard to recreate what made that film special in the grand scheme of things, this third and hopefully final installment does so tastefully and mostly succeeds where it counts the most. The forced, awkward exchanges between Smith’s J and Jones’ K are as uncomfortable as ever, and MIB 3‘s script actually does a fine enough job in attempting to explain away the latter’s frequently hardened repose. Complete with somewhat plausible time travel logistics, the inventiveness of the mystery J must solve regarding his partner’s mysterious disappearance is, if nothing else, an attention grabber of the highest standards. After all, if you throw enough fabricated words and rules around, we as the audience have no choice but to sit back and try to follow exactly what’s going on, even if the end result is nothing more than a successful attempt at saving the world from an impending alien invasion.

In sticking with its narrative intricacies, the film further embraces its roots by providing us with a menacing enough villain, high-tech gadgetry to ogle and a thought-provoking alternate reality to admire. Failed jabs at humor unfortunately permeate the more intelligent side of the proceedings, and although not even all that intelligent per say, it’s easy enough to brand this as one of the finer pieces of pure cinematic escapism to come about in quite a while. In other words, director Sonnenfeld knows how to finish what he started by treating the source material for what it is, but not superfluosly by way of big-budget gaudyness and a lame-brained excuse for actual substance.

Remaining alternately heartfelt and whimsical from a cartoonish, sci-fi-infused standpoint, Men in Black 3 finds enough solace in its above average performances and engaging if all-too-noticeably thin central story arc to compensate for its glaring flaws. Is it another unnecessary sequel that came about during a time we could do without it? It certainly is, but to be perfectly honest, there are worse ways to spend your time presently than with this charismatic, if forgettable entry into a lesser-appreciated franchise. It’s funnier than you’d expect despite a penchant for trying a bit too hard, but for entertainment purposes, MIB 3 is a slightly above average effort that surpasses more recent treks through similar, infinitely embarrassing money-grabbing territory (i.e. Peter Berg’s Battleship).

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