Release date: November 5th, 2012
Certificate (UK): PG
Running time: 105 minutes
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld
Writers: Lowell Cunnighman, David Koepp
Composer: Danny Elfman
Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson
What would you do if you were a Man in Black? I mean the real deal, not just a more or less funny effigy of those guys in black suits wearing black shades who claim to be government agents and go about UFO witnesses to keep them quiet about – or simply make them forget – what they’ve seen?
Not a job I would blast the universe into pieces for, to be perfectly honest. These guys have to deal with and sometimes even touch disgusting-looking aliens, crack smart no-nonsense jokes to keep themselves sane and ultimately fight for the common good of an inscrutable galaxy, and then some… always with their hi-tech-ridden lives on the line.
On such a job, I’d be very much likely to forget how to smile – like Tommy Lee Jones alias agent “K”. This man wouldn’t even need to be one in black as even without that funeral colour he’d be a Gothic underdog you wouldn’t buy a white bun from. Considering what he’s had to see and cope with in his life, well, he may be forgiven.
To me, Jones was the pearl of MIB3, with a face like fresh out of the wax works, his stoic endurance of even the silliest happenings around him and a case-hardened conduct full of silent sarcasm and irony – always one step short of being a half-dead cynic; his 40 years younger version (Josh Brolin) already shows all the signs of becoming wry and reticent which was way better than tormenting T L Jones through a rejuvenating cure, obviously.
Apart from some predictable, or at least non-surprising gags and stand-offs, there’s not a whole lot excitement going on in the film. The extraterrestrial villain is introduced swiftly, we learn that a pink cake can be a wobbly and lethal pleasure, that there’s deadly suction on the moon and even being beautiful doesn’t mean you survive.
The otherworldly villain, once freed from his prison, returns to Earth only to grab hold of a device that allows him to go back in time to 1969 where he can right the wrong he thinks was done to him – by K. The latter’s much younger partner J (Will Smith) painfully experiences the effects of the grandfather paradox, sorta, and follows the villain to save K’s life. After all, 15 years of being a team usually means one man can’t idly stand by while the other is eradicated from history, and with him the whole world.
J’s time travels are astonishing fast-motion sequences of Earth’s history and make up the most intelligent pieces of the story, however short they may be. I’m not sure though if the rest of the film will satisfy the hard-core MiB fans as the plot has a somewhat heart-wrenching undertone that never quite cracks through the surface of the same old jokes.
The story may be a little more compelling when seen as a standalone piece although the mechanics of time travel are operated according to Einstein’s rules – meaning the developments and insights obtained by quantum physics in the last few decades are blissfully ignored.
Maybe not quite. The film has a character who is just about the most wondrous being I’ve encountered in a movie for a long time. Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg) is an inter-dimensional alien, the last of his kind who has taken refuge on Earth. With a cool and at times incomprehensible implicitness he is constantly citing every thinkable version of events and how they play out.
It almost feels like an artistic fallacy this character was made but a useful acquaintance of K and J on their quest to save the world, like the weird goblin who delivers the smarts the story itself lacks on long stretches. But there are some things even Griffin didn’t see coming – which doesn’t mean the twists are less predictable; and if you’re wondering if this isn’t a paradox, well, you might be right.
Maybe it’s a little spoiler-ish but lacking an abundance of highlights I just have to mention that the appearance of Andy Warhol (Bill Hader) is a truly ambrosial bit of the film. The scene artfully – and joyfully – deconstructs a celebrity who never quite managed to survive his own Zeitgeist aura; frankly this is the scene where art bites itself in its behind, and I’m reminded that the Men in Black themselves might be on a forlorn mission.
In the end though, the story reveals some important secrets from J’s past, and we may begin to understand how a character like this specific Man in Black got the job in the first place. There is a breeze of redemption in the story, and although it possibly isn’t the most memorable finale in film history, it is the kind of touching humaneness that made me forget this franchise once had the reputation to be a hilarious take on everything that made the alien agenda(s) funny.
One of the Editors in Chief and our webmaster, Jonahh is a photographer and journalist who has been working in the media industry for over 15 years, mainly in television, design and art. As a boy, he made his first short film with an 8mm camera and the help of his father. His obsession with (moving) images and stories hasn’t faded since.
His passion for intricate stories and the ‘seven basic plots’ (ask him!) often times makes his friends and family put him in the doghouse for "predicting" too many twists and endings.