Men in Black III (Columbia Pictures, PG-13)

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What matters is, I felt like a man stranded in the desert suddenly presented with an entire pool of drinking water when I saw images of massive alien ships attacking a major city and the aliens did not look like giant robots.

 

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I don’t remember exactly how old I was when I first saw Men in Black, but I was just the right age to think it was pretty much the greatest movie ever made. It hit that perfect sweet spot of being basically a kids’ movie, except a little more vulgar, a little more scary, and a lot more gross. I really loved it; I watched it over and over again, and while I haven’t seen it in years, I could probably quote huge portions of the script. I even liked the second one…the first time I saw it. But my love faded over time, and it’s a franchise I haven’t thought much about for nearly a decade. I think that’s true of most people, so it seems strange that there would be a third film coming out now, in 2012. Even as I pulled into the theater parking lot, part of me still couldn’t quite grasp that I was about to see a new Men in Black movie.

The film opens in a higher-than-high security prison where we are introduced to Boris the Animal. Remember when I mentioned how gross the first film was? That carries over here. I don’t have much feeling for the character of Boris, but the design by Rick Baker is Cronenberg-ian and awesome. He escapes his prison in a sequence that reminds me of Kung Fu Panda, but less badass. He wants revenge on K, the Tommy Lee Jones character, for putting him away, so he travels back in time to kill younger K. By the way, time travel is a thing.

In olden days, the death of one of our two leads would be high enough stakes. Nowadays, audiences apparently demand more, so by going back in time, Boris has also made it possible for earth to be invaded by his alien species in the present. I question why this was necessary for the plot, and why as a character Boris would wait over 40 years to start his invasion, rather than just doing it right after killing K. It doesn’t matter. What matters is, I felt like a man stranded in the desert suddenly presented with an entire pool of drinking water when I saw images of massive alien ships attacking a major city and the aliens did not look like giant robots. (Recent summer movies have really lowered my standards.)

Anyway, J (Will Smith) has to go back to the year 1969 to save K and help him stop Boris. This is where the movie finds its legs. They briefly address that whole awkward civil rights thing and quickly move on. Young K is played by Josh Brolin. I don’t know how amazing or in depth his performance is, but as an impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones, it is impeccable, and very fun to watch. The period details are slight and usually parodic of the ’60s, but I still liked seeing these characters in this time period.

If you are one of the many people thinking we don’t really need a Men in Black III, you are correct. There’s nothing that really stands out about this movie, but I kind of enjoyed it; I would describe my viewing experience as “pleasant.” I was never really bored, and the film is only 105 minutes long, which in modern blockbuster terms is basically a Saturday morning cartoon. None of the jokes had me rolling on the floor, but I was consistently amused, and had several hearty chuckles. At the very least, it is far better than the second film.

It really depends on how much you enjoy these characters. For me, Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, and now Josh Brolin have enough charisma and charm to carry me through. If you like these actors and characters enough to be interested in this movie, you’ll probably have a fine time. However, if you are iffy on the franchise as a whole, this one will certainly not convert you. | Sean Lass

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