The third instalment of a franchise is, more often than not, a stretch too far. You’ve got the original film which introduces the main characters and their situation. The second tends to regurgitate the same ideas that made the first successful. However, despite the convention that a third film wraps things up nicely, examples such as Alien 3, The Godfather: Part III and Austin Powers in Goldmember have all been dismissed as mostly preying on the wallets of their audiences. The Men in Black series started off well, with a sci-fi comedy we had never seen before. The second film was a pale imitation, although it did have its moments, but now ten years after this sequel was released, the trilogy is complete. But does this entry live up to the hype or will we need neuralysing to mercifully forget the experience?
Notorious criminal Boris The Animal (Jermaine Clement) escapes from the LunarMax prison on the moon, with help from his girlfriend Lily Poison (Nicole Scherzinger). He reveals a plan to go back in time to 1969 and kill Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) who, on July 16th 1969, shot off his arm and captured him. While investigating a spaceship crash in New York City and a shootout in a Chinese restaurant, Boris appears. Agents K and J (Will Smith) try to subdue him, but fail – Boris tells K “you are already dead, you just don’t know it yet” and manages to escape and gets help travelling back in time from nerdy inventor Jeffrey Price (Michael Chemus). Agent K goes back to his apartment having confessed a regret not to have killed Boris – suddenly, all trace of K disappears and J is the only one who remembers him as his fellow agents including O (Emma Thompson) only knew him up to 1969, when he was killed by Boris.
Agent O believes, due to J’s symptoms which include headaches and a craving for chocolate milk, that a fracture has occurred in the space-time continuum and that Boris must have gone back in time and killed K. Agent J tracks Jeffrey down who tells him that he must get ‘high’ – that is, jump off the Chrysler Building with a time-jump to go back to 1969 and save K and the world from an invasion by Boris’ kind, the Boglodites which had been thwarted by K’s activation of the protective ArcNet shield. J arrives in 1969 a day before the potentially disastrous event happens – he goes to Coney Island where he finds the younger 29-year-old K (Josh Brolin), who tasers J and takes him back to MIB headquarters. After questioning J and getting few answers, Agent K decides to neuralyse him but stops at the last second when J tells K to kill Boris, not to capture him. The two agents then set out to stop Boris carrying out his plan at Cape Canaveral, just as Apollo 11 is about to take off for the moon, but can they get there in time?
Men in Black 3 can only really be judged on its laugh count, which is pretty low. A few chuckles are initially provoked by Will Smith’s manic delivery and some of the sharp dialogue coming from the weird and wonderful-looking aliens which populate the MIB world. It’s unclear however, if Jermaine Clement’s Boris is supposed to be funny or not. An odd hybrid of a Hell’s Angel with the voice of Michael Wincott’s Guy of Gisborne from Prince of Thieves after a few too many Jack Daniels, there’s a touch of Goldmember about him – thoroughly repulsive yes, but lazily drawn. The script’s one-liners spark a little at first, but after the half-way mark you’ll probably find yourself struggling to remember the last time you laughed at one. Time-travel storylines tend to get into a bit of a tangle and MIB:3 is no exception. Arguably one of the lamest explanations ever is given as to why Agent J remembers Agent K while no-one else does – he was ‘there’. This makes little sense, even though the eureka moment is actually shown during the finale.
The star of the show here is Josh Brolin. He inhabits the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones’ character with similar mannerisms and facial expressions complete with Jones’ Texan drawl, extremely well. However, even Brolin cannot prevent the script from impinging on his efforts which are essentially based around just two in-jokes – that he is playing (a very weathered) 29-year-old and rarely smiles. The seemingly ageless Will Smith reprises the role of Agent J with his usual enthusiasm and Tommy Lee Jones has little to do after we go back to 1969, but he appears to reflect the tiredness of the MIB franchise. The only real other performance of note comes from Michael Stuhlbarg, who plays alien psychic Griffin in a very affable style which contrasts with the manic Smith and sour Brolin. Eagle-eyed viewers will no doubt spot Lady Gaga and Justin Bieber among the otherworldly beings and there’s also a strange part for Nicole Scherzinger at the start of the film.
Men in Black 3 stutters along much like its predecessor, but there are flashes of the original in there somewhere. Once the gags have dried up, there’s actually a rather touching ending which should tie up the franchise completely, but no doubt there will at least be rumblings of another chapter in the pipeline. However, there should be enough evidence here to show that a fourth instalment would be ill-advised.