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Digesting the lowest rung of pop culture so you don't have to!
It is no secret that Men in Black 3 had a troubled production. Filming started without a completed script. It shut down for a number of months so the story could be reworked. And one of the original stars was given really not much more than an extended cameo (allegedly because he didn’t want to do another one). Not helping matters is the fact that the movie comes 10 years after the previous, negatively reviewed, installment. MIB3 had disaster written all over it. So, why is this movie good?
Perhaps time had been kind to the people involved. Maybe they got lucky. I don’t know. What we have here is a very fun installment in this franchise which, while not perfect by any means, is worth seeing in the theater.
In it, an enemy of Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) goes back in time to kill him. He succeeds and time is rewritten, but only Will Smith’s Agent J remembers the previous timeline. J decides to go follow the villain back and save a young K (played brilliantly by Josh Brolin). It is not a very complex story, and it doesn’t need to be. I think that is where Men in Black II somewhat mis-stepped. This movie, I felt, is much more character driven. We learn more about K & J, and we are given reason to care about them. It is done expertly well and it pays off very well at the end. I won’t spoil anything, but it has a bit of a schmaltzy ending. In another movie, this would have felt forced and/or tacked on. Here, it works primarily because of how the characters and their relationship were developed throughout the movie.
The main selling factor for MIB3 is Josh Brolin. He is utterly fantastic as a young Agent K. He completely channels Tommy Lee Jones. In some parts, it is uncanny. Brolin has proven himself to do some pretty solid impersonations (W. immediately comes to mind). Here, he cranks it up to 11. While Jones looks kind of bored, Brolin’s interaction with Will Smith is such a delight. It gives this movie the necessary shot in the arm. If they make a Men in Black 4, the producers should find some way to bring Brolin back.
As I mentioned before, the movie isn’t perfect. The reason why Agent J remembers the old timeline is muddled and never really followed up. Additionally, the mechanics of the time travel make very little sense. Not that time travel makes sense to begin with, but most movies set out a clear set of rules on how it works so the viewer can understand what is happening. MIB3 doesn’t. The lack of explanation is probably due to the troubled nature of the movie’s production. In the end though, that is such a minor quibble, because the movie isn’t about the time travel. It is just a plot device. It is about the K/J relationship.
Go see Men in Black 3. You’ll have a fun time. The ageless Will Smith is great, the somewhat overused setting of the 1960s works, and Josh Brolin’s take on Agent K is worth the price of admission. I’m glad I saw it.