Stars: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Emma Thompson, Jermaine Clement, Alice Eve, Michael Stuhlbarg, Bill Hader and Keone Young.
Writers: Etan Cohen, David Koepp, Jeff Nathanson and Michael Soccio.
Director: Barry Sonnenfeld.
Less outrageously funny than the original but a vastly more enjoyable experience than #2, bringing the old gang back together after such a long break could have proved disastrous (especially with the production starting without a full working script, as has been well-documented). Alas, Smith and Jones reprising their chemistry-rich roles, and Josh Brolin bringing some fresh, new laughs to the formula, ensures that MIB3 is a whole lot better than it threatened to be.
Agents J (Will Smith, confidently re-establishing his A-list comedy charisma) and K (a visibly aged but lovably gruff Tommy Lee Jones) continue to do what they do best – keep extra-terrestrial trouble-makers in line. We rejoin their exploits as they farewell Z (played by Rip Torn in the past two instalments), his executive role now taken by O (a game Emma Thompson).
A pre-credit sequence has introduced us to Boris The Animal (an unrecognizable Jermaine Clement), a spike-flinging inter-galactic marauder who has daringly escaped his moon-prison with the sole aim of wreaking vengeance upon K, who took his freedom and his arm 40 years ago; J uncovers the facts of the 1969 event that left K the damaged man he has become. With the aid of some vaguely-explained time travel technology, J transports himself back to the Age of Aquarius, where he teams with a 29 year-old K (a terrifically funny Brolin, nailing Jones’ mannerisms perfectly) to save the future version of his partner and, of course, mankind too.
Series director and creative engine Barry Sonnenfeld and his team of 5 writers (amongst them specialist script doctors David Koepp and Jeff Nathanson) have chosen to expand upon the backstory of our favourite dark-suited G-men, weaving a meaningful origins tale into the general silliness of their day-to-day partnership. There is genuine warmth to how the agent’s personalities develop in Men in Black 3, particularly in the character details of strait-laced junior K’s life in the swingin’ 60s. The final 15 minutes are particularly moving, showing faith in the aging fanbase’s on-going affection for the MIB universe.
The series bread-and-butter elements – the menagerie of alien types and how they live amongst us – is laid on thick in the first act and culminates in a very cool Chinese Restaurant shoot-out between the MIB and a posse of Boris’ henchmen. But it is largely jettisoned in favour of the fun time-travel plotting of acts 2 and 3. The film benefits tremendously from Clement’s effectively nasty villain (a throwback to Vincent D’Onofio’s bug-monster from episode 1) and some scene-stealing cameos, notably Bill Hader’s bewigged undercover MIB agent and Michael Stuhlbarg’s multi-dimensional seer Griffin.
The film re-energises the giggles and thrills that the best moments from the series delivers (the pro use of the 3D effects proves beneficial), but it’s the gentle sentimentality that lingers longest in the mind. It goes a long way to dispel the concerns usually associated with #3 in any film series, namely that it exists for purely commercial reasons. There is genuine heart in the reteaming of J and K, certainly sufficient to warrant MIB3’s existence; enough, perhaps, to even trumpet it.