In 1997, director Barry Sonnenfeld teamed up with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to produce 'Men In Black', a three-time Oscar nominated(!) science fiction action comedy. Its follow-up 'Men In Black II' was far less well received, and ten years on, another sequel has been created. We're pleased to say that 'Men In Black III' is much more of a match in terms of the original.
For those unaware of the premise, the "Men In Black" are a secret agency tasked with monitoring alien activity while keeping humans oblivious of the presence of aliens on Earth and any impending danger. Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are two such officers, partners since the first film.
'Men In Black III' sees Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement) break out of his prison and travel back to 1969 in order to kill Agent K, who both imprisoned him and shot off his arm in the act, and open the door for an alien invasion of Earth. Agent J consequently also has to "time-jump" to save not only his partner but the planet by preventing K's death - only to find himself having to work with the younger Agent K (Josh Brolin) to save the now erased Agent K from the present.
Time travel is always a bit of a contentious plot device in films, ranging from the gleeful ('Back To The Future') to the migraine-inducing ('Primer') but 'Men In Black III' largely uses it successfully. Indeed, one of the best characters of the film is an alien who sees all potential timelines, Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), who provides comedy and heart at regular intervals.
Undoubtedly, however, the finest performance comes from Josh Brolin, embodying the character of K utterly - not simply replicating the past performance of Tommy Lee Jones but also adding a more spritely nuance to indicate his less world-weary views. Clement too is excellent as a villain that is one part pantomime, another part terrifying. Not once during the film do you recall either actor's previous work.
Considering the relatively fraught shooting schedule - production split into different parts, without a completed script - director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen have crafted a remarkably adept edition of the franchise. The pacing is excellent, with frequent action and comedy beats, while the film's crescendo is a powerfully heartfelt moment between Brolin and a young child, evoking memories of a similarly sad scene at the end of the first film.
Unfortunately, Emma Thompson and Alice Eve are rather wasted as Agent O, a character which promises much but delivers little by the end of the film. This is perhaps for the best as the romantic subplot between O and K feels contradictory with regards to the first film. Some of the CGI effects are equally dubious but most are impressive, unsurprising with a kitty of $230 million.
'Men In Black III' doesn't quite reach the heights of the original but is nonetheless, an entertaining sci-fi action comedy that packs a surprising amount of heart into its twisting story. Whether it is worth seeing in the 3D or not is debateable, although its use of 3D is more impressive than 'Avengers Assemble', but as popcorn movies go, you could do much worse.
'Men In Black III' is in UK cinemas now through Sony Pictures.