– By Ben L.
It’s been ten years since we last saw Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in their black suits on the silver screen. 2002’s Men in Black II was a disappointing movie, especially following the success of the first film which garnered so much acclaim. So a decade later, can the men who have saved the world twice save the franchise from impending doom?
The attempt to reinvent the franchise is evident, and successful to some extent. In the men in black’s third outing, Agent J (Will Smith) has to travel back in time to save his partner K (Tommy Lee Jones) after a villainous alien has managed to get hold of a time-traveling device himself to kill K from the past and rewrite history.
A time-traveling plot is greatly welcome in a franchise which looked to suffer from creative fatigue in the second film, and it offers an excellent opportunity to explore the backstory of Agent K. Audiences are taken to 1969 New York City where J teams up with the younger K, who almost looks like a carbon copy of Tommy Lee Jones himself without the grey hair, except that he is played by Josh Brolin. No stranger to performing impressions, the actor who previously played former president George W. Bush in W. does an excellent impersonation of the veteran actor, down to the emotionless mannerism in which K always reacts to grave situations.
Will Smith once again puts in another entertaining performance, but compared to his previous films, particularly I Am Legend, it is a tad disappointing and you can sense that the magic which once made Men in Black a good-humoured franchise is absent this time. Most of the dialogue feels too scripted and forced on-screen, although there are still certain scenes where the humour improves, particularly the few times in the car when J and K share awkwardly funny moments. But for the most part, the movie feels like it has run out of wit and instead relies on random, awkward and at times repetitive moments to sustain the laughs.
It is also a shame that for a movie which explores a different time period, most of the supporting cast remains underdeveloped with more stories waiting to be told. K’s former romantic relationship with new boss O is as deep as a longing gaze, while the villain Boris only makes his appearance in the movie’s introduction as well as during the final confrontation at the end. Armed with a disgusting organism hiding inside his palm that can shoot deadly spikes, Boris is as flat as the shades he wears – absolutely boring as compared to the previous antagonists of the franchise and could certainly have used a bit more fleshing out of his character. It doesn’t help that the final battle between humans and aliens, which has always been the climax of the franchise, is less than satisfying.
Certainly no one really expected a third film to be made after the dismal Men in Black II, and despite the opportunity to overcome expectations Men in Black III feels like an unnecessary sequel. It is not exactly a bad film, but when you realise that the magic that is the first film cannot be repeated again in the next two, you know that it is time to lay the franchise to rest and let the gem from 1997 be remembered as a classic instead of allowing its legacy to be ruined further.