Starring Will Smith, Josh Brolin, Tommy Lee Jones • Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld• Age restriction: 10MLV • Releases 25 May
It's been ten years since the release of the relatively abysmal Men in Black 2 – and with the spate of remakes, re-imaginings and reboots, the head honchos a Sony seem to have decided that the time was ripe to have another crack at the alien franchise.
In Men in Black 3, the dangerous super-villain Boris the Animal (Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement) escapes from his lunar prison, intent on having his revenge on the agent that shot off his arm and put him away – Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones).
When his partner, Agent J (Will Smith), wakes up one morning in a world that Agent K has been dead for over forty years, he must travel back in time to set things right and save the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) before Boris the Animal can kill him and kick off events that would lead to an alien invasion of earth.
Easily the best thing about Men In Black 3 is Josh Brolin. As the 29-year-old version of Agent K, Brolin does almost a good a Tommy Lee Jones as Tommy Lee Jones himself. He is wryly funny, charming and nails his older counterpart's gruff Texan drawl, minute mannerisms and intense glare. He's charming and flirtatious – which makes the hard, older Agent K all the more tragic. "What happened to you?" J asks, more than once. It's an answer we get only much later – and the payoff is surprisingly emotional.
Smith and Jones have, by now, got their characters down to a pat – but the years have taken their toll on the pair. While Jones barely earns any screen time, he seems exhausted while he is on camera – and it feels as though he'd rather be anywhere than in a black suit. Smith – who has earned praise as one of the most exuberant actors of the current generation – is as energetic as ever in his turn as J and the glue that holds the film together, pretty much bouncing across the screen as he jumps back to 1969. But he also seems slightly complacent — and doesn't push the boundaries as much as he has in the past.
A supporting turn from Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement as the villainous boglodite Boris brings Tim Curry to mind, while Michael Stuhlbarg (A Serious Man) as the alien that can see all the possibilities of the future was emotionally delicate and beautifully innocent – and put a smile on my face each time he was on screen.
Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld – who has headed up the franchise since its first instalment in 1997 – Men In Black 3 casts off the bad shadow of the critically-panned second film and manages to bring back much of the jazz and randomness from the first. It's scripted well – although don't pick at the whole time travel conundrum too closely and rather just go with the flow – and is at once funny, silly, action-packed and quite poignant.
The move back to 1969 allows the audience to be wowed all over again – with the old-school MIB offices, the gigantic version of the memory-erasing device that has become a symbol of the franchise and – of course – it being 1969 – a heap of hippies, a visit to Andy Warhol's famous factory and some uncomfortable race-related jokes add to the fish-out-of-water feel for both J and the audience.
Men in Black 3 also jumps in the 3D bandwagon – and for the most part, it is expertly used. Scenes of J jumping off the Chrysler Building and another immensely cool scene of laser beams in an audiovisual store stand out as highlights. There is some dodgy CGI employed during some of the more intense special effects scenes, but for the most part, the creature effects are as good as ever.
But as a whole, Men in Black feels slightly restrained — as if there's some ingredient that was needed to positively wow the crowds. As fun as it was for an hour and forty-five minutes, I left the cinema feeling more "eh" than enthused.
If you're looking for a silly, mindless summer blockbuster packed with laughs – Men In Black 3 is your ticket to pass the time. This third film may not have been a necessary addition to the franchise and is nowhere near the original charms of the first film, but it's a good recovery from the second film and – most importantly for studio bosses – packed with teasers to continue the franchise into a fourth film.