Fifteen years after the first instalment and following an extensive and not to mention turbulent development period that spanned numerous years, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones finally find themselves donning their black attire once more as Agents J and K for Men in Black 3 (2012). The film, which finds director Barry Sonnenfeld back behind the camera working from a screenplay by Ethan Coen, centres on Agent J (Smith) as he’s forced to travel back in time to stop heinous criminal Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) from killing Agent K’s younger self (Josh Brolin) and bringing about the end of the world.
There’s fun to be had in such summer blockbusters that rely solely on CGI wizardry, the unquestionably infectious chemistry between its two leads and mindless entertainment, but unfortunately Men in Black 3 stumbles after a decent opening that sees Boris the Animal aided in his escape from a prison on the moon by none other than Nicole Scherzinger. Sadly, from here the narrative loses almost all momentum as it haphazardly staggers from one uninspired plot device to the other, displaying clear signs of an undercooked, chaotic screenplay.
Not only does this third franchise entry highlight itself as one lacking the same wit and charm that made the original 1997 Men in Black film such an unexpected hit, but it also feels like it’s been weighed down by the complexities of making the time travel and all its familiar tropes seem realistic. Sonnenfeld does his best to keep things light-hearted by awarding the film with a soft and breezy style, and there’s the odd gag and set piece that bring some amusing relief, but it’s not enough to vindicate the never-ending inconsistencies and clunky way in which the film comes to a close.
Nevertheless, Smith settles back into Agent J’s shoes well, and the banter he shares with Jones is as entertaining as ever. Brolin emulates Jones surprisingly well as a younger Agent K, but his line delivery stops him from coming close to Jones’ take on the character. Thompson and Clement are worthy additions, but neither has a role that allows them to showcase their true comedic chops.
Men in Black 3 isn’t an entirely pointless exercise, but it’s not exactly the film fans of the alien-busting series were hoping for. Sure, it has some nice touches, and the interplay between Smith and Jones is arguably at its best, but the sense of mindless adventure and alien-exploding has been lost somewhere in Coen and Sonnenfeld’s desire to re-energise what was once a winning combination, rendering it a feeble novelty, rather than a noteworthy winner.