This was the movie everyone was talking about. What we were all waiting for. The summer blockbuster that would bring back our favorite super heroes we know and love from comic books, cartoons, movies and of course music. That’s right, Men in Black 3.
We all grew up loving Men in Black and not being quite old enough to realize how bad Men in Black 2 was. But it’s been ten years since the second movie came out, and you can’t sell tickets by dumb gimmicks, like having the title be MIIIB. You need 3D now.
So how has the interracial, inter-age group, inter-species buddy cop formula aged? Not well.
The first thing I noticed is how much of a toll time has taken on Will Smith. At first glance I mistook him for one of the alien characters. Then I realized I was still in the previews for Madea’s Witness Protection.
Previous Men in Black media left us with some big questions that needed clarification. For example, the implications that our galaxy is a marble, our universe is the inside of a locker, Tommy Lee Jones has a half-alien daughter and that the movies themselves are based on real events using more illegal aliens working as actors than Chipotle has rolling burritos.
So does this movie wrap up all these loose ends into another shining masterpiece bringing the series back to its glory days?
Of course not. Instead it introduces a whole slew (possibly even two to two and a half slews) of new questions to answer. Now we have time travel paradoxes to deal with. And not even the kind which are on purpose and make you try to least wrap your brain around until you claw out your eyes, like in Primer. Not even the ridiculous, stupid but fun kind of paradox like in Timesplitters. They are mostly just holes in the plot left by lazy writers and largely ignored by the characters. The audience is then forced either to follow suit and not pay much attention to the movie or walk out. And when a movie’s goal is to not have your attention, it isn’t a good sign.
Of course, most people will counter that the philosophical implications of living in a marble galaxy in a locker universe in a movie based on real events in a cartoon universe based on the movies based on a comic strip, and the ethics of having sexual relations with aliens one is sworn to protect, are not the main focus of these lighthearted action-comedy movies. Obviously, the darker tone of the animated series would be the more natural medium to sort out these issues. Movie-watchers and fans are merely looking for some laughs and some lighthearted action.
But MIB 3 cannot hold together this aspect of the franchise either. Tommy Lee Jones is barely in the movie, so the audience is gipped out of their second favorite man in black. The main supporting agents Elle and Zed aren’t there, of course Agent M is dead. Frank the dog is conspicuously absent as well. It’s a bad sign when you can’t even get the dog to come back. Oh wait, he’s probably dead since it’s been ten years.
The action is also really pushing the limit of what I feel comfortable seeing in a PG-13 movie. Almost the first scene features Will Smith beating someone’s head with a frying pan until it caves in and then reaching inside an alien’s chest cavity to rip out its still-beating heart. I get that violence against aliens is still okay because it’s a gray area between PETA and Amnesty International and neither has claimed their defense yet, but I still feel like it was overdone. It felt forced, especially as an introductory scene.
Equally forced was the whole motivation of Agent J (Will Smith). He wants to talk to his partner more, but at the end of Men in Black 2 it was K who wanted to do the talking. It is never truly addressed why K (Tommy Lee Jones) does not ever show emotion. It felt ridiculous that this man who is able to casually mutilate aliens while cracking jokes would be that starved for more girl talk with his partner. I think the producers just wanted to cover all the bases so they included this to balance out the coldblooded murder it accompanies. Unfortunately they don’t bother to spend any effort blending the two contrasting sides of J’s personality, just set them in front of the audience and expect them to use their own imaginations to reconstruct the pained existence of a man in black, saving people who will never remember him, killing the aliens he secretly loves, and only wishing to be held by his increasingly distant, cold and disturbed partner.
The other characters were also seemingly motivated by nothing but having had a glimpse of the script beforehand. The bad guy kills everyone, even his allies, just so that we know he’s bad. Things are classified and K won’t talk so J has a secret to uncover and a plot to develop. There is no other good reason. When J and K need to get through some red tape, people cut it. When they need a shield to cover the entire world, someone shows up with it sealed and ready to go in a single serving container. And I would just like to note that this guy lives in the 5th dimension and can see all possible realities at once, yet he offers no commentary on the whole marble/locker situation. Simple problems are set up, the solution becomes apparent almost immediately and through basically miraculous means, and then everything proceeds as expected.
So in total this movie fails to answer any questions raised by the first two and is shallower in plot, characters, comedy and action. 1.5/4 severed alien heads. I would recommend not seeing this.
I just wish they would stop neuralyzing Hollywood so that they could learn no to make these stupid sequels for every “series” which actually ran out of energy after the first movie.
Nick Childress is a junior in the College studying linguistics. “Out of Sight” is Vox’s new feature of movie reviews every week during the summer. We also have a weekly music review feature, “Out of Tune.” Contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to write a review yourself.