Men In Black 3 - Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith
Men In Black 3 - Men In Black Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Will Smith) find misfortune in a Chinese restaurant © 2011 Columbia Pictures Industries Inc

Men in Black 3 is directed with as many thrilling moves as a carnival ride and just as much fun. This terrific third installment of the Men in Black franchise is further proof that 2012 may be the BEST…YEAR…EVER for comic book movies.

Will Smith returns as sunnily wisecracking Agent J. He has now has spent 15 years at the undercover organization that keeps tabs on aliens in our midst. Space aliens, that is — a wide variety of weirdly bizarre creatures brought to life here by computer animation and legendary Hollywood makeup wizard Rick Baker.

Men in Black 3 Film Review, oddities

This time around, the oddities include:-

  • A guy with a detachable head that gets used as a bowling ball
  • Amonstrously large fish who has no place in a respectable Chinese restaurant, fellow with way too many hands.

The most intimidating is a big badass biker from beyond called Boris the Animal (Flight of the Conchords’ Jemaine Clement). He keeps angrily insisting that “it’s just Boris!” Escaping from an ultra-maximum moon-based prison, he vows vengeance on the perpetually deadpan Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), who apprehended him 40 years earlier.

When Agent J wakes up one day to a reality in which Agent K has been dead for 40 years, he realizes Boris has changed the past. That tweak in time also may mean the end of the world, which is being invaded by gigantic jellyfish-shaped spaceships. Agent J realizes the only way to fix things is by going back to 1969 himself.

Crazily creative camera moves

Director Barry Sonnenfeld, who has helmed all three MIBs, uses more crazily creative camera moves than you’re likely to see in any other non-animated flick this year. His best swoopingly vertigo-inducing moments put the audience at the top of the Chrysler Building and near the nose cone of a towering Saturn V rocket. Agent J’s plunge from the skyscraper — because he has to reach a certain velocity for his time-machine medallion to work — takes him through a sped-up history of the world that’s as visually dazzling as it is funny.

Men In Black 3 - Josh Brolin and Will Smith
Young Agent K (Josh Brolin) puts his trust in time-travelling Agent J (Will Smith) © 2011 Columbia Pictures Industries Inc

Josh Brolin gives a hilariously uncanny impersonation of Jones as 29-year-old (with “a lot of city miles”) Agent K. He turns out to be only slightly less stuffy than his 21st century self. The 1969 counterpart of the Men in Black chief known as O (Emma Thompson) is played with swingin’ sixties style by miniskirted blond Alice Eve (The Raven). Appropriately, the Nixon-era aliens seen at MIB headquarters look more old-school sci-fi cheesy than modern-day convincing.

Fifth-dimensional alien

The past’s most interesting character is Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg). This a twinkly fifth-dimensional alien who can see all possibilities resulting from every action at once. When he says “anything’s possible,” he really means it. Played like a less manic Robin Williams, he keeps everyone guessing by offering multiple scenarios that depend on “which reality we’re in.”

The clever and fast-moving screenplay by Etan Cohen features an amusing side trip. This is to an Andy Warhol party. Here Agent J reiterates that all models are aliens — on its crazy way from Coney Island to Cape Canaveral. And the movie’s big finish atop the minutes-from-launch Apollo 11 is as exciting as any James Bond save-the-world showdown.

Men in Black 3 Film Review wrap-up

As Agent K says when he and Agent J step into a pair of huge and very retro jetpacks, “Strap yourself in and hope for the best.” That’s what you’ll get.

[Rating: 4 stars]


James Dawson

Jim is Film Review Online's Los Angeles based reviewer.