Rating – ** 1/2
Starring – Will Smith
In 2002 our cinema screens were subject to the bland and soulless, if ultimately innocuous, Hollywood moneymaking machine that was Men In Black II. Now ten years on, with a seemingly infinite list of insipid, yet remarkably lucrative films from Hollywood flooding our cinemas on a weekly basis, it is unsurprising to see the release of yet another sequel to that fatigued series.
In a trite attempt to refresh the franchise for its mainstream audience, Men In Black III’s ‘unique’ selling point is time travel. The plot follows Agent J (Will Smith), who is forced to go back in time to the 1960s to prevent the alien convict, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement of Flight of the Concords fame), from assassinating his friend and partner, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). While time travel in the film initially seems to provide some creative potential for Men In Black III, as seen with an extended gag in which Andy Warhol is discovered to be an agent for the MIB, the jokes ultimately fall flat and the film’s period setting is swiftly forgotten until the concluding set piece. Despite the film’s weak plot one would expect Will Smith’s usually effortless charisma to keep the film afloat, however not even his comedic talents can compete against the sheer banality of the script. With lines such as, “I’m getting too old for this” appearing frequently through out the film, Men In Black III reveals itself to be yet another action-adventure clone to be added to Hollywood’s multitude of mediocre releases.
It is also worth noting that despite his prominence on the posters Tommy Lee Jones barely features in the film. Agent K is almost wholly played by Josh Brolin as K’s younger self, while Jone’s K is only in the film for about twenty minutes. With this in mind it’s hard not to regard the time travel motif as a cynical attempt to compensate for Jone’s absence in the film, while still ensuring that his brief appearance can attract the core fans through the advertisements.
That being said Men In Black III is not a disastrous film. Josh Brolin’s impression of Tommy Lee Jones is excellent (so good in fact that many have claimed falsely that Jone’s is dubbing for Brolin), and despite having to deliver some truly awful jokes, Clement performs well as the villain. However, the flaws inherent within Men In Black III are in fact indicative of mainstream cinema in general. The fact that a film this unashamedly generic is still being beamed onto our screens (in 3D, as if to add insult to injury) is illustrative of the laziness still present within Hollywood filmmaking. The most damning criticism of Men In Black III is not that it is poorly directed or it has a bad script, but that it evidently was not made for the love of cinema, rather the love of money.
With hugely successful blockbusters such as Avengers Assemble (2012), Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011) and Inception (2010) it has been proven to Hollywood that a film doesn’t have to ignore originality and intelligence in order to appeal to the public. In light of this, it is distressing to see films like Men In Black III still being made to the same template of films released ten years ago with little or no adjustments. If we insist on watching Men In Black III they will no doubt make twenty others like it, and that will be exactly what we deserve.