Tuesday, June 5, 2012

Review: Men in Black III

When Will Smith decided he had been away from the big screen long enough, there was no shortage of projects awaiting the former box office king.  In the end, he and the very willing executives at Sony Pictures made sure that his comeback would begin with the franchise that helped launch him into very rarified air – Men in Black III.  However, to say that the production of this film was plagued with problems would be a gross understatement.  It was rushed at the outset (due to tax considerations), endured a long hiatus to accommodate massive rewrites at Smith’s insistence, and had soaring budget costs that some estimate at around $375M (including marketing).  Considering that this film is the third installment for a franchise that last made a theatrical appearance ten years ago to a lukewarm reception, one could understand how there might be some trepidation surrounding this project.

Having seen this film, I can tell you that it is definitely the best of the three.  Before you run out to the local AMC to see the film, I have to preface that comment by saying I was never a huge fan of the franchise as the tone was a bit too light for my taste.  The plot of the movie is standard fare.  An alien race in some way is threatening the Earth and only the Men in Black stand in its way.  The aliens are fantastical and colorful and the tone still a bit light, and that at times makes the movie seem dated, but what differentiates this film from its predecessors is two fold: the first is that you feel like there is legitimate peril and as the story unfolds you can feel the tension increase as you reach the climax of the film.  The second is Josh Brolin playing the role of Agent K for most of the film.  Tommy Lee Jones has long been earning checks by playing himself onscreen - a disgruntled human being, so it is refreshing to have Will Smith trade barbs with an actor who brings more charisma to the proceedings.

The caveat here is that the plot deals with time travel and so one should expect a plethora of logic leaps and inconsistencies.  Even the Back to the Future trilogy – as great as it was – was riddled with continuity issues that easily could have unraveled that narrative.  However, these issues with the film are offset nicely by some supporting cast work by Jermaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Alice Eve, Bill Hader, and Michael Stuhlbarg who particularly stood out as Griffin – a key cog in the proceedings.  As a whole, this is the most likable cast of the franchise and because of this makes the film about something other than weird aliens, cool gadgets, and loud explosions.

With this movie, director Barry Sonnefeld does a nice job of tying a bow around the trilogy, for which he has helmed all three entries, by infusing a sense of heart to the narrative that was completely absent from the respective plots of one and two.  I would recommend this movie to be seen in the theater or at home.  It has a little bit of everything for everyone to go along with the pace and action that define the summer action film genre.  Next up for Will Smith is After Earth directed by M. Night Shyamalan – a director who hasn’t made a good film in ten years.  Here’s hoping for the best.

Standout Performance: Bill Hader is the MVP of SNL and he does a great job of disappearing into the role of Andy Warhol.  Michael Stuhlbarg gets a very close second place.


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