After seeing the first Men in Black, I remember dreading the sequel, knowing how it is with most sequels. As it turned out, Men in Black 2 didn’t disappoint–which is to say that it did disappoint, rather thoroughly. So when the third installment made its way to the silver screen, I was more reluctant than ever. The third film in a franchise can either follow the trend down into the abyss or it can rise above. Thankfully for this franchise, Men in Black 3 rises above: way above.
Men in Black succeeded by painting a broad back story on the inner workings of the MIB organization, which turns out to be a great foundation for MIB 3. It allows the story of this particular movie to have a much more narrow focus, which is exactly what it needed. The simple story is Agents J and K are looking for an escaped alien convict, Boris the Animal (“Just Boris”), played in all his villainy goodness by Jemaine Clement. This simple story is encased in a tightly woven and exhilarating time-travel arc in which Agent J meets Agent K in his early life. If you’ve heard how well Josh Brolin becomes a young Tommy Lee Jones, you have heard correctly. He is simply magnificent. Will Smith is certainly at the top of his game reprising the role of Agent J as well.
I’d also like to throw in some kudos for the quirky and, what I would call brilliant performance of Griffin, brought to the screen by Michael Stuhlbarg. Stuhlbarg was first brought to my attention as the uptight Jewish protagonist in the brilliant Coen Brothers’ black comedy, A Serious Man. (That’s two “brilliants,” both of them deserved. Well, three now. You get the point.) If anything, he’s as enigmatic and versatile in MIB 3 as he was in the other. I hope to see more great things from him in the future.
So if you were hoping that MIB 3 would be fun, well-acted and a real turn around from the less-than-epic sequel that came before it, you will not be disappointed.