by Ed Sum (The Vintage Tempest)
The Men in Black are back … ten years ago. Last year brought the boys out of semi-retirement with a third instalment of this dated franchise product. The last film was released in 2002, and the ten-year plus wait is enough to kill any idea for a series of films.
Unlike Spider-man, also by Sony, the anticipation for another film is as exciting as watching paint dry. Both products are better off retired than given a fresh coat. While Spider-man can easily doff off his red and blue and don the black, leading up to another Venom storyline, at least that is far more exciting than in what the third film offered. The Amazing Spider-man is its own new beast, and some fans will like itnand others will not. For MIB, the third film mostly rehashed old ideas.
At least the film series spotlighted one thing: the story was primarily dealing with the life how Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) spent his life as a government agent. It looked at his last few years of service with the first movie, his post-retirement years with the second and his formative years in the third. J (Will Smith) was along for the ride and throughout most of the films, some viewers could almost hear this actor’s “Parents Just Don’t Understand” tune playing in the background. The two characters J and K still do not get each other at all. In the animated series (1997-2001), they were getting to understand each other. That is, until K decided to retire again and Agent L, a morgue worker, was assigned to J.
While none of this animated continuity seeped through to the theatrical products, the character of K was still as stiff as a board, and J continued being a rock star. He still makes wearing black look good and the third film had him show signs of maturity. When the rehashed plot reveals that Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) has escaped his prison and wants to return to Earth to eliminate K, the plot becomes very egocentric and displaces the overall story arc about K by giving the two characters some conflict again. In that regard, the third film is fine, since it goes to show how dysfunctionally fun these two original agents are. This film had Josh Brolin stealing Will Smith’s thunder.
Brolin plays an amazing younger version of K with a heart. Plenty of character development can be found in what K was like before he became a member of Dragnet. Even J gets some telling details in how much he cares for his partner. But in a film that delves into the origins of the two leads, it misses a few things along the way.
Frank the Pug is suspiciously missing, and he was one of the better comedic elements in the early films. He was even a supporting character in the animated series. Without him, MiB3, feels like a barely passable stand-up sci-fi comedy act. Most of the humour is bland. They were more chuckle worthy than hilarious, and the alien invasion threat is underplayed. The climatic moments and CGI were slightly better than the Star Trek episode, “Assignment: Earth.”
But with rumours from The Marquee Blog on CNN.com suggesting that a fourth film could be developed, this movie is suffering from the Spiderman syndrome. At least the script would have to be right before the key players can agree to reprise their roles. But do we really need a more comedic spin from the comic book series that was more serious and darker in tone? Nothing from these books were even used in the films except for three pages from the very first issue. At least the animated series copied the tone from the books right and kept the humour light.
If the Men in Black can return to their urban myth roots, then some fans might consider visiting them than the other way around.