Movie aliens are really interesting movie characters. They can be cute and cuddly like ET, big and nasty like the Alien or the The Blob, wise and powerful like Yoda, or friends or foes of the earth.
Indeed, filmmakers can create whatever aliens they like, but the common factor is that all movie aliens reveal more about man than the aliens themselves.
I’m not sure that’s true, however, about the aliens in the Men in Black films. They’re just created for fun, to make us laugh at how funny they look and how they’re living among us in disguise as Lady Gaga or Justin Bieber.
So there’s a real sense of nonsense about MIB III — which reteams Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones 10 years after MIB II.
It sees feared alien assassin Boris The Animal (Jemaine Clement) escape from a super-max prison on the moon, where’s he’s spent the last 40 years. He swears vengeance on the man in black who put him away, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones). He gets hold of a time-travel device, travels back to 1969, and erases K from history.
To stop this from happening, Agent J (Will Smith) follows him into the past, and teams up with the younger K (Josh Brolin) to kill Boris first.
The first two MIB movies made $1 billion combined, so they were massive hits. And they had a good formula for success. They were buddy-cop action comedies with plenty of charisma from Smith and plenty of anti-charisma from Jones, with his deadpan delivery and hangdog face.
The great conceit is having aliens hiding among us on Earth and a secret society of agents who police them. It played into all those conspiracy theories and made us think anything was possible….like George W Bush being president.
But is MIB III as good as the other two, or better? Do the aliens actually mean anything this time?
Well, I was amused and mildly entertained, in that relaxed kind of way, but never blown away or challenged by MIB3. The action is more on the mild side than the wild side, the comedy and one-liners just don’t stick, and the aliens are just OK rather than hilarious or creative.
Films like The Avengers and The Dark Knight have really raised the bar when it comes to comic book or superhero movies. So it’s hard not to measure MIB III against their giddy heights.
Yet director Barry Sonnenfeld largely abandons the central conceit of conspiracy theories in favour of the time-travel angle. And let’s face it, time travel has been done to death – and done better.
Sadly, Jones takes a back seat here as Smith and Brolin have more screen time. And while Brolin has mastered Jones’s voice and mannerism so well it’s downright spooky, he’s not given the chance to really have much to do with the story here. I would have liked to see more of him in action as the young Agent K more.
It’s mostly left to Smith, who seems to be less charismatic and funny than usual here. He’s also looking 10 years older than before, and as if he’s way past all this nonsense.
That said, there is a nice link to the past that the filmmakers include that gives J and K’s relationship new meaning. And that’s probably the best part of MIB3, giving it a little depth and heart it lacked before.
But I think the MIB films are done with this one. It was expensive to make and had a lot of production problems, and Jones and Smith just seem over it.
Score: 5 out of 10