I wasn’t the biggest fan of Men in Black when it came out. Yes, it was funny, and the effects were pretty amazing, and the chemistry between Tommy Lee Jones as the taciturn K and Will Smith as the fast and loose J was pretty stellar. But the story was meandering, seemingly just an excuse to cut from one funny alien sequence to another. (The scene where J has to deliver an alien baby was funny, yes, but didn’t really have anything to do with the plot.)
Then the sequel came out, and I remember even less about it. I know there was a princess, and another inexplicably placed alien craft in a well known New York landmark. (Was it the World Trade Center? Am I remembering that right?)
Anyway, even though those films left me a little cold, I was really excited by the ads for the third. I’m a sucker for a good time travel story, and this one is pretty good. They even came up with an original visual representation of time travel that I found both interesting and funny. No mean feat.
Anyway, the story. A vicious and nearly indestructible alien known as Boris the Animal (played by Jemaine Clement, who’s fantastic) has escaped from prison. He was, forty years or so ago, the advance agent for an alien invasion. A younger K (played by Josh Brolin) thwarted the invasion and captured Boris. Now Boris doesn’t just want to kill K, he wants to go back in time and kill K BEFORE K captured him, thus paving the way for that long awaited invasion.
The only sticking point for me about the story is the fact that, unlike nearly everyone in the universe, J remembers the original history and is dumbfounded when he gets to work and finds K has been dead for four decades. There is one indication that they had an explanation for J’s unusual situation, but they never explain it. (I suspect it was left on the cutting room floor.) Mildly annoying. But at least they had the smarts to mention it. (Maybe it’ll make it into some Director’s Cut on Blu-ray.)
Anyway, J, inevitably, goes back in time, partners up with young K, and they try to stop both the original Boris in the past, and the one from the future. The script is much tighter for this installment. There are still a few little tangents, but there’s more of a point to the character’s actions, not just running around. (And they even have time for pie.)
I loved the performance of Michael Stuhlbarg as the five-dimensional alien Griffin. He helps direct the film into more emotional territory than you might have expected from a movie like this. I enjoyed Emma Thompson and Alice Eve as two versions of the character O, though they didn’t get that much screen time. The character who really got screwed on that score was Andy Warhol. Bill Hader was brilliant as the “artist”, but he only had one scene. He should have been on screen as much as possible.
Those minor quibbles aside, this was easily the best of the series.