Thursday, May 31, 2012
And I mean that as a compliment. Quality-wise, Men in Black follows the same trajectory as the Back to the Future trilogy: Terrific opening, problematic sequel, much-improved third installment.
But it's not enough to say that Men in Black 3 is an improvement over 2. That wouldn't take much. The second movie wasn't awful, it was just kind of ... there. Typical middling sequel. Didn't hate it, didn't really like it either. So I'm very happy - and very pleasantly surprised - to report that the third movie is actually kind of great.
That threw me, given all the reports I read about this movie's chaotic production. I was especially troubled by the fact they started filming without a finished script - a bad idea for any movie, but especially for an action comedy, which requires a lot of fine tuning if it's going to work. And amazingly, Men in Black 3 works wonders.
One of the smartest moves by the filmmakers was to put J back in a place akin to where he was in the first film - stuck in an unfamiliar world. This time, the unfamiliar world is 1969, where J has time-traveled to prevent the demise of K. I really shouldn't say more than about the plot - the less you know, the better.
What I can tell you is something that was evident in the trailers: Josh Brolin is fantastic as the young K - and he doesn't just copy Tommy Lee Jones. Brolin conveys some of the same deadpan stoicism, but this younger K is also a bit lighter on his feet - he's not quite so world-weary yet, and he plays off Will Smith extremely well.
The picture's midsection moves in fits and starts but recovers for a great third act that packs something even the first movie didn't have: an emotional wallop. I daresay I was really moved in a way that I never thought I would be.
Oh sure, you'll always have people who complain about the plot holes in the time travel, but you know what? When you have an alien with hand vaginas that shoot poison darts, you're allowed to break a few time travel rules. If it leads to an ending that's actually touching, we'll give logic a break.
And here's an added bonus: Even the post-converted 3D is terrific. Although director Barry Sonnenfeld didn't shoot in 3D, he clearly designed his shots for the format, with a lot of zany pop-out effects that are actually worth the upcharge.
Much has been made of the third movie's soft opening at the box office, but the opening was soft because a lot of people didn't like the second movie. I hope they give the third movie legs. I know I found my time - and this franchise - were redeemed.