The last time we saw the Men in Black was ten years ago in a bland dud of a sequel to the fun original film from 1997. The second film had a few problems, chief among them being an indecipherable plot that never really became coherent. Now, after a decade to retool and rethink the franchise, and despite nobody really demanding one, we get another sequel that many are hoping will bring the series back to its entertaining and exciting roots.
The film opens with the escape of an extremely dangerous prisoner, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), from a prison on the moon. He and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) have a bit of a history together as it was K who blasted off one of Boris’s arms before arresting him back in 1969. Boris’s plan is to go back in time and kill young Agent K so that his incarceration, his arm getting blown off, and the extinction of his species never occurs.
Meanwhile, we find Agent J (Will Smith) and K going about their usual business as Men in Black with their relationship being about the same as it ever was. However, when Boris carries out his plan, there is a sudden shift in the timeline that causes everyone to forget about K except for J. With the help of the new head of MIB, Agent O (Emma Thomson), he discovers that there has been a temporal shift and that he must go back in time not only to save K, but save the planet from an attack by Boris’ species as well. Once back in 1969, he teams up with young K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris’ plan.
Right off the bat, I’m glad to report that the plot to this latest entry in the franchise is much more coherent than its predecessor’s and far more interesting as well. Where the last film had been a puzzle that never came together, this film offers up an exciting time travel tale where K’s life, as well as everyone else’s, hangs in the balance. The writers here have also been able to find a better sense of humor than the scribes of the previous entry.
But what this film really manages to tap into is the fun of the original film. While it doesn’t exactly feel fresh, it still manages to be entertaining thanks to a combination of the plot and the humor. They have a lot of fun with the time-travel aspects of the story such as inserting Andy Warhol into a scene while poking fun at his art. They even manage to incorporate the historic Apollo 11 launch as an important plot device.
There are some small issues with the story, such as a second act that drags a little, but it doesn’t end up affecting the film too much, nor does the fact that the villain, like the antagonists of the previous films, is not particularly memorable. You may recall that the main baddie of the original film was a giant cockroach in a human’s skin that went around grunting dialogue while the villain in the second film was a tentacle creature that takes over MIB with a two-headed sidekick, neither of which really developed into fully-formed characters.
This time around, we have Boris, a powerful criminal who wears goggles at all times and has a spidery creature living in his wrist that he uses to shoot darts with. While the previous two villains had just been looking for something, Boris is out for revenge, causing him to go to extremes to carry it out. He doesn’t get to become a fully-developed character either, but at least he allows the plot to be more interesting.
One of the highlights of the film comes in Josh Brolin’s performance as young Agent K. He ends up doing a spot-on imitation of Jones’s character and has just as good chemistry with Smith. Jones’s rendition of K has always been that of someone who doesn’t like to talk very much, particularly about himself, while maintaining a professional attitude at all times. It’s refreshing to see a different side of him, as played by Brolin, at a point when the character is a little more open to talking about personal matters. However, we can clearly see that the K we have come to know is still there in his mannerisms and matter-of-fact way of speaking.
This is Barry Sonnenfeld’s third time in the director’s chair for this franchise. He’s had a hit and miss career with films like The Addams Family, Get Shorty, and Wild Wild West in addition to the previous two entries in this series. The screenplay had four different writers work on it, which can sometimes signal a problem for a film in that the studio can’t find a writer that they’re happy with, but while the film does have a few previously-mentioned problems in the second act, they’ve managed to put together a decent film.
Taking a look at the specs of the disc, the film has been brought to Blu-Ray in an excellent 1080p, 1.85:1 transfer. The picture is extremely sharp, which could partly be because much of the film has digitally rendered elements involved. This was another example of a Blu-Ray that made it feel like I was watching the film for the first time, because in the theater it had been in 3D, causing the picture to be dulled considerably.
The 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio is loud and clear throughout the entire film, allowing for all the fascinating sounds of the film to come through very well. It’s good to see that a sci-fi film that depends on crisp audio and video got such a great treatment for home release.
The Blu-Ray comes with the following special features:
- Partners in Time: The Making of MIB 3
- Gag Reel
- “Back in Time” Music Video by Pitbull
- Spot the Alien Game
- The Evolution of Cool: MIB 1960s vs. Today
- Keeping it Surreal: The Visual FX of MIB 3
- Scene Investigations
- Progression Reels
This is actually a very good selection of special features. The “Making of” featurette goes into some neat detail about how the project came together and features interviews with the cast and crew. “The Evolution of Cool” featurette is an interesting comparison of the MIB Headquarters sets used for the two different time periods of the film, explaining why certain changes were made between the two.
The other two featurettes that are worth mentioning are the Scene Investigations and the Progression Reels. If you’ve ever wondered just how much work it takes to put together a special effects-heavy film, you’ll find these particularly fascinating as the FX crew takes you through several key scenes in the film and how they were assembled.
Overall, this is a pretty good Blu-Ray release. The film itself is fun and entertaining, plus you get a great selection of special features that tell you all kinds of things about how it got made. The excellent video and audio quality merely end up being icing on the cake, making this Blu-Ray an easy recommendation.
This review is based on a copy of the Blu-Ray that we received for reviewing purposes.