In Theatre’s Now: Men in Black III

  • 05/30/2012
  • Terelle Jerricks

By Danny Simon

At the end of the first scene of the original Men in Black, agents D and K, played by Tommy Lee Jones and Richard Hamilton, are confronted with the specter of exhaustion. After years of saving the world as anonymous protectors, D cannot hack the job anymore. Merciful K dons his shades and flashes his neuralizer, or memory eraser before the eyes of his faithful comrade, thus alleviating D of his secret knowledge and releasing him from his sacred trust. A few scenes later, K enlists J, played by Will Smith, and an inter-racial inter-generational partnership is born.

Three films later, the dynamic duo continues to protect Earth with alien technology and smart ass wit. But beyond the explosive yet uninspiring storyline, Men in Black III, and the whole franchise really, is about aging, regrets and commitment.

Unrealized romantic love haunts K in this installment of MIB and the audience finally gets a sense of why he’s so snarky with his platonic partner, J. But sacrifice in the name of humanity takes precedence and so we come to understand K’s love of near suicidal country ballads. In K’s past and present, J sees his own lonely and isolated life, and yet, despite his understanding of K’s sacrifice, J comes to understand the lesson. These are the Men in Black after all. No one promised a normal suburban life.

Both Jones and Smith have aged remarkably since the last installment. Smith retains his vitality and looks like he’s been overdosing on Dick Gregory’s latest dietary supplement; he really should be our next Super Man. There are really too many unflattering closeup shots of Jones who seems to have wilted under the Texas sun; he has become Richard Hamilton’s D. With a bit of time travel, we spend the majority of the film with a much younger K (played by Josh Brolin), who pays an uncanny homage  to both K and Jones.

Tommy Lee Jones in original Men in Black

Tommy Lee Jones today.

The cast is rounded out by Emma Thompson and Alice Eve who play the present and past versions of agent O, the romantic inspiration of agent K. But unfortunately, these brilliant actresses serve as minor ornaments like the CGI aliens.

If screenwriter Etan Cohen’s mild time travel paradox leaves you yawning, you can focus on the way that CGI has finally come into its own as a storytelling device. The technology has become so commonplace now that its use demands a decent story. Otherwise it will simply leave the audience bored, as was the case of the spectacularly dull, The Last Airbender.

Director Barry Sonnenfeld brilliantly employs the technology to tell the tallest of Americana tales, and, with the exception of an early incongruity of an ichthyological nature, seamlessly warps his actors through time and space.

A cynical movie watcher, and many critics, might wish he or she was neuralized after watching what will probably be the last M.I.B. outing, but I think they’re missing the point. It’s summer blockbuster time and this movie isn’t trying for an Oscar nod. Films like Men in Black III succeed in momentarily neuralizing the audience so we forget the pressing concerns of the world outside the theatre.

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