I'm looking for K, have you seen him? Sort of a surly, older gentleman, smiles like this...

The last MIB film came out in 2002. Quick mental math...that's ten years ago. I suspect there have been people wondering if the story of MIB3 was worth bringing back a film franchise that has been dormant for a decade. All I can say is that, in my opinion, this was definitely a story--the basics of which were conceived by Will Smith during the filming of MIB2--worthy of being told. A story worth bringing Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Barry Sonnenfeld, Steven Spielberg, Rick Baker, and Danny Elfman back together for. But, there's also a newcomer...who doesn't feel like a newcomer but rather one of those folks being brought back. Of course I'm referring to Josh Brolin, who plays a young K. But we'll get to that in a minute.

Though I had been excited about MIB3, so much so that I was concerned others might not be, it still took me by surprise how much of that kid at the movies feeling I had from the moment the Columbia Pictures logo faded up on the screen and the first two notes of Danny Elfman's minimal (but very fitting) MIB theme came booming out of the very powerful IMAX speakers. You know what I'm talking about, right? That feeling of "I've been so looking forward to this. I've been missing these characters, this particular movie world. Ah, there's the music. There's the opening titles done in that distinctive way. I'm seeing another MIB [or insert fiml franchise here] movie. This is great." It was a good feeling to have, and it continued throughout the film. From start to finish, it felt like a Men In Black film. The same quirky sense of humor. The same imaginative alien designs. The same great banter between the main characters. And yet, there was something different. Something new...or at least improved. That being heart.

Now, back to young K. "Young K? What's that all about?" Well Jerry, as anyone who knows anything about the movie knows, the plot involves time travel. The other day I read an article that named 10 conventions in current science fiction that, in that writer's mind at least, need to go away. One of them was time travel. After praising films like Back to the Future (at least he's safe from the wrath of Josh), he argued that time travel has been done to death and that no new interesting stories using said plot device can be told. I didn't agree with him when I read that, and I definitely don't agree with him now. The story of MIB3 is quite interesting, and the time-travel element is integral to it.

And while we're on the subject, let me just say that the handling of time travel was, in my opinion, very well done. The overall approach seems to be the Back to the Future Style (the past can be changed), with perhaps a bit of predestination paradox/Bill and Ted style thrown in as well (see our podcasts on The Terminator series for a discussion of what we've identified as the various approaches to time travel used in fiction). Using a BTTF style opens the door in terms of potential complexity, and also increases the likelihood that the writer(s) will make a goof somewhere. I didn't see any glaring examples of this though. Sure, not every question related to the time travel elements of the plot was answered. And honestly, I'm ok with that. What I consider to be the important questions were answered, so I was good.

On a less dorky level, the use of time travel was nice as it allowed the environments to be a bit more varied. In addition to modern day NYC which, let's be honest, is in lots of movies (I'm looking at you...umm...lots of movies), we also get to see late 1960's New York City (and a few other locales which shall remain nameless). This was a fun change of scenery, what with the big cars, 'interesting' clothes, 60's specific jokes, and canister-of-hairspray-emptying hairdos and all. Plus, and now maybe I'll finally get to it, it allows us to see Agent K as a younger man.

I'm not sure about anyone else, but for me, although just knowing there was a third MIB movie coming out was enough to motivate me to go see it, the first time I saw a trailer with Mr. Brolin as K, I was instantly excited. All he said was, "A'ight" and "How do you know my name?" But that's all it took. This movie was going to be great...or at least had the strong potential. (Had Tommy Lee Jones not been it at all I might have been skeptical. But since I'd already seen him in the trailer by the time Josh Brolin shows up, I was fine.) It was clear to me by just those couple of lines that Brolin had nailed the part. (When my wife first saw the trailer she wondered aloud if Tommy Lee Jones had dubbed the lines.) And the idea of a young K and a current day J together, with an actor so perfectly playing K, felt like it was going to be a lot of fun.

And it was. Maybe this is the newness talking, but I'm fairly certain this is my favorite MIB film. It's definitely my wife's. As we were talking about this on our way back to our minivan, she commented that she feels a bit bad about that, since Tommy Lee Jones isn't in the film as much as he was in the previous two. And that's when it consciously hit me just how great Josh Brolin did in the film. Don't get me wrong, I'd already consciously been thinking that he did an absolutely wonderful job. But when Liz made her observation, it hit me: Though true, it didn't feel like Tommy Lee Jones wasn't in the movie as much as in the previous two films. That's how great Mr. Brolin did. Upon leaving the movie theater I felt like I'd seen a movie with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

But there's more to this sequel than a young Kevin Brown. The all-new characters are also done very well. The main villain, Boris (I'm not calling him The Animal, as I value my life), has sort of a no-good space-biker vibe going on (helped by the fact that in parts of the film he actually rides a bike). I could totally picture him driving through space (or the open roads of America) with "Bad to the Bone" playing in the background...except that I don't know if Boglodites have bones. Our heroes are aided through much of the film by Griffin, a 5-dimensional alien who, as Todd points out, is a very likeable and interesting character. He has a sort of innocence and child-like ability to find enjoyment to him that is heartwarming. On the other hand his knowledge of all the various ways the timeline could branch out makes not only for some enjoyable fast-moving dialogue, but also helps build dramatic tension. (By the way, how helpful would he have been to Sam Beckett and the rest of the folks working on Project Quantum Leap? Although Ziggy probably would have been jealous of him. She does have Barbra Streisand's ego after all.) As a bit of a side note, it also makes him appear to have a short attention span at times. In fact, part of me wondered if the ending of the movie would have Griffin changing his name and entering into the entertainment business under the alias Robin Williams. Weird, I know. But hey, that's what part of me was wondering.

As for the nuts and bolts of the film, all was executed well. The actors gave great performances, and the directing was consistently spot on. This is impressive since the film has humor, action, and poignancy. The art design and special effects, both cg and practical, looked great. The score was classic MIB (again, with more heart than the previous two installments). And as for the 3D, unlike some big 3D movies these days, MIB3 was shot in 3D. As a result, it looked great.

On the whole, running up to its release MIB3 might not have been getting the hype that The Avengers was, but in my opinion it deserved to. It's a great summer film and a great addition to the MIB series. As Todd said while the credits were rolling, "If they want to make another, I'd be perfectly ok with that." So make our wish come true...go see MIB3. (It's already turned a profit, but making even more money can't hurt.)

Oh, one last thing: Without delving into spoiler territory, I'll just say that NASA gets some visibility here. This is, in my book, always nice, but especially more so during this gap between the Space Shuttle and the next manned-spaceflight system.

Nod ya head.

 - Nic

Posted on June 5, 2012 .