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Men in Black III
May 28, 2012

Since it’s a long holiday weekend, we thought we’d take in Men in Black III, which opened this weekend to good but not spectacular results.

Men in Black III

Overall, we found it a diverting summer movie, not outstanding, but not a waste, either. I don’t regret seeing it, but I don’t need to see it again or feel a need to get the DVD.

The great premise — Will Smith has to go back in time to prevent the young Agent K (Josh Brolin) from being killed, which will erase his partner (Tommy Lee Jones) from existence, along with the work he’s done protecting the earth from aliens — plays out as expected, without many surprises. Since the second movie also dealt with humanizing Jones’ character, some of this may seem a little redundant, if not for the fact that most people won’t remember the details, since it’s been ten years.

The movie puts special effects over story, which I suppose isn’t a shock to anyone who’s familiar with the franchise. (I’m ready for the 3-D craze to be over, since I think it drives the out-of-balance emphasis on special effects.) It’s also got less humor than I hoped for, choosing instead to be heartwarming, only I felt those bits fell a little flat.

Will Smith seems to have lost his snap; he didn’t fully keep my attention when he was on-screen. Sometimes he felt a bit remote or going through the motions. There were also too many characters who simply tell our heroes what they need to know or give them the macguffin they need, and not enough Emma Thompson as the new boss. (The movie fails the Bechdel Test, but that won’t be surprising.) On the other hand, Michael Stuhlbarg as Griffin does a terrific job portraying a never-ending sense of wonder. He reminded me of a young Robin Williams, without the forced zaniness.

There may be SPOILERS following.

I was disappointed that the bad guy ultimately turned out to be just a crazy killer, without any motive but destruction. It was as though the agents were fighting Lobo. It’s villain inflation, how you have to keep making them bigger and more dangerous, and eventually you wind up with a cartoon.

I also didn’t care for the message that some bad guys deserve the death penalty, because I think it goes against the premise of Men in Black to begin with, which is about managing the aliens, not killing them.

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