Monday, 18 June 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Men in Black 3

Directed by: Barry Sonnenfeld

Produced by: Walter F. Parkes
Laurie MacDonald

Screenplay by: Etan Cohen

Based on: The Men in Black by Lowell Cunningham

Starring: Will Smith
Tommy Lee Jones
Josh Brolin
Jemaine Clement
Michael Stuhlbarg
Emma Thompson

Music by: Danny Elfman

Cinematography by: Bill Pope

Editing by: Don Zimmerman

Studio(s): Amblin Entertainment
Parkes + MacDonald
Imagenation Abu Dhabi
Hemisphere Media Capital

Distributed by: Columbia Pictures

Release date(s): May 23, 2012 (France)
May 25, 2012 (United States/United Kingdom)

Running time: 106 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $215 million

Box office revenue (as of publication): $544, 326, 558

I'm gonna keep going while the balls still rolling. It's near one in the morning on a typically miserable night in Belfast, and so the circumstances for quelling my boredom are about as good as they get. Throw in The Sex Pistols' Never Mind The Bollocks, and I'll be metaphorically bouncing around the room. As mentioned, I have been busy, and so there will be a good bit of reviews coming in. I can confirm incoming work on The Angels' Share, Prometheus, Dark Shadows and (finally) The Turin Horse. Others will be on the way, but those are the certainties, so in that regard, keep your feckin' eyes posted!

Todays review is for Men in Black 3, the latest instalment in the MIB franchise. To put us into a bit of historical context, fifteen years ago the first MIB film, based on Lowell Cunningham's comic series, was a great sci-fi action-comedy with a genuinely bizarre sense of humour. Furthermore, the casting of Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith is about as good a pair of actors to play off each other as you're going to get. This was followed by the oft-maligned Men in Black II, which frankly I don't remember much about (its been ten years, gimme a break!) apart from Will Smith talking gibberish to aliens in a post-office. In 2012, Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones) are back for another mission. Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes The Moon's LunarMax prison, and goes back in time to kill Agent K, the man who put him away. Thus, a time paradox is created, and in the present, K never existed. With the wheels in motion, J himself must go back to 1969 to prevent K's pending murder. However, J must once again contend with himself being subordinate to the younger Agent K (Josh Brolin), who is tracking the 1969 Boris' activities as the 2012 Boris is on his tail.

Right, with all the hoo-ha out of the way, let's get the cracking with the real shebang. I'll start with the casting. Will Smith is always a reliably entertaining lead, and he firmly anchors the film. The real highlight though is Josh Brolin. Initially I was against the idea of there being another actor playing Agent K, but Brolin's casting is a stroke of genius. Going beyond doing an (excellent) impersonation of Tommy Lee Jones, he brings gravitas and energy to the part of Agent K, snapping up most the best lines like nobody's business. Also, Danny Elfman's returning MIB score is an enjoyable listen. Using the original theme as a starting point, Elfman works from the ground up and develops a good soundscape to the film. Don Zimmerman does a fine job as editor, while much credit must be given to those establishing mise-en-scene. The film's production design and make-up in particular, as expected with MIB films, stands out, and provides weight to some of the film's more memorable sequences. Finally, Barry Sonnenfeld ensures that the film remains consistent and faithful to the tone of the MIB series, directing with conviction throughout.

For all these good things though, there are almost as many problems. Etan Cohen's script is a troublesome piece of work. The plot is pants, don't get me wrong, but it's competent enough to justify another film. However, it is pretty dull, and while Smith and Brolin get served well, others do not. The new villain of Boris the Animal is more or less perfunctory. By the time he said "It's just Boris," which wasn't funny the first time, for the umpteenth occasion, I was grinding my teeth to hold back swearing in front of children. Having tittered once or twice, I more or less sat through most of the film in a state of general indifference. Also annoying is the cinematography. Poor Bill Pope, who shot The Matrix films, is forced to work with the marvel of 3D, and the format is incredibly annoying here. The version I saw was 2D, yet I was still able to tell what moments were the '3D gimmick shots.' Why is it that no matter how many things smash, are thrown etc., the object always seems to be dead-center of shot in 3D? Also, whether this is his fault or not I don't know, but there is way too much deep focus, with everything being seen 'loud and clear' in a manner that is very distracting. Finally, if you have Tommy Lee Jones in a movie, DON'T just get him in there to bookend the film and seem a waste of space!

All in all, MIB 3 is neither a disappointment or a pleasant surprise. There's enough in it, from good casting (particularly Brolin), editing, production design and direction to make it a decent watch. However, there isn't enough to make it stand out from the pack, as it suffers from a troublesome script, a perfunctory antagonist, cinematography clamped by (not literally) cheap 3D gimmickry and an overdose of deep focus. Furthermore, Tommy Lee Jones' considerable talents are wasted. In this regard, I'll use a bit of space to plug his 2005 directorial debut The Three Burial of Melquiades Estrada. One of the top ten films since 2005 (the year I got really serious about the movies), it's a powerful, incredibly atmospheric western, with Jones directing himself to his finest performance. That's how much I care about Men in Black 3!

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 5.1/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Up and about (cocaine's a hell of drug!)

P.S. Just kidding, it's energy drinks!

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