Men in Black 3 is a completely unnecessary installment of a dormant franchise that, to my knowledge, didn’t have a large outcry to get rebooted. And in a summer filled with blockbusters like The Avengers, Prometheus and The Dark Knight Rises, it’s ultimately a film that isn’t flashy enough or epic enough to stand out amongst the rest. But it is a perfectly serviceable and enjoyable little film that should leave Men in Black fans satisfied and entertained.
The film opens with Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), a deadly alien that Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) locked away in a moon prison 40 years ago. Boris uses his newfound freedom to travel back in time to 1969 to kill a young Agent K (James Brolin) before he captures Boris. Once the timeline is altered, K’s partner Agent J (Will Smith) is the only person who remembers the way things originally were, which makes him the only person who can travel back to put right what once went wrong.
Adding time travel to the mix is a fun way to shake things up in a franchise in need of something new. Showing us how the Men in Black organization operated in the 1960s provides some solid laughs, especially when showing the not-very-sleek 60s version of the infamous MIB neuralizer, the “flashy thingy” the erases short-term memory. The film also has some fun with Agent J traveling back to an era when a black man with a suit was treated with suspicion and contempt. Also, the final act has some fun with the nature of time travel and the unintended consequences that can occur when you start messing with the past.
The film’s most inventive creation is Griffin (Michael Stuhlbarg), an alien who is able to see all possible futures at once. Griffin is an interesting addition to the time travel genre. He knows what is about to happen at all times, but he’s not omniscient. He knows the possible outcomes of any given situation without actually knowing which timeline he’s in. This means that he’s full of more useless information that useless info and he’s occasionally so fixated on what might happen that he misses what is happening. Stuhlbarg plays the role with a lot of charisma and gives Griffin an air of mystery that left me wanting to know a lot more about and see a lot more of Griff.