The following review is spoiler free and is meant to be read BEFORE seeing the movie.
Men in Black III is the kind of movie that I didn’t expect to be great, but still disappointed me when I wasn’t proven wrong. I wanted it to be better than it was even though I had no reasonable expectation that it would be more than just some disposable popcorn entertainment. It was entertaining overall, but that was despite its best efforts to be lackluster.
The first twenty minutes of Men in Black III are nigh unwatchable. It starts with a daring but poorly staged (from a filmmaking perspective) prison break, where the rules of physics are broken to a ridiculous extent, even when you take into account that the Men in Black franchise has never really cared about the rules of physics. The guy who isn’t Bret McKenzie from Flight of the Conchords gives a performance which can best be described as “trying too hard,” and since he is the first main character we are introduced to, it sets a bad tone for the rest of the movie.
This tone is further complicated by the poor chemistry between Will Smith as Agent Jay, and Tommy Lee Jones as Agent Kay. They have allegedly been working together for 14 years as of the beginning of this film but their interplay surely doesn’t give that away. I would think that people who had already made two movies together would have better chemistry, but I’d be wrong. What is confusing to me is that they had better chemistry in 1997 than they do now. But I digress; I won’t compare this film to the first film because I don’t believe it’s fair in most cases to do that. Films should stand on their own.
The lack of chemistry is problematic, but thankfully it doesn’t last very long as Men in Black III makes a sudden shift in focus to Will Smith and a mission he must take on to save the world. Once this mission gets started, the movie becomes entertaining. Supporting roles from Josh Brolin and Michael Stuhlbarg, both of whom are adept scene-stealers, really make this movie entertaining and worth watching in the end. Brolin’s dryness is captivating, and Stuhlbarg’s (who you may remember from the Coen Brothers’ A Serious Man and Martin Scorsese’s Hugo) sense of childlike wonder and amusement at the universe is extremely heartwarming, at least to me.
There are still times when the movie falters after these characters are introduced (such as gaping plot holes, sloppy writing, forced emotional moments that don’t really work, etc.), but for the most part, once Men in Black III finds its footing, it becomes an entertaining diversion.