After a few years away, Will Smith is back, and is reviving one of his big franchises in the process. Unfortunately, there seems to be a general consensus of “meh”, possibly down to the disappointing preceding sequel. However, fans of the first need worry not, as the franchise is back on track.
Things don’t begin well. We’re introduced to the film’s (rather dreadful) big bad, Boris, in an escape scene that is oddly lacking in any sense of drama or excitement, involving a rather baffling cameo from Nicole Scherzinger. This is followed by a funeral for Rip Torn’s character “Z” that is played for laughs- but is the first of many jokes that fall flat. It’s soon business as usual, as we get the obligatory alien gorefest, this time in NY Chinatown. But all of this is before the plot properly kicks in and, once it does, things begin to look up.
The film truly comes alive once we meet “young” Agent K, played phenomenally well by Josh Brolin. His Tommy Lee Jones impression is spot-on to the point of Oscar-worthy (as if they’d honour such a role). Will Smith’s acting has come a long way in the intervening decade, and he’s looking uncomfortable in the somewhat childish, wise-cracking role. But of course, Smith’s Agent J only really works when playing against the deadpan Agent K, so even though he’s a new actor to the franchise, it’s only now that Brolin had appeared that we finally feel back in familiar, comfortable territory.
Another interesting addition to the cast of quirky characters is the utterly bizarre, but fascinating Griffin (A Serious Man’s Michael Stuhlbarg), an alien who can see all possible outcomes in any situation. He proves to provide a lot more than exposition, and makes for surprisingly enjoyable company.
One of the biggest gripes about blockbusters- especially sequels- is plot and character development. Well, this film has both, in spades. A lot of the jokes that fell flat earlier are actually set-ups for character moments that pay off later; some are of little significance, others prove rather profound. One thing I was not expecting from MiB3 was an emotional pay-off. But, to my pleasant surprise, I received one.