Men in Black burst onto the big screen in 1997, with a catchy title song by star Will Smith at the height of his fame, it was a huge hit.
Five years later in 2002, the magic had dissipated with a lacklustre sequel that received lukewarm critical reception but still did well at the box office.
Jump forward another ten years, we have a belated possible final instalment in the trilogy. After a troubled and delayed shoot, is the magic still there and using simple multiplication, will MIB 4 arrive in 2032.
Will Smith returns as Agent J, it has been a while since we have seen Smith on the big screen. Joining him of course, is Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), grumpy, uncommunicative and not on the screen for long. Emma Thompson takes over from the missing Rip Torn, again almost a cameo due to the way the story pans out.
In case popular culture is not quite popular enough, a quick recap. MIB are the secret team tasked with defending the earth from the ever present Alien presence on Earth. The general populace know nothing of this, if they witness any event their minds are wiped and implanted with new memories, using a cool neuralyzer.
The sharp suits are back, the RayBan’s are there but Director Barry Sonnefield has decided to keep Smith and Jones apart by creating a time travel story. This introduces Josh Brolin as a young Agent K back in 1969, complete with a very passable Jones voice impression.
The story centres around “Boris The Animal” (Jermain Clement), a character so bad they built a prison on the Moon to house him. Clement (Flight of the Conchords) is almost unrecognizable in extensive make up, heavily augmented with very effective CGI. Despite the animals and creatures being first class, not that all the effects works well, several scenes appearing somewhat false.
Whilst enjoyable enough, the film feels like a connection of adequate scenes stitched together without combining as a seamless story. Later scenes are saved with the introduction of a great character “Griffin” (Stuhlbarg), able to see endless permutations of the future.
The film flags at times and Jones does not appear fully engaged, although he has only a limited screen-time to impress. Will Smith does his thing, again his heart does not seem to be fully in it, although he does get to play a couple of good gags against the racial stereotyping of the day. Brolin has fun playing the younger Jones, whether such a radical deviation from the partnership was really necessary to bring a fresh approach to the franchise, remains debatable.
The story wraps up in an unexpected and rather touching way, indicating perhaps that the franchise has no more gas in the tank. The Studio might be wise to stop at this point but with a worldwide box office take of over $600 million, there will be many reasons to continue.
A fair to middling effort, not a patch on the original which it could never hope to match. Fun in parts, weak in others but colourful and designed to offend no one.
If you enjoyed the previous films, this will do for now as a reasonable couple of hours entertainment.