My housemate and I bonded over our love for the cinema. Well, technically over our love for a pick and mix – it’s amazing how fizzy cherries can bring people together. Sadly she is soon to be my ex-housemate, but luckily we had time for one last Cinema Club.
So, Men In Black 3. I’m going to put it out there. This film is brilliant. Not just in a “Oh, I loved the first two and this is more of the same” way. In a “Going straight into my Top Films Of All Time” way!
They kept it simple, resisting taglines and gimmicks – there weren’t even that many in-jokes about the first two (although I did like the references to Frank the Pug that pop up a few times – see if you can spot ‘em). They just made a really, really good film. It’s the perfect sequel. “Three-quel” I should say, although as an English Lit graduate that word makes me shudder… Ugh. It’s nearly as bad as “quadrilogy”. But disastrous grammar aside, this film gives you everything you’d want from another MIB: big slimy fish aliens, more supercool gadgets, and the whole aliens-hiding-in-plain-sight thing that works so well in Transformers, and makes me wonder if the toaster is secretly watching me.
But importantly, it gives you a whole lot more. It steps it up. A sequel can kind of get away with milking the success of the first (I’m looking at you, Hangover 2). But a third instalment, especially one a good 14 years after the original, needs to have matured.
For a film about alien busting, it’s incredibly human. The alien stuff’s just par for the course, with the focus on the relationship between K and J. Despite having been a part of each other’s lives for 14 years, J is frustrated at how little he knows about his partner, and at K’s reluctance to share even the teeniest details. But K’s nemesis busts out of a top-security moon prison, and travels back in time to assassinate him … leaving J on a time-travelling rescue mission.
The film plays with an idea that I’ve always been slightly fascinated by: what people were like before I knew them, and what made them who they are. You really sympathise with J – after all, it’s been 14 years and we don’t know anything about K either. But you find out way, way more than you expect to, stuff you didn’t know you wanted to know – proving J right when he says that there are secrets “that even the Universe doesn’t know about”.
I loved that it moves forward by going backwards, to K’s sixties’ heyday and the Apollo moon launch, the point where (if MIB was real) “normal” life on Earth would first have crossed with its work. You are after all the product of the cumulative experiences in your life, and you can’t understand who you are until without understanding where you’ve come from. Discovering these much-loved characters’ pasts makes them feel even more real.
Tommy Lee Jones’ absolutely stellar performance is topped only by Josh Brolin’s scarily good turn as the young K, and Emma Thompson was as lovely as always as agent O. A film that I never expected to care that much about, but I’m already looking forward to seeing again.