The five most under-developed plotlines in Men In Black 3


26th May 2012

So I sort of reviewed Men In Black 3 last week and gave it a passable three stars, but there are still things that bug me about it which I'm going to share. I do, however, like that the picture above makes it look like Will Smith has two tiny white hands. Pew pew! He'll gitcha!

Perhaps my dismissive, jokey review of Men In Black 3 was unfair - as a long-gestating sequel to a beloved franchise, it deserved more than a brush-off with a naff, three-second joke. To compensate, I created a full-length video review on iMovie which took me quite a while to cut, and adequately expresses exactly how I feel about MIB3.

Men In Black 3 is just so damn hard to get excited about. It's an easy film to enjoy but impossible to love. It's not terrible by any means - I actually had a lot of fun watching it. Here is a list of some of the things that are good about it, in no particular order.

Rick Baker's aliens
The sound effects on the guns
The gloop effects when Rick Baker's aliens get shot by the guns
Michael Stuhlbarg
Bill Hader as Andy Warhol
The 3D (I know)
Remembering why Rip Torn isn't in it

These things aside, everything about Men In Black 3 feels underdeveloped. The movie is watchable enough, but the minute it ends, you pick at one thread and it unravels like a George At Asda suit. It's no surprise, considering the last two-thirds of the movie weren't even written when they started shooting the first, but here are the five most frustratingly unfinished aspects of Men In Black 3. Spoilers awaity, matey.
1. The relationship between K and O

So Rip Torn got drunk and tried to rob a bank or whatever, so I get why he was replaced as head of MIB, and I also get why he was replaced by a woman – Emma Thompson's O, to be precise (thank you very much, stern matriarch Judi Dench). However, the decision to shoehorn in a romance between Agent K and Agent O makes no sense.

It's supposed to give Tommy Lee Jones' character some depth; to illustrate that, even though he never shows it, K is capable of loving and being loved. Not that you'd know that from the ONE scene Jones and Thompson share together, in which they exchange next-to-no dialogue. Instead, we only find out the two were/are an item when we go back in time and meet Young K (Josh Brolin) and Young O (Alice Eve).

Even then, all you get is one (nicely delivered) anecdote about K and O first meeting, and a wry smile. K gives nothing away and shows no feeling towards O when they share office space. It's almost like that one anecdote was added near the end of filming to try and give Alice Eve's character a reason to be – apart from being the token sixties totty, of course.
2. Why Boris is such an animal

First of all, I love that there is a multi-million dollar franchise movie with Jemaine Clement in it. That makes me smile. However, his character – villain Boris The Animal ("It's... just… BORIS") – is utterly bizarre. Credit to Rick Baker for at least making him look like a badass (complete with do-rag, Harley, pipe eyes and friendly personal hand-crab), but apparently this is enough to make Boris an animal. He's evil because everyone says he is, and he looks the part.

This is a character whose name spreads fear into those who hear it – even Tommy Lee Jones calls someone "a piece of shit" (in a PG!) because he's so stressed out about Boris' impending arrival. But we, as audience members, who do not think things because the script says we have to, have no idea why he's allegedly so terrifying. His intro, which sees him escape a high-security prison, shows him killing with gay abandon, sure, but why is he in a prison on the moon in the first place? Where did he get his reputation from? Doesn't this bother anyone?

Most of the evidence in Men In Black points to Boris actually being a bit of a pussycat. There's one moment near the end, where Boris and Agent J are fighting atop a giant bit of precariously thin scaffolding, where one slip would mean instant death. Boris – an 'animal' remember – has J in his grasp and off the ground… and throws him along the scaffold. As opposed to swivelling his hips and dropping his ass 300 feet to his certain death.

I know villains do idiotic things like monologuing and leaving people in unnecessarily slow-moving torture devices, but this takes the cake. Like most things in Men In Black 3, Boris is an animal because that's how he was written, and no one had the time or inclination to actually back it up.
3. The alien invasion

You might say this is the crux of the movie – the catalyst for everything that happens after the first act. You might also say it's a total afterthought. Will Smith has to perform a 'time jump' (another one of those 'Oh, just go with it' moments) to save Young K and prevent Boris' alien race the Boglodites from invading, but as far as we are concerned, there is precisely zero threat to this alien invasion.

Firstly, this is because – apart from Boris, who looks mostly human – we have no idea who the Boglodites are or what they look like. Secondly, it's because we only see one scene of the invading ships before J travels back in time – a few floating jellyfish things CGd in the sky as background to some of Smith's shtick. Finally, it's because those floaty jellyfish things don't actually seem to do anything other than just hover and loom large. No zapping? No destroying puny humans? Was there no budget for a few money shots of this nature?

I understand that this isn't War Of The Worlds, but if you're going to feature an alien invasion that could potentially lead to the slavery of the human race in your film, you'd damn well better put the effort in to make it at least appear to matter. The tension in the aforementioned invasion scene is actually whether or not Agent J will be pancaked after jumping off the Chrysler Building. Gosh, I'm just so nervous they'll kill off charismatic A-list actor Will Smith's character around the 30-minute mark!
4. The time-travel

Scour all of the pre-press interviews of Barry Sonnenfeld, and you'll see him talking about how tricky it is to wrap your head around writing time-travel science-fiction. Brother, I hear you. I still don't quite understand the Terminator timelines and I've seen those films more times than I've seen the insides of my own eyelids.

All this led me to believe that MIB3 would be a head-twisting, tongue-in-cheek time-travel movie, with ins and outs and parallel universes and all manner of funky time-skipping references a la Back To The Future. Did I miss something? Because Men In Black 3 is one of the most basic time-travel movies I've ever seen. It's the Tesco Value of time-travel movies.

Here's the plot in a nutshell: Boris The Animal goes back in time to kill Young Agent K, which wipes out future Agent K. Agent J then goes back in time to kill Boris before he kills Young K. That's it. Then somehow Agent J ends up back in the future again, because, er, oh, he just bloody does, okay? It's the classic 'Go back in time to kill Hitler' time-travel scenario, although significantly less satisfying than that suggests. The cleverest MIB3 gets is seeing Old Boris talking to Young Boris in the same scene. Pfft. Timecop did all this in 1994 but you don't see Jean-Claude Van Damme bragging about it.
5. Why K is so sad

Here we have the real emotional heft of Men In Black 3 – J's eternal quest to find out why K is such a miserable bastard. You might have thought that K is so crotchety because he's played by Tommy Lee Jones, and the shoe totally fits, but no. K is sad and permanently stuck in hangdog mode for a reason, and J is going to find out what it is.

Except, he doesn't. And neither do we. This investigation is teased throughout the whole first half of the movie, to the point where you sort of want Tommy Lee Jones to tell Will Smith to mind his own fucking business. When Young K shows a flicker of emotion while talking about his relationship with O, J asks what happened to him to make him so downbeat. "Whatever it is, it hasn't happened yet," says Brolin. Oooh! So it's going to happen, then!

Nope. Unless of course, the 'happening' is the awful, meaningless, saccharine ending so clearly tacked on after the final action scene, which – of course – winds up serving Will Smith's character way more than it does Tommy Lee Jones'. Surely that can't be the resolution of K's entire character arc? Even if the riddle of K's disposition is being left for another day and another sequel (Men In Black 4D in nostril-stinging smell-o-vision!), they don't make it clear at all. Hell, the final revelation has almost no influence on his character's behaviour whatsoever. He's sad, because the script says he's sad. And obviously Tommy Lee Jones is incapable of smiling, I guess.
But still... the aliens are good!

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