In 1997, a film based off Lionel Cunningham's comic book called Men in Black was released starring Academy award-winning Tommy Lee Jones and popular rapper turned television/film actor Will Smith. In what was clearly marketed by the studios as a Ghostbusters meets aliens comedy project, MIB turned out instead to be a great buddy cop film with the well-timed urban hilarity of everyday, odd people turning out to be in fact aliens. These aliens are policed and monitored by these FBI-like cops called the Men in Black. The film solidified Will Smith's A-list status in Hollywood for years to come, the film became another Steven Spielberg-produced project that would become a bustling franchise, and actor Tommy Lee Jones' character continued to be the universe's center of personal secrets for future MIB stories. The mystery of this series' universe is what has kept this series from going stale for years. Men in Black 3 may promote the most character-driven secrets of all the films so far.
Generally ignoring the far less clever humor of Men in Black 2, MIB 3 continues its tradition of parodying urban eccentricities mixed with the friendly shenanigans of two cops trying to live out their lives. This time, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) confronts an old enemy (a cross between a Tim Curry villain and some nasty type of crustacean played by a brooding Jemaine Clement) who successfully goes back into time, via 1969, and kills the younger adult K. The only person who seems to have noticed his absence is Agent J (Will Smith) and now must set out on his own excursion back in time to save his respective partner. There is an interesting irony in one line J asks when preparing a time device given to him by a stoned-out electronics salesman (played with great bake by Michael Chernus): “How come I remember K when no one else does?” The salesman's prior response is, “You must really love this guy to do this.” It is then followed by, “That means you were there.” This is an ambiguous retort to the question, but it is answered somewhat by the film's ending. To avoid any clear spoilers, all that can be said to one who has yet to watch the film is-- Agent K has always been there for J. Therefore, J must return the favor in any way possible to preserve the father-son friendship.
The thing that makes MIB 3 particularly special is rediscovering the friendship between K and J. These two characters seem to have little reason to tolerate each other if it weren't for screenwriter Etan Cohen's story arc. Along the way, the characters bicker, but reconcile a lot more than the previous installments and it adds additional layers to these already familiar characters in a fresh way. The most effective addition is Josh Brolin's wonderful take of a younger agent K. His interpretation of Tommy Lee Jones' accent and mannerisms are golden. More surprisingly, the chemistry between Smith and Brolin is exactly the same as Smith with Jones. It was clear that director Barry Sonnenfeld (director of all three films) knew that the whole concept of this story would work under Brolin. The story also introduces Emma Thompson as the new “M” equivalent for the organization; becoming a rather witty but serious boss in the vein of the James Bond series' Judi Dench. The film as a whole works as a fun plethora of nostalgia. It reminds you why Men in Black worked back in 1997 and why Men in Black works in a 1969 setting as a time travel adventure. Poking fun at dimwitted racist cops, strange 60's fashions, hippies (one of them played by Sonnenfeld's daughter), the Amazing Mets, the Apollo mission, and a great appearance by Andy Warhol (Bill Hader) who turns out not be as alienating as other characters, Men in Black 3 is one of the best summer flicks of 2012 served in true '1990's meets 2010's' style.