“They won’t let you remember …” Whilst not stretching the limits of terrestrial intelligence, the idea for MIB III (actually tabled by Will Smith during the making of MIB II) goes some considerable way towards making up for the inanity of the franchise’s second episode. And it’s all about memory. It’s one of the cool things that Men in Black can do: control memory – with that neuralyzer thing that they whip out to make sure that mortals don’t get too freaked about what they’ve seen in the way of Tim Burton, Lady Gaga and other putative extra-terrestrial oddities. It’s a bit like suppressing the subconscious. Sometimes, it just helps to stay sane. Now, though, agents J and K find themselves locked into some memory stuff of their own. Present day J (Will Smith) would like to know what has turned K (Tommy Lee Jones) into such a tight-ass. K isn’t talking – until, that is, J travels back in time to 1969 in order to meet the younger, (even) cooler and more talkative K (Josh Brolin), simultaneously forestalling events that would stop K from ever talking again. Ever.
1969 is, it turns out, a seminal moment in US history: something is about to go up at Cape Canaveral. J and the younger K need to pop a kind of protective device on the tip of a space bound rocket that will later spread a defense shield around the earth. If all goes according to plan, this will put a spanner in the dastardly works of alien criminal Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) whose 1969 incarnation is taken straight from an iconic counter-culture film released that year and featuring head-wraps and Harleys (although MIB director Barry Sonnenfeld says this is purely coincidental). So, style: check. Content: check. And non-pc language.
It being 1969, the younger K gets plenty of chances to call J some racially inappropriate names and allows for the odd joke on black men stealing fancy cars (get it?). Check! OK, so it’s really, really not rocket science. But the special effects are good and do benefit from 3D technology, mixing up Breughel monsters and Pop-Art Warhol 1970s hippies to produce some memorable time-zoned extra-terrestrials. Brolin is more than watchable as the younger K and Emma Thompson performs a very creditable alien warble as part of her duties as comptroller Agent O. As for that ol’ black magic between J and K? It’s back, baby. And not a minute too soon.
Men In Black III | Directed by Barry Sonnenfeld (US 2012) with Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and Josh Brolin. Starts May 24