MIB3 sees Agent J, played once again by Will Smith in a these-days-rare acting foray, forced to travel back in time to 1969 in order to rescue a young Agent K (Josh Brolin channelling the elder K, Tommy Lee Jones) who has inexplicably disappeared from 2011 and presumably left a rather large gap in the whole extra-terrestrial enforcement game. Producers have clearly planned on bamboozling viewers with a storyline so ambitious that we’ll forget to do the maths. For if someone really were to travel back in time to an age in which 65-year-old Jones had morphed into 43-year-old Brolin, they would be likely to find themselves tinkering around in ye olde year 1989, rather than 1969, because there’s only a 22-year gap between the two actors. Emma Thompson, who plays an elder version of Alice Eve in the new film, is also a mere 23 years older than her supposed 60s self.
Having got that off my chest, Men in Black 3 looks like it might be rather fun, despite the rumours of wild on-set demands by Smith, talk of numerous rewrites, a bloated $215m budget and the presence of the ubiquitous law of diminishing returns that often surrounds so-called “three-quels”. After 2002’s anodyne, unfunny Men in Black 2, with that career-killing, Razzie-nominated villainous turn from Lara Flynn Boyle, few can have been clamouring for a further instalment almost a decade on, but the introduction of Brolin as a younger K and the time-travelling dynamic certainly have the potential to freshen up what otherwise looks like a pretty tired series.
Smith is notoriously careful about the roles he takes these days, but Men in Black gives him the opportunity to flex his comedic muscles like no other show in town, and this time he has two Armani suit-sporting straight men to play off (even if they do exist more than 40 years apart). The trailer zooms past, making two minutes seem more like 10 seconds, and it’s clear that Smith is the big man on campus once again: diving off tall buildings, pulling funny faces and clicking that silver tube thing that wipes people’s memories clean with wild abandon.
Was he, perhaps, a little too “big” on set? The Wrap suggested earlier this year that Smith caused major issues with his penchant for improvising unscripted dialogue. For one scene, in which the Men in Black were speaking on the telephone, Jones had recorded his lines earlier and the backdrop he was being filmed against had long since been demolished. When Smith decided to change his dialogue, the two agents no longer appeared to be speaking to each other. Jones’ lines were subsequently re-recorded and the set rebuilt to accommodate the changes. Big Willie Style indeed, though studio Sony denies all of the above. Let’s not even mention Smith’s $9,000-a-month, 53-foot uber-trailer.