On the fortieth anniversary of his incarceration, Boris “the Animal” (Jemaine Clement) receives a visitor delivering a cake. Hapless guards allow the cake through and, predictably, Boris manages to escape Lunarmax prison with the aid of the cake’s contents and the woman who delivered it.
Back on Earth, Agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) are clearing up the scene at an alien pod landing. Agent K seems to be even more reserved than usual. Their job complete, they head back to a memorial service for Agent Z. The eulogy K delivers is oddly short, and the one delivered by Agent O (Emma Thompson) is a completely bizarre alien quote.
Agent J is chastising K for the eulogy when they get a call that several people have complained of getting intestinal worms. During their investigation at a Chinese restaurant K suspects is serving alien fish to humans. After inspecting the kitchen, J and K are waiting in the dining room for some food when K gets the call that confirms his suspicion Boris has escaped his prison on the moon. The alien staff and patrons attack the agents and in the firefight Boris, who must have been hiding in the back, escapes after killing the restaurant owner. In the aftermath, J starts asking questions and K suspends him out of hand. K’s odd behavior leads J to begin investigating the events forty years ago that lead to Agent K capturing Boris and deploying the ArcNet that protected Earth from a Bogladite invasion.
Agent K realizes that Boris will come for him and settles in to wait for him. Instead of a fight, K simply disappears. Agent J goes in search of his apartment, but finds it occupied by a mother and her children. When he returns to the MIB office, he finds that Agent K had been killed forty years before. Agent O initially doubts Agent J’s stories about being K’s partner, but eventually realizes that J is suffering from symptoms of temporal distortion. Instead of going after K after his escape, Boris has gone back in time and killed K before he deploys the ArcNet.
Now facing the Bogladite invasion without the protection of the ArcNet, Agent J is sent to find the son of the man that invented a time travel device in the hopes he knows where Boris went in the timeline and restore events to normal.
Once back in 1969, Agent J teams up with a younger Agent K (Josh Brolin) and the two attempt to intercept Boris before he kills the alien that provided the ArcNet to K in Agent J’s timeline. The 1969 K is a friendly, happy character. This happy go lucky attitude leads Agent J to repeatedly wonder what happened afterward to make K the taciturn grumble of a man he became.
“Men in Black III” does a good job working with the standard “go back in time and fix things” theme that appears frequently in science fiction. The film uses the opportunity to flesh out the admittedly mysterious past of Agent K after he became one of the first MIB agents. Brolin is a convincing young K, and the nascent relationship with the young Agent O (Alice Eve) does much to humanize the stern K the audience has seen in the first two installments of the series.
As time travel stories go, this one skips over a lot of the cerebral smokescreen common to others. To enjoy “Men in Black” movies, the audience is expected to simply accept the way things are without too much explanation and for the most part that works. Even though it is mentioned that Agent J should avoid contact with K in the past, his limited attempts to protect the timeline’s integrity supply some good character interaction and development, without bogging the story down with discussions of time travel’s consequences.
“Men in Black III” uses a few 3D visual tricks to good, if not excellent, effect. Like most 3D movies, the effect wears off quickly without stunts to exploit it. Beyond the 3D, “MIB III” is entertaining and the campy sci fi softens the violence somewhat, though probably not enough for younger children. I would go as far as to say that this is the best of the three movies.