Can you believe the original Men in Black was released in 1997? For those of us not familiar with the graphic novel on which it was based we had no idea what we were in for other than it was a movie about secret agents who policed extraterrestrial activity on Earth. The movie was wildly successful and a sequel, Men in Black II was released in 2002. Despite a larger budget ($90M for the first one, $140M for II) it had the look of those low-rent sequels where you have Matthew Broderick playing Inspector Gadget in the original but you get French Stewart the second time around. (For those of you scratching you heads, he’s the guy from 3rd Rock from the Sun. No, not the kid, that was Joseph Gordon-Levitt.) So after a decade someone said it’s time for a reboot and we get Men in Black 3

It’s an unusual reboot in that we have the same actors (and director), the same premise, even more practical (movie-talk for “real” as opposed to CGI) aliens and the story has moved along in real time—it’s fourteen years after the first movie. Like with The Avengers the real star here is the script, which, despite a few Hey, wait a minute… moments is pretty smart. Perhaps the smartest thing about the script is that it takes for granted you already know what’s going on: no time is spent catching you up on who J and K are or what MIB is. It’s just another day at the office, “protecting Earth from the scum of the universe.” (Tagline for the first movie.)

Except that when saving the world is your day job, it gets kinda routine doing so, so the smart thing about all the MIB scripts has been to make the movies about saving the Earth and something else. And that “something else” has always been the relationship between J and K. to say more about that re this movie would spoil things but suffice it to say the payoffs work.

 What you can say is that the biggest delight in this movie is Josh Brolin’s young Agent K. He mimics Tommy Lee Jones’ performance so masterfully you forget you’re watching a completely different actor play the same character. Another surprise is the maturation of J: after fourteen years he’s no longer the “rookie,” he’s a polished agent who’s K’s equal, not somebody blundering around still learning the ropes. Final surprise: the script manages to show that despite being natives of this planet, people of color are still aliens. This might be the biggest revelation of all.

Men in Black 3 is (so far) the biggest revelation of the genre movie season.

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