Every trilogy must have a capstone film. Return of the Jedi is the capstone for the Star Wars saga because it ties all the loose ends together and gives us more connections between characters that we did not realize or that were not revealed in the first two films. The Last Crusade was a capstone film (for me) because it told us more about Indiana Jones (or Henry, Jr.) and we had Indy riding off into the sunset with his father, somehow finding closure to his restless life. Sequels are great if they are not forced, have something to offer the fans, continue the saga in a way that captures the original intent of the previous films and give us a little more information about characters we thought we knew so well. This film does all of that and more.
Of course, we have the best of all possible worlds when we have the original director who helmed the first two films, Barry Sonnenfeld, returning to finish what he started. The film has the same quirky tone and off the wall look that fans will recognize right away as true to form. They even grabbed the original art director from Men in Black 2 (Bo Welsh) to give the film the same look. Danny Elfman returns to create the signature score which is also another factor in recreating the feel of the original films.
Will Smith falls back into the character of “J” with ease. Even though the character is now 14 years older, we still see that youthful sparkle that attracted us to him so many years ago. The character is the same, but with the wisdom of years of working with “K” as a partner. He is not as green as he was in the original, but he is still trying to get “K” to smile. Smith and Jones have an on-screen chemistry that is what drew fans in the first place. Producers took a big risk casting Josh Brolin as “Young K”, but in the end it pays off. I couldn’t think of a better person to play Tommy Lee Jones as a young man. Not only does he uncannily resemble him, but his imitation of his gate, mannerisms and facial expressions are spot on.
This brings me to one of the highlights of this film: Josh Brolin. When we meet the young “K”, he is a little different because something happens in the timeline to “change” him, which we won’t discuss. (I HATE spoilers). He is not changed enough so that he is not Tommy Lee Jones’s “K”. He is a younger version of himself, but not enough so that he is alien to the original. Brolin falls easily into the chemical magic of being a partner to “J” in a way that is truly magical. I did not have any problem believing that Brolin was “K”. He does a fantastic job of becoming that character without ruining what we have come to love about the stoic member of the duo.
The second most important thing about this film is that it reveals things about these characters that we did not know in the original films. The details revealed in the film are heartfelt and sometimes sad, much like “K” thinking about the life he could have had in Men in Black 2. Bring kleenex for the final scene. Not only does it reveal something we did not know in a way that reaches deep into our hearts, it also gives us connections between the characters that we did not realize before. It was like putting that last puzzle piece into the puzzle and revealing an answer that we somehow knew all along.
The villain in this film played by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords) is brilliant in many ways. Clement has that strangeness of all Men in Black villains but is able to deliver the comic timing necessary to make us laugh while being grossed out by his weird alien physiology. I found myself laughing and cringing at the same time as Clement used his understated comic grace to bring comedy to a villain that is indeed unredeemable. He is a serious villain, probably the worst and most deadly villain the Men in Black have ever faced. Clement is a perfect choice for this role. He will cause you to split your sides in laughter, but at the same time cause you to sit on the edge of your seat for the final scene.
The film is best seen in 3D. Many of the effects of the film are designed for the medium, and it is worth mentioning that the movie is indeed enhanced by this format. However, it is just as good in 2D, because the story is well written, the acting is spot on from what we remember from the previous two films, and the direction is brilliant. This film is a long time coming for many fans of the originals, and it delivers.