Sequels. They're made because either the multitude of fans demand it, the creators still have affection for their characters and a story to tell, or because the money-makers won't pass up the opportunity to milk the cash-cow dry.
Its been 10 years since MIB II - the sequel that fans wanted but most were sorely disappointed by - rolled into cinemas 5 long years after the first outing took the world by storm (and quite rightly so.) The doubling up on the time gap between that and this third outing has sadly not doubled up on the fun factor or the excitement levels.
So, MIB 3 feels like it definitely slots into the last category - especially when you add to the mix that filming started on it before they'd finished the script. That never bodes well for the final product, and the reunion of the first, last and only defence of the worst scum of the universe is no exception to the rule.
Now, people can say that sequels will always suffer from the laws of diminishing returns, but there are ones that do buck that trend, and it's those that remember where they came from whilst moving forward on their journey that make, if not better, then at least as good, viewing. Stories that link back to the initial appearance, or connect the dots, or make references or nods to the beginning of the franchise, help to not only make it worthwhile to follow, but acknowledge the fans who helped put the films into the record books. Here, there is little or no respect given to either of the other two adventures of Agents J and K. By this, I mean that there is precious little reference to any scenes or situations that viewers would want or expect to see - the MIB Headquarters was built in the 60's and Smith's J travelling back in time to 1969 should have invited commentary at least on the furniture and style of the building, or some jokes but here in MIB 3, although there is a J, an O and a K, there is a distinct lack of E to complete the picture and deliver one of the things that made MIB so great.
The banter and not always successful "learning on the job" between Smith and Jones gave to the screen a duo to match the likes of popular Riggs and Murtagh of Lethal Weapon where youthful exuberance clashed head on with worn-down experience. Here, the balance is absent because Jones is mainly absent, replaced by a greatly convincing Brolin. His K isn't jaded so the banter clashes are few and far between - and these are sorely missed. These, along with the unfortunate and mis-guided interactions of J and the hidden alien races throughout New York City have been sidelined in favour of a bland, by the numbers back in time travel plot that doesn't even have the courage to present the difficulties that Smith's black agent would have faced in America during the 60's.
Time travel, as depicted in The Terminator and the Back To The Future trilogies, can deliver scares, thrills and laughs in equal measures with a healthy dose "what? how? why?" as well. The biggest thought into the aspect of time travelling - or time jumping in this case - appears to be the method by which it is achieved. Visually, the process here is one of the best ever committed to celluloid but this brief flash of brilliance only goes to make the overall disappointment that much harder when you realise what could be accomplished if the film had been thought out from the very beginning.
It's not an awful film, but when you start to think back and remember exactly how good it all started off in 1997, the taste of this one becomes all the more bitter. You long for the "ticks and shuffling" of villain D'Onofrio with his anger management issues concerning cockroaches rather than the strangely cast Clement who tries to do the same but has to make do with losing it when people keep calling him Boris The Animal rather than Boris.
Fans of the franchise may well wish that the neuroliser actually existed so they could wipe the memory of this, and the second fiasco from their minds....
UK release date: 25.05.12