Entry #14: Men in Black 3 (2012)

As far as time travel films go, this one is very entertaining, but the thing that it accomplished the most, was breathing life back into a dead franchise. Men In Black 3 may be the best film in the series.The first Men in Black film was a fine adaptation of the Aircel/Malibu/Marvel comic book series. A group of dark suited, male individuals protect the planet from unknown alien threats. It had an interesting premise and characters. Then, part 2 came out and did the-exact-same-thing! And not in a good way.

I initially balked at seeing MIB3, as I was sure it was going to cover the same ground, yet again. And in a way it does. There are still aliens that are threatening the planet, but in this entry, the series utilizes time travel to uncover some additional characterizations from Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) that were heretofore unknown. Also Michael Stuhlbarg as the fourth dimensional being, Griffen, (who was great in Seven Psycopaths!) pulls off a really incredible role as the only character who can see all possible outcomes of the time travel, while being completely cryptic about what’s about to happen. He either seems happy with the events as they unfold, or fearful – but then adds that unless this is the reality where “K forgets to leave a tip.” Well, K does tip, and everything works out  for the best!

In this film, Agent K has been erased from existence by Boris the Animal’s time traveling exploits. Agent J (Will Smith) is the only one to remember him and makes a trip back to 1969 to save the younger version of K (Josh Brolin in a dead-on Tommy Lee Jones impression). The method of travel is relatively unique as it’s a process called a time jump, where the character must jump from a great height to achieve terminal velocity before breaking the laser line on the device.

Once back in 1969, there are the obligatory cameos from characters from that era; Bill Hader as funny Andy Warhol. But what the film does with it’s paradoxical elements and use of multiple characters in the same time (Boris meets his younger self, before Agent K shoots off his arm), is delve into the backstories of two mysterious Agents that we would not get in any other fashion. Since Agent K never talks about his past, we have to be shown it, and I think that these moments, in the past, are some of the best and most compelling moments in the series.

Yes, there’s stupid jokes. And yes, there’s mis-use of the time travel equipment, but then that’s part of the fun. What good is having a time device, if you don’t use it to go back 2 minutes and fix your mistakes. I would definitely recommend to anyone that part 2 could be skipped and you should go from MIB to MIB3.

As I’ve written in past entries, the best time travel stories involve some philosophical underpinning of the human condition. This film has that. Agent K spells out that the most destructive force in the universe, is regret. And of course, isn’t that what a viewers desire to be able to travel back in time would be for? Sure you might want to travel back to see the dinosaurs, but real meaty time travel involves going back to fix some screw-up, or mistake in your past. A regret. And that can lead to all sorts of messy situations.

What the viewer ends up realizing is that Agent K, has spent basically 40 years churning his regret over inside himself, partially for not killing Boris in 1969 (and locking him in the Lunar Max to escape and travel back in time to kill K), but partially for his events in shaping the life of Agent J (who unbeknownst to him, was always being watched by K until he joined the MIB).

Since time travel, at present, is unknown to us, I urge you to put your regret behind you and focus on your future. Unless this is the reality where the Seahawks threw on the 1 yard line….

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