“Men in Black III” (2012). Cast: Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Jemaine Clement, Emma Thompson, Michael Stuhlbarg, Mike Colter, Nicole Scherzinger, Michael Chernus, Alice Eve, David Rasche, Keone Young, Bill Hader, Cayen Martin, Lanny Flaherty. Director: Barry Sonnenfeld. Screenplay: Etan Cohen. Source Material: Lowell Cunningham, The Men in Black. http://www.meninblack.com/
It’s been said that those who fail to learn from the past are destined to repeat it. But what happens when all is seemingly well with the present and the past somehow gets rewritten on us? Can the rewriting be undone to restore things to what they were? Such are the themes explored in the new sci-fi comedy, “Men in Black III.”
Agents J (Will Smith) and K (Tommy Lee Jones), members of a super-secret agency charged with clandestinely managing Earth’s affairs with various alien races, have been partners for nearly 15 years. Like an old married couple, they’ve become well acquainted with one another’s quirks and foibles, frequently engaging in rounds of essentially playful bickering. But what bothers J the most is that he knows little about his partner outside of work, something he sees as odd, given the amount of time they spend together. He’s especially concerned that K has grown increasingly tight-lipped and short-tempered over time. He can’t help but think his partner is withholding some kind of troubling information, and each time he makes inquiries about it, he’s tersely cut off without much of an explanation (in such instances, K tells J not to ask questions he wouldn’t want answered).
Not long thereafter, K is unexpectedly confronted with an old nemesis, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement). Forty years earlier, K did battle with the extraterrestrial evildoer, thwarting his plans and successfully getting him sentenced to a maximum security prison on the moon. But, when Boris escapes confinement with the aid of his girlfriend (Nicole Scherzinger), he makes his way to Earth to exact revenge on the man who locked him up years before. K takes up the challenge, and a new showdown is thus set, but on an unlikely battlefield – one set four decades in the past.
When J shows up for work the next day, he finds no sign of his partner. In fact, no one at the agency seems to know anything about an Agent K. J consults his boss, Agent O (Emma Thompson), who tells him that K had been killed by Boris while on assignment in 1969. J has trouble accepting this revelation given his recollections of having worked with K for so many years since then. J and O thus conclude that the timeline somehow must have been altered. And no sooner do they realize this when Earth comes under attack by Boris and his minions; since K was killed in this new timeline’s past, he wasn’t around to capture his foe, who, in turn, was free to carry out his dastardly deeds unimpeded all these years later.
Given the circumstances, O tells J that he must travel back in time to 1969 to set things right. J initially thinks this solution ridiculous, believing time travel to be impossible, but, when O informs him that time travel technology secretly exists, J knows he must embark on a temporal journey. He travels to 1969, where he meets up with his partner’s younger self (Josh Brolin), who has trouble believing the new arrival’s story. But, once J earns the younger K’s trust, they set off to do battle with Boris to save the day, both in the past and in an as-yet-undetermined future.
Altering the timeline is something many of us believe impossible. But is it? Given that we always have access to an infinite range of probable existences through the conscious creation process (or in accordance with quantum physics principles, if you prefer the scientific perspective), it’s possible for us to tap into any one of them (including their respective temporal elements), depending on our prevailing beliefs at the time. Thus, when we buy into a particular line of probability, we also buy into all of the past, present and future events that constitute it. The same is true if we shift our consciousness into a different line of probability. And, if we discover discrepancies between the two, then we have proof that the timeline we had been in has changed.
Agent J’s experience with his two different timelines illustrates this, and so, to return to his original line of probability, he believes he must travel back in time to restore events as they were. Such “rescripting” is a means to rewrite a past he believes is in need of change, and this capability is something we all possess, too, provided we allow ourselves to buy into it.
But can J truly succeed in this mission? If he has no recollection of having been in the past to which he’s about to travel, won’t his presence there ultimately change its character (and the future that unfolds from it), thereby creating yet another line of probability?
All of the foregoing lends further credence to the notion that infinite probabilities are available to us at any given moment, and the film reinforces this point through the musings of an alien named Griff (Michael Stuhlbarg), who aids J and the younger K in their quest. Griff, easily the picture’s most intriguing character, possesses the ability to simultaneously envision multiple probabilities in his mind, enabling him to offer advice to J and younger K on how to proceed with their mission. He also waxes philosophically from time to time, noting, for example, how being true to oneself – no matter how difficult – is the only way to bring about desired consequences, a hallmark principle of the conscious creation process. As Griff puts it, the bitterest truth is ultimately preferable to the sweetest lie. And, if J and K follow that advice, they just might succeed – and in ways far better than they might have imagined at the outset.
Despite first impressions driven by the film’s marketing efforts, “Men in Black III” is more than just a light piece of summer fluff. Its story line is more substantive than either of its two predecessors, making it a fine way to round out the series (the creators seriously should eschew mounting a fourth installment in the franchise). Because of that, the picture is far from being a nonstop laugh fest, but it does have ample humor, especially in many of its clever sight gags. It also features excellent performances by Brolin and Stuhlbarg, both of whom are perfectly cast in their respective roles. And, despite an occasionally predictable narrative, the film redeems itself well with its share of delightful twists.
Preserving the continuity of the past can be challenging, especially when we change probabilities without an awareness of having done so. It’s like remembering the past one way and then finding evidence, such as photos or other artifacts, to the contrary. But perhaps shifting probabilities to adopt a new past as a means for bringing about a new present may ultimately work to our benefit. And the more consciously we go about this, the better off we’ll be in the end.
Copyright © 2012, by Brent Marchant. All rights reserved.