|The original comic.|
The origins of the Men in Black are mysterious, but the secret organization was formed to deal with rumors of alien contacts. I like to imagine that there have been alien visitors coming to Earth for a very long time, but in the 1950s humans began to have technology that would allow alien visitors to be detected. In 1961 there was a secret arrangement forged between some aliens and the Men in Black.
However, in Men in Black II we find that the "Agent J and Agent L live happily ever after" idea never worked out. Apparently Laurel and none of the other Men in Black can meet Agent J's standards. Why does Agent J have "the right stuff" while other Men in Black recruits often wash out?
Also, Agent K's retirement plan (to re-unite with his long-lost-love) has not worked out and he comes back on duty. Is there something special about Agent K and Agent J that makes it inevitable that they be Men in Black?
|Laura Vasquez: half human & half alien?|
My original introduction to the concept of an alien living on Earth among humans was by way of seeing Superman on television in the late 1960s. When aliens appear who look just like humans we need some backstory. Are the aliens shape shifters who take on human form? Are these "aliens" actually a branch of the human species with a long history of travel between Earth and other worlds?
MIB3. In Men in Black 3 we start to learn some of Agent J's backstory. At the age of 5, his father died (in 1969), killed by an alien (Boris). Agent K was there and apparently arranged for the young boy to have a fairly normal childhood (not letting the boy know that his father had been killed by aliens), eventually growing up to become Agent J. What do we learn about the mother of Agent J?
Boris is the standard Evil Alien (yawn).
|K (left) - Griffin (center) - J (right)|
Griffin, as an alien, can apparently view many possible timelines and futures. This reminds me of Noÿs Lambent, a character in Asimov's time travel novel The End of Eternity. Noÿs is a woman from the far future, from a time when humans have the technological means to view alternative Realities (timelines) and select among them in order to achieve the best outcome for humanity.
|So many evil aliens, so few Men in Black|
Chocolate milk. In MIBII Agent K used some clues/tricks that allowed himself to recreate the story of the "Light of Zartha" even after having been neuralized. As a biologist, I can't swallow the idea that changes in the timeline just happen to induce a physiological craving for chocolate milk in the star of a movie.
|Give me the milk!|
When first seen in MIB3, the younger Agent K is yet to have an experience that will change his personality, making him more like the older crusty Agent of the future.
|Crusty old K|
Time Travel Paradox: Meeting Yourself...or notDue to the wonders of time travel, towards the end of MIB3 there are two "copies" of the alien bad guy in 1969: 1) the one from 1969 and 2) the one from the future who traveled back in time to 1969.
During the climactic fight scene, to save himself from being killed, Agent J "goes back in time a few seconds" and -poof- apparently there is still only one of him, remembering the future and saving himself from death. I put "goes back in time a few seconds" in quotes because it might be that Agent J is half-alien and has the ability to "see" future events. I'm not confident that the puzzled reviewers of MIB3 (example) are accurately reporting what happens in the movie. Alternatively, maybe the creators of the movie just "threw in the towel" and did not bother to make their time travel device work the same way all the time (boo!).
|Surprise! You've been cast as the evil alien in MIB3!|
Time Travel Paradox: Hollywood Director Controls All Time Travel by Saying "Action"Isaac Asimov summed up the place of time travel in science fiction: we simply cannot resist creating time travel stories....they are so much fun that science fiction authors often just cannot let slip away a chance to make one.
For me, a major issue is that if time travel technology were invented, allowing people to travel into the past, then we would always be wondering: is anything we experience "final" and "real"? Won't time travel always be used (again and again) to alter the course of events? We must confront this issue and put some constraints on time travel.
What kind of time travel constraints exist in MIB3? Apparently Agent J has only 24 hours in the past before his magic time machine turns back into a pumpkin.
Time travel in MIB3
Why is there a ban on time travel? Maybe because it creates "alternate timelines" and that makes Griffin's head spin?
Alien Invasion Paradox Number 23: Why does the alien invasion always wait until the hero is ready and able to defeat the aliens?
|Why do alien invasions always fail?|
In science fiction there have been many proposals for how time travel might work. In Men in Black 3, what kind of time travel rules are in play?
|Will Marty be erased?|
|Time travel device.|
In MIB3, how many timelines for Earth's history are there? Three?
1) a timeline where Boris never travels through time (yawn, no MIB3 movie)
2) a timeline where Boris travels through time and kills Agent K and Earth is invaded by Evil Aliens (Boo!)
3) a timeline where Boris and Agent J both travel through time, Agent K survives and there is no alien invasion (Hooray!)
How can that be? Why wasn't there an alien invasion of Earth soon after Boris from 2012 went back to 1969 and prevented Agent K from protecting the Earth with the ArcNet? Imagine a new timeline (#2a) where the Evil Alien invasion is completed and humans on Earth are under alien domination by say, 1975. In such a #2a timeline maybe Obadiah Price would never invent time travel and Agent J would never grow up to join the Men in Black. Aliens would rule Earth. However, that does not happen in the movie. Why not?
|Boglodite in drag. Is Boris bad enough?|
|James, I am your father.|
If, as LondonFilmFan seems to do, you assume that MIB3 uses the same kind of rules for time travel as were used in Back to the Future then it makes no sense that Agent J has a chance to stop the alien invasion. However, we do not have to make that assumption.
Men in Black 4?So, who was Agent J's mother, someone like Griffin who has the ability to be conscious of past, future and alternate Realities? Are there other planets where human-like aliens live out their lives until they need to hide from a bad guy alien, come to Earth and make a Men in Black movie?
At the level of meta-analysis, is there a reason why Earth is a crazy bin of oddball aliens? I mean, besides the obvious goal of people in Hollywood trying to make money?
The Tralfamadorians were always saying, "So it goes," and at the time (age about 14) I had read too much Plato and it offended me deeply to think that people (or aliens) might adopt a fatalistic attitude.
However, about that time I was also reading some of Ed Smith's novels where he wrote about the Arisians who could imagine future events in precise detail. (I've seen a few web pages indicating that Griffin is an Arcadian.) I started doing "thought experiments" where I tried to imagine a future in which humans developed a new attitude about time that allowed them to adopt a new language in which distinctions were not made between past, present and future. I eventually came to the conclusion that even if the universe were completely deterministic and if free will were an illusion then we humans should still behave as if we have free will because we had evolved so as to function best if we are continually striving for a better future. Is Griffin on Earth to make sure that we Earthlings remain unaware of aliens, that we keep building our own future?
|A bag full of galaxies.|
I'm intrigued by Clarke's Law: "Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic". Are the seemingly magical abilities of Griffin due to some kind of advanced technology? So far, the Men in Black movies have never really explained the science behind the idea that there can be an entire galaxy that is the size of a marble. What kind of advanced technologies are available to folks like Griffin?
|Agent J out on the town for sushi|
If there are alien visitors on Earth who have technology that is a billion years more advanced than the primitive technology that we have developed here on Earth AND if those aliens act to protect Earth from Evil Aliens then why do the poor Men in Black have to run around working so hard? I mean, besides the comic effect of Will Smith battling giant slimy fish and bugs?
If we were treated to Men in Black 4 would we get any answers, anything like a coherent backstory or just a continuing frenetic effort to throw every available SciFi plot device into the mix? By playing fast and loose with time travel in MIB3 are the Men in Black creators in danger of "jumping the shark" and leaving audiences behind, frustrated by apparent incoherence of the plot?
|Visions of the Future|
The bottom lineI think I'm hooked. I hope that MIB3 does well enough ($$$$) that there will be another movie in the series. I'd like to hear about Agent J's mother and learn that she was/is some kind of human variant from a distant world, possibly a visitor to Earth who, like Griffin, lends a helping hand to we Earthlings. Given the way that characters in the Men in Black movies can morph, unzip, dress and undress for success, it might even be that Griffin turns out to be Agent J's mother.
|Gary and Isis|
Been there, done thatIn Assignment: Earth, Gary Seven and the shape-shifting Isis had to get up close and personal with a rocket just before launch in the 1960s. We got to witness that because the crew of the Enterprise went back in time and kindly arranged for the filming of Gary Seven for an episode of Star Trek.
In Hollywood everything becomes possible, even mandatory, when you need a dramatic visual scene for the big moment of the television episode or the Summer popcorn flick. "It looks cool" always trumps "this should make sense".
Many commentators have also wondered why the Men in Black would have to make use of something as primitive as an Apollo moon rocket when they have buddies like Griffin. I think it is safe to say that in 1969 the Men in Black can't just ask some convenient alien to take the ArcNet into space. Did things later change? Who built the prison to hold Boris on the Moon? Who was kind enough to fly Boris and all the guards (not to mention Nicole Scherzinger) to the Moon? Maybe Steven Spielberg gets group discount rates for space travel....maybe Spielberg is an alien.
Next blog post in this series: Ancient Aliens.
Some famous Aliens in Drag
|Serleena from MIBII|
|Assassin in Mars Attacks|
|Ella Swenson; cowgirl alien|
(right; upcoming movie [update])
From Earth Girls are Easy, Jeff Goldblum, Damon Wayans, Jim Carrey (below)