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Men in Black 3 (2012)
Back in time.
Filmmaker(s): Barry Sonnenfeld

Agents J and K are time. J has seen some inexplicable things in his 15 years with the Men in Black, but nothing, not even aliens, perplexes him as much as his wry, reticent partner. But when K's life and the fate of the planet are put at stake, Agent J will have to travel back in time to put things right. J discovers that there are secrets to the universe that K never told him - secrets that will reveal themselves as he teams up with the young Agent K to save his partner, the agency, and the future of humankind.

Men in Black 3 (2012)


When I started this IMDb-commented study 14 years ago, the notions of folded narrative were commonly used, but not so open in the industry. Now look where we’ve come, to a state where it is mandatory for a blockbuster investment. You know something has passed its freshness when even the common term for doing so has ‘jumped the shark.’

The folding dynamic I’m talking about is the simple trick of putting an audience member into the story. The theory is that this helps us get engaged with the story. It is not a dumb idea; with film, we really do have a body of evidence that this — in many varieties — actually works.

But this particular device as handled here seemed a bit desperate. I suppose that is congruent with the general feel of desperation in the project, desperation to recoup costs.

Our on-screen surrogate is a character named Griffin. He is from ‘another dimension’ and can watch and rewatch, coming to story knees that he likes. He announces when things are getting engaging. ‘Touching’ him allows sharing with his vision. Griff has control over his place in time, which place is the main plot point in the story ?

Why we know this came from a consultant and passed by dull investment types? Because it is so blatant. The actor was chosen because he plays this identical role in ‘Hugo.’ He is introduced to us at a party at the Factory, where Warhol is revealed to be an actor of the inner story, playing a role. He provides a device that locks and preserves the world of the story.

Two other factors are possibly subliminal influences…

I am writing this comment on a visit to LA, specifically to a neighbourhood where these types of consultants live, ‘observer consultants’The area is ‘the observatory area,’ Griffith Observatory. In the comic ‘Zippy the Pinhead’a character named Griff frequently looks down at Hollywood goings on with a telescope from the observatory.

A deeper connection with the name is the griffin. This is hybrid creature invented by the Achaemenid Persians (Darius, Cyrus) whose culture was deeply folded. The Griffin (half eagle, half lion) was a symbol inspired by the Zoroastrian (the original Zoroastrians) notion of a being that can see and control itself, that good ‘speaking’ had both a story and a story about a story. The entire notion of two-worlds, two logics was destroyed by the Greeks and replaced with logic and truth. But the notion persists in folds in literature.

Lewis Carroll reconnected the beast with the role in his Alice works. As I say, the level at which Hollywood works is more Zippy than Achaemenid, but that connection is there.

Posted in 2012

Ted’s Evaluation — 1 of 3: You can find something better to do with this part of your life.


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