The Conversation: Are the Plot Holes in 'Men in Black III' More Illogical Than in Most Time Travel Movies?

The Conversation: Are the Plot Holes in 'Men in Black III' More Illogical Than in Most Time Travel Movies?

May 29, 2012

Many movies have plot holes, and time travel movies typically have more holes than others, and Men in Black III has even more holes than most time travel movies. So how is it that so many people forgive an unnecessary sequel as simply being illogical yet fun? This is a question that's bigger than any having to do with the narrative of the movie, which understandably resembles swiss cheese because of a scatterbrained script development process and filming beginning before the plot was even finalized.

Admittedly, MIB3 is enjoyable at points (the few featuring Michael Stuhlbarg), but for me the real disappointment is that nothing in the movie is conceptually or visually fresh to warrant its existence. It's just Austin Powers 2 meets Back to the Future 2 meets the bare minimum of what makes a Men in Black movie. So on top of that, the issue about its many narrative inconsistencies and irrationalities becomes more prominent.

While a number of reviews, both postive and negative, highlight the problem of extraordinary plot holes, it has taken a few days for the blogs to address some of the specific quibbles and questions due to spoiler content. In particular I have to point to EW's Darren Franich and HuffPost's Mike Ryan (happy birthday, sir) for featuring extensive pieces on the issue, each with a lot more details than I can quote below. 

Note: Men in Black III spoilers to follow ...

What are people saying about the major plot holes in Men in Black 3? Here's The Conversation heard around the Internet:

No, it wasn’t just you — Men in Black 3, entertaining as it was, made no sense at all. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that starting the shoot without a completed sequel did not help. [...] Mindless summer blockbusters dealing with time travel obviously aren’t the best place to look for impeccable narrative logic, but even by those standards, Men in Black 3 seemed to suffer more — or at least more obvious — plot holes than most. - Angie Han, Slashfilm

A huge source of them — as you may have guessed — is the time travel element, which inherently raises a ton of problems with any narrative. Why do the characters only go back a short time before the target event? What’s to stop them from doing the whole thing over if they fail? Why does J remember K’s existence if no one else does? The list goes on in that vein. Some of these questions are never raised at all, others are asked only to be denied answers. I’m not sure which is worse. - William Thomas Berk, CHUD

There are scenes where it feels as though lines of dialogue from other movies have been edited together in no particular order. Other linchpin scenes feel as though the actors are reading the Cliff Notes version of what's supposed to be going on. Things are set up that fail spectacularly to pay off. The movie contradicts itself in bizarre ways. There are set pieces that literally fail to work as fun action, because the logorrhea swallows up the film's physical vocabulary and destroys any sense of moving from A to B. By the time you get to the end, it's no surprise that huge stuff that was set up in the first act is not paid off in the third act. - Charlie Jane Anders, io9

Take, for example, the opening sequence, where an interstellar baddie named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes from a maximum security prison with the help of an anonymous woman in mini-skirt and heels. The scene is impeccably shot, handsomely designed, and shockingly nonsensical. Boris is a brutal psycho who kills his victims by shooting them with needles from a symbiotic spider alien that lives inside his hand. The woman, who is apparently human, has no name or motivation and offers no explanation why she would help a sadistic alien criminal who’s been incarcerated for decades bust out of jail (nor does the movie explain how she got to this jail, which is located in a fairly inaccessible location, in the first place). But, hey, the sidekick character is dropped after the first scene and never seen again, so who cares why she did any of it! Can you believe this movie reportedly went into production without a finished shooting script? Crazy! - Matt Singer, Screen Crush

Questions that beg to be asked are: who would have recruited J if K had died and if Boris was not stopped back in 1969, why is it only now that his alien brethren are attacking New York City (yes, that old trope again)?  And those are just the queries raised out of the gate.  When String Theory is later added to the equation, the waters only become muddier.  Of equal frustration, is the fact that Men in Black 3 goes to great lengths to set up something that will prove to drastically alter Agent K’s demeanour, yet fails to deliver the reveal it teases. -

The problem lies within the MASSIVE plot hole. I won't go into too much detail as to not spoil anything but keep this in mind: if Agent K recruited Agent J... and Agent K goes back in time and dies... how is Agent J an agent? - Gover, Yahoo! Movies

The story is full of glaring plot holes and time travel paradoxes, starting with the question of why, in an alternate future with no K to recruit him, J got to be a part of Men in Black. The movie also raises the question of why J remembers K, but never answers it. - Stephen Silver, Technology Tell

Admittedly, this is a minor quibble: But, honestly, how old is J supposed to be in the Men in Black series? I cannot find an age for Cayen Martin, the actor who played young J. But let's assume he's five or six. Will Smith was born in 1968 and would have been less than a year old when Apollo 11 was launched. Smith today is 43, which sounds about right for J. But, since we clearly see that J is not less than a year old when he meets K in 1969, this means that J is pushing 50 in 2012. I mean, sure? I guess? It just doesn't seem to fit the character. - Mike Ryan, The Huffington Post

I was mostly thrown off by fortysomething super agent Will Smith going home to play video games. Fortysomethings don't play videogames, do they? Do fiftysomethings? If so, that's some sad shit. I also kind of wondered what this fortysomething would be playing. Guy sees the fantastical every day on the streets, all sorts of aliens and boogeymen. How do videogames not bore him? - Gabe Toro of The Playlist, commenting at Hollywood Elsewhere

The screenwriters really wanted the year to be 1969 so they can have the moon launch and the hippies and the clothing and Andy Warhol (nice one, Bill Hader), but it feels like a script that was written six years ago, when the ages would have been less of an issue. Even so, why does Emma Thompson take a role that says she's over 70? - John English, quoted at Hollywood Elsewhere

Oh no ! The Men In black need to put the ArcNet shield in space in order to protect the Earth. Oh no ! The only human rocket available to deploy the shield is Apollo 11 and they only have 6 hours to reach it. Did you guys think about calling NASA? You know, you are in MIB. I’m surprised you are not already working with NASA all the time as their boss. The government knows about your organization – they are giving you money for it. Could you just call them and tell NASA to postpone the launch by a few hours so that you can get there with more troops to hunt down Boris the vagina-Man? Oh sorry, that idea is a waste of time considering you have ALIEN SPACESHIPS EVERYWHERE in your headquarters!! Just take the fastest and most durable alien ship for a quick ride – drop the arcNet Shield – and boom, it’s done. - Movie Plot Holes

In terms of the overall character arc established for Agent J and Agent K over the course of three movies, [the ending features an] out-of-nowhere non sequitur posing as the emotional centerpiece of the movie. It would be like revealing at the end of Lethal Weapon 4 that Riggs and Murtaugh went to the same high school, and Murtaugh was a senior when Riggs was a freshman, and one time Murtaugh went to freshman formal and said, “I’m getting too old for this s—.” Movies don’t need to make sense. Blockbuster movies tend to make no sense on purpose. (Remember: The biggest movie of the summer so far involves space skeletons attacking Manhattan via black hole.) But Men in Black 3 doesn’t end with flimsy logic. It ends with anti-logic. It feels like the natural endpoint for contemporary blockbuster filmmaking. Only a group of very smart people working very hard could come up with something so silly. - Darren Franich, Entertainment Weekly


Twitter Poll: Which plot hole in Men in Black 3 was the most annoying?

Never explaining how or why K ends things with O, or why he now listens to R&B. Also, does this mean K secretly knew J during the first MIB? - Jeff Bayer, @BayerJeff

Who recruited J? - Adrian Charlie, @Adrian_Charlie

Little Will coming outta nowhere at the end - @converCinema

That the events that occurred in the climax were the reason behind K's personality change. - Jette Kernion, @jettek


Follow Christopher Campbell on Twitter (@thefilmcynic) to join The Conversation.


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