#286. Inside the Mind

“A mind is a terrible thing to waste.”

This quote by Arthur Fletcher can be interpreted in many ways aside from its original intent. One of these additional interpretations could be that the imaginations and creative muses of all people are unique and should not be ignored. After all, with as many new and interesting pieces of media being created each day, there seems to be no limitations to what our minds can do. Unfortunately, this power can be a bit overwhelming to some. Much like savants, who have startling mental prowess, usually at the detriment to social skills, many with mental disorders will have overactive minds. When the line between true reality and perceived reality is blurred, problems ensue. This week’s two films examine the effects of overactive minds and what the world looks like inside of them.

A Beautiful MindA Beautiful Mind
Year: 2001
Rating: PG-13
Length: 135 minutes / 2.25 hours

If Inside Out (2015) taught us anything, it’s that there’s a lot that goes on inside a person’s mind. Besides the variety of emotions we can experience, it’s where we go to solve complex problems, recall memories, or engage our imagination. But what if our imagination compensates for other aspects of our lives? What’s difficult to understand about mental disorders is that people who seem normal on the outside can have their own internal struggles as well. Often, we are shocked to learn that some famous person suffered from depression, mania, or multiple personality disorder. If we can overcome the stigma of issues of the mind, perhaps some headway could be made on the medical front to solve some of these maladies. Of course, sometimes it’s these different mental conditions that give people the creativity and intelligence to solve some of the world’s most interesting problems.

Upon arriving at Princeton University in 1947, John Nash (Russell Crowe) meets his roommate, Charles Herman (Paul Bettany). While John is an up-and-coming mathematician, he gets along with the literary student. One evening, while he socializes with his mathematic friends at a local bar, he accidentally develops a new theory of governing dynamics. This new theory allows him to move to MIT, where he meets Alicia Larde (Jennifer Connelly). He has to be careful around her not to reveal the work he’s doing for the government via his handler, William Parcher (Ed Harris), as it could jeopardize the whole operation. Partly because of this, Alicia becomes suspicious and learns that John is imagining some of the people in his life. She stays with him through his treatment, despite the difficulties it places on their marriage.

Sucker PunchSucker Punch
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 110 minutes / 1.83 hours

When the world is too difficult to handle, sometimes the only way to make it bearable is to retreat into our minds. If we fabricate fantasies to help us perform simple tasks just to get through our day, then it can be easier to deal with the harsh realities of our situation. The trouble with this approach is understanding where the line between fantasy and reality lies. After extended time in a fantasy, it becomes difficult to know what reality is. This was one of the main problems encountered in Inception (2010). Manipulating dreams inside the mind of a target is just as dangerous for the target as it is for those manipulating the dreams. Because it’s easier to create a world where everything works out, suddenly reality no longer has its appeal. I suspect that becoming trapped in our minds will increasingly become a problem as virtual reality becomes more ubiquitous.

After being wrongfully admitted to a mental institution, Babydoll (Emily Browning) escapes into her mind to deal with the harsh realities of her new life. Imagining her new home as a brothel, she connects with four of the other “dancers” in an attempt to escape. Since she is new to the brothel, she is asked to perform a dance. When she begins to move, she delves even deeper into another fantasy world, fighting robotic samurai giants as part of her “dance”. Recognizing her trance-inducing dancing, she continues to dive into these deeper fantasies in order to obtain four items to help her escape. Unfortunately, the owner of the brothel, Blue Jones (Oscar Isaac) gets wise of their plan and Babydoll has to realize that the escape she has been planning isn’t for her, but for one of the other girls. When reality is revealed again, a lobotomy has erased everything in Babydoll’s mind as one of the girls boards a bus to freedom.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 mental manipulations

#284. Don’t Do Drugs

If there’s anything that the “war on drugs” has taught me, it’s that “drugs are bad.” While their educational approach may have worked to keep some people from drugs, it did little to curb the enthusiasm of people already hooked. What’s unfortunate about illicit substances is the glamorous lives that certain drug users come from (a la The Wolf of Wall Street (2013)). Obviously, those in the business of drugs (like in Blow (2001) or Scarface (1983)) are more likely to partake of their product, but certain criminal organizations, like the mafia, know the dangers of getting involved with drugs (like in Goodfellas (1990)) and do their best to abstain from them. Still, the allure of a chemical high appeals to the common masses, so it’s up to film to show the horrifying consequences of drug abuse. This week’s two films show us why we shouldn’t do drugs.

TrainspottingTrainspotting
Year: 1996
Rating: R
Length: 94 minutes / 1.56 hours

The drug culture of the late 1960’s and early 1970’s was perhaps epitomized by films like Easy Rider (1969). This, along with the comedic stylings of Cheech and Chong, showed that some drugs are practically harmless. The stoner comedies of today reinforce this fact, but don’t show any consequences of extended use. When harder drugs are used, the slippery slope truly comes into play. There’s a lot someone will do to keep up a habit, but when they realize that their life has become controlled by the controlled substance, they find it difficult to remove themselves from it (either by the company they keep or the sheer difficulty of going clean). Drugstore Cowboy (1989) is a good example of this, whereas Pulp Fiction (1995) brings us the reality of the overdose. Unfortunately, films like Limitless (2011) and Trainspotting (1997) show that a few choice benefits make the choice to do drugs worth it.

While there are certainly many terrifying moments in Trainspotting that should drive us away from doing drugs, it’s the dark-comedy nature of the film that somewhat lessens the impact of the consequences of illicit drug usage. Scenes like “the worst toilet in Scotland”, or the hallucinations of a dead baby crawling over the ceiling certainly do their part to drive the audience away from drugs, but the comradery of these four heroin addicts makes the experience seem welcoming and social. In reality, the risks of contracting HIV, being arrested for robbery (to fund an expensive drug addiction), and outright overdosing are very high and hold very severe consequences. After many attempts to get clean, the main character, Mark Renton (Ewan McGregor), finally has enough motivation to leave his drugs behind, along with most of his friends.

Requiem for a DreamRequiem for a Dream
Year: 2000
Rating: R
Length: 102 minutes / 1.7 hours

Addiction is a powerful drug. By the time we realize we have a problem, it’s often too late to change things. The long road to recovery can only be completed with an admittance that we have a problem and a support system to help us reach the clean and happy ending. A common theme amongst the works of Philip K. Dick was that of drug use, which was most undoubtedly pulled from his own life experiences. A Scanner Darkly (2006) focused on drug users, law enforcement, and the companies that profit from said drugs, all tied together in a trippy package. What’s more startling is when the addiction is portrayed in a more realistic setting. There’s nothing more frustrating than watching a friend or loved one continue to go back to the comfort of their addiction. Robert ZemeckisFlight (2012) drives this point home, but the true consequences of addiction were best portrayed in Requiem for a Dream (2000).

The world of a junkie is an interesting place. Time no longer holds any relevance as everything seems to be traveling in slow motion or unbearably fast. Requiem for a Dream follows four addicts on their downward spiral to ruin. The intriguing thing about addictions is that sometimes they aren’t to illegal substances. Even household activities like watching television are artistically represented in the same way that getting high on cocaine are. However, even if it seems like everything is working out well and nothing could go wrong, consequences lie just around the dark corner. Requiem for a Dream begins to get intense as the consequences rear their ugly heads. From prostitution to prison to hospitalization, the results of a life of addiction are painfully obvious at the end of this film. If ever there’s a film to get people to stop doing drugs, Requiem for a Dream is it.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 cautionary tales

#281. F. Scott Fitzgerald

What makes an author’s work unadaptable to film? Over the years, there have been many stories written that have been deemed “impossible” to transfer onto film. Sometimes the limitations come in the content: something that can only be captured in our imagination. Sometimes it’s the scale of the story: with so much to cover, what do you cut out to get it within a reasonable running time? Sometimes it’s simply the wishes of the author’s estate. Nevertheless, these factors haven’t stopped filmmakers from trying. CGI has helped bring imaginative content to the screen. Two-part films split one long story into more manageable chunks. One of the most difficult authors to adapt to film has been F. Scott Fitzgerald, despite his prolific bibliography. This week’s two films focus on works adapted from F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The Curious Case of Benjamin Button                                        The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Year: 2008
Rating: PG-13
Length: 166 minutes / 2.77 hours

From The Lord of the Rings (2001-2003) to Watchmen (2009) to Ender’s Game (2013), each of these films have been “impossible” to capture on film and each has tried, to varying levels of success. Part of the reason that these films were even attempted was due to the advances in computer technology that allowed these stories to be told. Of course, many detractors of these films cite the fact that much of their source material was cut out during filming because of time constraints. But what about short stories? If the works of Philip K. Dick have proven anything, it’s that short stories can make great film adaptations. It is then no wonder that the F. Scott Fitzgerald short story, “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button”, eventually became a feature-length film. This would not have been possible without CGI, but there was still much that was added to the story to pad it out to almost three hours.

Much like the peculiar clock of Mr. Gateau, which advances backward in time instead of forward, Benjamin Button (Brad Pitt) was born as an aged man. His birth killed his mother. His father, Thomas Button (Jason Flemyng), not knowing how to raise such a child, drops Benjamin off at a nursing home. Queenie (Taraji P. Henson) finds the elderly baby and decides to take care of him. As his time at the nursing home passes, he gradually becomes strong enough to leave, but not without meeting Daisy (Cate Blanchett) first. The two individuals go off to live their lives, occasionally intersecting as Benjamin becomes younger and Daisy ages normally. Despite a few missed connections, they eventually become romantically involved. This too, does not last as Benjamin becomes more youthful and Daisy continues to grow older. Now at the end of his life, Benjamin dies as an infant in the elderly Daisy’s arms.

The Great GatsbyThe Great Gatsby
Year: 2013
Rating: PG-13
Length: 143 minutes / 2.38 hours

While F. Scott Fitzgerald only wrote five novels (only four of which were published in his lifetime), only three of them have seen life on the big screen. The Beautiful and Damned (1922) and Tender Is the Night (1962) are the only adaptations that have been attempted once. Of course, it stands to reason that F. Scott Fitzgerald’s most famous work would be attempted multiple times. The Great Gatsby has seen itself adapted four times (not counting at least one adaptation for TV). From 1926 to 1949 to 1974, each film has tried to capture the spirit of the book that Fitzgerald penned in reaction to the state of the American society of the 1920’s. The most recent adaptation is that of the 2013 Baz Luhrmann version. Even though the visuals of this version were quite enthralling, some say that defeats the point of adapting The Great Gatsby at all.

Searching for a new job that will support him, Nick Carraway (Tobey Maguire) finds himself in New York renting a small house next to the mansion of Jay Gatsby (Leonardo DiCaprio). After a few weeks as neighbors, Nick is eventually invited to one of Gatsby’s lavish parties. This is an odd occurrence, since most people have just showed up at Gatsby’s parties, with very few of them actually having met the man. Gatsby and Nick develop a friendship which leads to Gatsby meeting Nick’s cousin, Daisy Buchanan (Carey Mulligan), rendering him immediately smitten. In the struggle between old money and new, events transpire that drive Gatsby to madness and causes Daisy to drive through the valley of ashes, accidentally killing the lover of her husband, Tom (Joel Edgerton). With infidelities and accusations flying, many others die and are killed as the story becomes trapped in Nick’s head.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 fantastic Fitzgerald fables

#277. Zombies!

If there’s been one trope that’s been done to death recently, it’s that of zombies. Perhaps this is due to the influx of post-apocalyptic stories that have been fueled by pessimism about the current aspects for our future. Perhaps it’s due to the fact that these films seem to make money. Perhaps these films are actually spreading via their own version of a zombie virus. Even films that I wouldn’t have thought could have zombies in them end up having zombies in them. Whatever the reason, it seems that almost every year passes with at least one new zombie film gracing the big screen. Of course, just like with any subgenre (this one being of the horror genre originally), eventually they become self-aware. This week’s two films examine a few different methods for dealing with the topic of zombies.

Night of the Living DeadNight of the Living Dead
Year: 1968
Rating: Unrated
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours

Even though it feels like zombies have been in film for a long time, the accepted canon version of them has only been around for about 50 years. Before 1968, zombies weren’t depicted as the reanimated corpses that hunger for human flesh. This distinction was first explored in Night of the Living Dead (1968) and has stuck ever since. The reasons for zombies have varied from genetic experiments, to nuclear disasters, to chemical exposures; regardless of the method of introduction, the destruction of zombies has always remained the same: destroy the brain or set them on fire. There have been many films that have taken zombies seriously, including 28 Days Later (2002) and its sequel, 28 Weeks Later (2007). I’m not a fan of zombie films, but I did appreciate the logic applied in World War Z (2013). Still, Night of the Living Dead stands as the original by which all others are measured.

Scientists couldn’t explain it, but for some reason the dead were coming back to life and craving the flesh of the living. The leading theory was that radiation from a probe that returned from Venus was causing these zombies to attack people. In a small farmhouse in rural Pennsylvania, a collection of survivors have holed up and continue to rebuff the onslaught of the undead. With a few of the survivors being bit by the zombies, the opinion of the remaining survivors is split. Some think they should get medical attention, while others think they should stay put. Setbacks cause the group to remain in the house, waiting for the vigilantes roaming the countryside to come and save them. Unfortunately, now there are zombies inside the house as well, giving the one lone survivor only one option: hole up on the second floor and hope that help will come soon.

ZombielandZombieland
Year: 2009
Rating: R
Length: 88 minutes / 1.47 hours

As with any genre, eventually it’s taken too seriously. This is when the parodies start to appear. The parodies then evolve into comedies. Even well-known zombie films start to become aware of their ridiculous nature. For instance, Sam Raimi‘s The Evil Dead (1981) was a serious take on the zombie theme, which was made a little funnier in Evil Dead II (1987), finally becoming completely self-aware by Army of Darkness (1992). This essentially paved the way for such films like Shaun of the Dead (2004), which takes the classic survival theme and flips it on its head. Even classic plots have been subject to the zombie treatment, the best example of which is the version of Romeo and Juliet that is Warm Bodies (2013). What’s interesting to note is that, even though they’re self-aware, these comedic zombie films still need to follow the same rules as more serious ones.

With the entire United States almost completely wiped out by “mad zombie disease”, the few survivors that remain roam the country for their own purposes. “Columbus” (Jesse Eisenberg) has survived this long by adhering to a set of “rules” that he has discovered to be the key to surviving the apocalypse. On his way back home to Columbus, Ohio, to check on his parents, he runs across “Tallahassee” (Woody Harrelson) and the two team up to increase their safety. While on the way, they come across two girls, “Wichita” (Emma Stone) and “Little Rock” (Abigail Breslin), who trick them and steal their car. After the two guys catch up, the four of them decide to travel to Los Angeles to have some fun, mostly because Columbus now has no home to go back to. Along the way, they meet Bill Murray and accidentally kill him before finally arriving at their destination: Pacific Playland.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 takes on the zombie theme

#276. Spread the Sickness

Are you sick and tired of being sick and tired? Winter is now weeks behind us and the colds that go with it have been replaced by seasonal allergies and the arrival of spring. Most of the time we tolerate being sick because we know that it will soon be over and we can go back to our regular lives. In fact, we might even continue to live our lives, despite our ailments. Because some people resort to this, and not to resting in bed, they spread their sickness to everyone around them. Sure, they might cover their mouth when they cough, and they might sneeze into their elbow, but those germs still get out and infect everyone else. This is what can make being sick a gamble: germs are so small that we can’t know where they’ll spread. This week’s two films look into the theme of spreading a sickness.

ContagionContagion
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes / 1.76 hours

We live in a global environment. Consequently, certain diseases that might have caused endemics before inter-continental travel became common can now reach pandemic levels. The Ebola scare from a few years ago showed that some of these severe sicknesses can travel across the oceans to potentially infect whole new populations. In film, this topic is rarely covered, but when it is, the result is usually catastrophic. Take Rise of the Planet of the Apes (2011) for example. A deadly virus that affects humans, but not apes, accidentally infects a traveler on his way to an airport. From there, the virus spreads to each continent and the death toll becomes enormous. By the time Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) rolls around, humanity is just trying to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. If only the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) could have stopped the spread of the virus, the issue could have been contained.

Never before has a film impelled an audience to wash their hands. From bat to pig to human, the unknown virus, MEV-1 spreads from Hong Kong to the United States. Once it reaches America, some sudden deaths prompt the CDC to investigate. While they try to extract the origins of the virus so that they can develop an effective immunization, panic grips the population. With the mortality rate of the virus being above 25%, most are afraid that they will catch it and die. Not helping the situation, some people are immune, but others lie about their gained immunity to help boost sales of medications that cannot cure the disease. Since tensions are high around the country and in the CDC, certain corners are cut to progress the research of the virus, and some employees of the CDC use their insider information to attempt to save their families. Fortunately, an inoculation is found and the world is now saved from MEV-1.

Night of the Living DeadNight of the Living Dead
Year: 1968
Rating: Unrated
Length: 96 minutes / 1.6 hours

In terms of a global war on sickness, the World Health Organization (WHO) is leading the fight to help keep the entire planet from experiencing a debilitating pandemic. One of their most recent representations on film has been through World War Z (2013). While there may be simple ways to keep microscopic germs from infecting humans through vigorous washing, widespread sterilization, and outright quarantine, what if the sickness is a little more mobile? What if the sickness can find you and attack you, even despite your best efforts? The most common form of this type of sickness is that of zombies. Perhaps the reason so many zombie-related storylines devolve into a full-on global apocalypse is because their mobility and mob mentality help to spread the sickness of the living dead.

After a bizarre incident in a graveyard, Barbra Blair (Judith O’Dea) finds herself on the run after a stranger attacked her and her brother. With her brother now dead, she makes her way to a farmhouse where more individuals like the stranger in the graveyard appear and start to scare her away. Fortunately, Ben (Duane Jones) pulls her inside the house and repels the monsters. What they don’t yet know is that a married couple is locked away in the basement with their daughter. From the radio, Ben learns that the reason the recently deceased are coming back to life and devouring the flesh of the living is due to some radioactivity from an exploded satellite that came back to Earth. He also learns that groups of vigilantes are killing the zombies all over the countryside. Unfortunately, he has enough zombies to deal with inside and outside the house and just barely survives long enough to enjoy the sunrise of a new day.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 spreading sicknesses

#275. Government Agencies

Ronald Reagan has said, “The nine most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the Government, and I’m here to help.” One of the reasons of the truth behind this statement is the sheer bureaucracy that is tied to anything with the Government. There have been a few films that have made light of this, including Brazil (1985) and The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005), both of which play off of the ridiculous and circuitous nature of the Government and its propensity for filling out forms. Depending on your political opinion, you may think the Government should control everything . . . or you may think they should control nothing but the national defense. Needless to say, there are many agencies that are Government-run that all perform some form of function to help their constituents. This week’s two films examine real and fictional Government agencies.

Men in Black 3Men in Black 3
Year: 2012
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes / 1.76 hours

While many people want transparency in their Government agencies, the simple fact of the matter is that much of what they do is classified. Somehow, that secrecy is part of what makes these agencies so appealing for use in film. Eventually, these secrets become unclassified, so the real-life stories can be told. No agency is immune from this. From the FBI and J. Edgar (2011), to the CIA and Argo (2012), to the NSA and Snowden (2016), these real situations are sometimes all too unbelievable. On the other side of this coin, one could argue that there are fictional agencies so secret that nobody knows about them. For instance, the Impossible Missions Force (or IMF) from the Mission: Impossible franchise or the Men in Black (or MIB) from its own, titular franchise have given us glimpses into the possible services that Government agencies could provide.

For many decades, the Men in Black have helped to cover up the existence of aliens on Earth. Part of the reason for this is due to the ArcNet, a defense system in orbit around the planet that keeps hostile alien races from attacking Earth. One of these hostile races, the Boglodites, is able to finally penetrate the system when one of their own, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement), travels back in time to prevent the implementation of the ArcNet. This altered timeline isn’t noticed by anyone, with the exception of MIB Agent J (Will Smith). He has noticed that his partner, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) has gone missing and takes it upon himself to travel back to 1969 to thwart Boris and save K (Josh Brolin). Along the way, he learns some important history regarding the MIB, as well as some key information regarding his father.

ContagionContagion
Year: 2011
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes / 1.76 hours

One motif that tends to run through these aforementioned Government agencies is the theme of “protecting the people.” What the populace doesn’t know can’t hurt them, so the goal of the FBI’s and CIA’s is to take care of the threats against the people they are sworn to protect in such a way as to not induce a country-wide panic. Now, these threats are often in the form of terrorists, which are people set on harming the citizens of a particular country or ideology. But what about the threats that come from nature itself? While NOAA can see weather trends (as in The Day After Tomorrow (2004)), there’s little they can do to stop it. Sometimes, nature can even cross the boundaries of countries, making it a global problem. This is why the WHO exists, and partly why it is featured in World War Z (2013). At home in the United States, we have the CDC to help keep us healthy and safe from the nature of sickness.

Beth Emhoff (Gwyneth Paltrow) returns home to her family with a cold she believes she obtained while on her trip to Hong Kong. Unfortunately, this is no cold and soon she has infected her son, both of whom die soon afterward. Upon the loss of two of his family, Mitch Emhoff (Matt Damon) is distraught, but also quarantined because the authorities think he may be infected as well. Meanwhile, research is being done at the Centers for Disease Control to determine the origin of the virus and to develop an antidote for it. Popular blogger, Alan Krumwiede (Jude Law) suggests there is a natural cure for the disease, which proves to be nothing more than a false statement to help his financial interests. Pressed for time to save the world, Dr. Ally Hextall (Jennifer Ehle) tests an inoculation serum on herself that then proves her vaccine works. Now it’s up to the CDC to inoculate the remaining survivors.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 awesome agencies

#274. The Time Travel Sequel

As a writer, I have been told that flashbacks should be used sparingly in order to advance the plot. But what if the entire plot of your story is a flashback? What if your story is a prequel to your original material? The jury is still out on whether or not the “prequel” is the right way to go about establishing the foundational concepts for the first part of a story, but what if the next part of the franchise isn’t as much a “prequel” as it is a “time travel sequel?” Obviously, these time travel sequels will most often be part of a science fiction franchise that could allow for time travel in the first place. Still, in these cases there is character development that builds upon the previous films but also explores the origins of the stories themselves. This week’s two films highlight the effectiveness of a “time travel sequel.”

                                                   Star Trek IV: The Voyage HomeStar Trek IV: The Voyage Home
Year: 1986
Rating: PG
Length: 119 minutes / 1.98 hours

Obviously, the franchises that revolve around time travel will have time travel sequels. The clearest example of this would be Back to the Future Part III (1990). A lot can change in one-hundred years and this film merely hammers home the point (which it does in the previous two parts as well) that the timeline of history can be changed. But what if your story is based in the distant future? For the characters who live in the 23rd century, going back in time by three-hundred years would essentially place them in the timeframe where we currently live. While we couldn’t know the impacts on the future that these 23rd century characters might make to their timeline, the more interesting element to this scenario (as it is in any time travel sequel) is to see the differences between two drastically different eras.

What do you do when a mysterious probe is causing electrical disturbances throughout the universe? If you’re the crew of the USS Enterprise, you identify that the signal the probe is sending out is identical to the call of an extinct animal. Of course, with the animal needed to stop the probe being completely eradicated, the only option is to travel back in time to retrieve one of them while they were still alive. For the crew of the Enterprise, this animal was the humpback whale, thus prompting them to travel back to 1986 and retrieve a few of them from San Francisco. Of course, going back three-hundred years had its challenges, but now modifying the spaceship to take the humpback whales into the future is its own challenge. Finally successful, the crew returns to the future to answer the call of the probe, causing it to cease its destructive march across the universe.

Men in Black 3Men in Black 3
Year: 2012
Rating: PG-13
Length: 106 minutes / 1.76 hours

Sometimes, the time travel sequels can be done in a flashback context. For instance, The Godfather: Part II (1974) is both a prequel and a sequel to The Godfather (1972), splitting half it’s time developing the story of Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) in the late 1950’s while also paralleling it with the rise of his father, Vito Corleone (Robert DeNiro), during the turn of the 20th century. In a similar vein, X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) switches between an apocalyptic and dystopian future and the events in the 1970’s that eventually led up to this bleak timeline. Perhaps this is what makes a time travel sequel different from a flashback sequel (like The Godfather: Part II): a time travel sequel attempts to change something or collect something in the past to help save the future. This is certainly the case in the third installment of the Men in Black franchise: Men in Black 3 (2012).

Escaping from his prison on the moon, Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) sets out to take revenge on the agent who sent him there: Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) of the Men in Black. Because the events that led to his capture also prevented his species from invading earth, Boris travels back in time to eliminate the younger K. K’s partner, Agent J (Will Smith), is now the only one who recognizes that something is amiss. He doesn’t understand why everyone has forgotten about K, which leads Agent O (Emma Thompson) to deduce that the timeline has changed. Travelling back to 1969, J teams up with the younger K to stop both past and future Boris from enacting his plan. Not only does J have to prevent K from being killed, but he now has to attach a defense system to Apollo 11 that will protect Earth for decades to come.

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 retro sequels