"Protecting the Earth from the scum of the universe."
An MIB agent code-named K (Tommy Lee Jones) seeks out a new recruit to monitor alien activity on earth. The MIB pass over Navy SEALs and Green Berets, instead deciding on the quick-thinking and fast-talking NYPD James Edwards (Will Smith). Without knowing what he was recruited for, James (now codenamed "J") is told that the MIB agency is beyond all government jurisdiction, and that they are responsible for the alien (and we do mean it) immigrants who have taken residence on Earth. Part of the MIB's effective cover-up is using advanced alien technology to impersonate actual government officials, and especially the use of a device called the Neuralyzer, which is able to give Laser-Guided Amnesia to anyone not wearing special MIB-issue tinted glasses.The Men in Black films are only moderately based on the original comics, mostly borrowing the concept and wardrobe of the agents. With a smart sense of humor, the deadpan delivery of Tommy Lee Jones as the seen-it-all K and the much lauded performance of Will Smith as J, the first Men In Black movie was one of the most popular films of 1997. Some publicity was garnered on advertising posters from the fact that they are literally "Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones." Will Smith also released a tie-in music video entitled "Men In Black."Men in Black II came out in 2002, and although it was somewhat well-received, it was considered a case of "more of the same" sequelitis. With K officially retired (with his memory wiped and civilian identity restored) J has been working overtime as the top field agent of MiB. A powerful and malevolent alien named Serleena returns to Earth looking for "The Light of Zartha," which is tied to a case K was involved with back in the 70's. To get the information they need, they reinstate K and get back to business. Much like the first movie, Will Smith released a tie-in music video entitled "Black Suits Comin'."Men in Black 3 (stylized MIB3, but notMIB:3D, though it was released in 3D in select theatres) was released on May 25, 2012, with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith reprising their roles and the writer for Tropic Thunder and Idiocracy on writing duties. A very dangerous Boglodite named Boris The Animal breaks out of a lunar prison and swears revenge on K, who arrested him 40 years ago and was responsible for him losing his left arm. He successfully erases K from the present by helping his younger self to kill him in 1969, allowing a Boglodite invasion. J, somehow the only one in the present who notices the change, must travel back to 1969 to Set Right What Once Went Wrong. Pitbull sings over the credits this time ("NUMBAA TWOOOOOOOOOO!!"), though his single "Back in Time" was included in his studio album Global Warming, and not on the OST itself.
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The first movie provides examples of:
Aerith and Bob: The Twins who run the MIB headquarters are named Blblup and Bob. Note that we're guessing on how the first one's spelled. And the second one too.
The novelization provides spelled-out alien names for both. Both also have Earth nicknames, "Jack" and "Gracie."
The fake names Kay makes up for himself and Jay while investigating the alien "Hi I'm Special Agent Mannheim/Dr. Leo Manville, this is Special Agent black/Dr. White"
Alien Autopsy: The coroner, Laurel, ends up performing these inadvertently on two non-human corpses. It's suggested that she is one of the MIB's most frequently neuralyzed individuals for this very reason.
Aliens Steal Cattle: For a movie about aliens and UFOs, it's notably averted. When the Bug arrives at the farmhouse where Edgar lives, a cow is seen grazing near the truck, but then the cow leaves the truck shortly before the Bug's spacecraft totals it while landing, and Bug-Edgar doesn't express any interest in the cattle on the farm.
All Up To You: The other police officers aren't fit enough to keep up with Jay's first alien. Jay lampshades this.
Almost Dead Guy: The Arquillian Prince inside the jeweler's body, who survives long enough to give a cryptic clue to the protagonists. Not that he was being cryptic on purpose. Poor fellow was clearly dealing with a language barrier.
Amnesia Missed A Spot: When J meets Dr. Weaver in the morgue, they vaguely notice that they may have met before, but dismiss it as Deja Vu. In the beginning of the movie, they had met, but K had wiped both of their memories.
Amusing Alien: Lots, but the Worm Guys and Jeebs are probably the best example.
Artistic License - Gun Safety: J points the Noisy Cricket in K's face as soon as K hands it to him. K then proceeds to have J carry the gun into the field without having had a chance to practice with it. Both are major gun safety no-nos.
At least K slapped the gun out of his face. But yeah, no training; pretty stupid.
Brick Joke: When J learns about aliens living in New York, he immediately assumes they work as cab drivers, and is told, "Not as many as you'd think." A while later, Dr. Laurel, when it's revealed to her, starts on a rant along the lines of, "I knew it. There was this cab driver the other day..."
Buffy Speak: J calls the neuralyzer the "Flashy-Thing," and refers to getting neuralyzed as "flashy-thingied." This continues for most of the first film, with J using terms like "the little dude inside the big dude's head."
Casting Gag: The posters play on the fact that the film's two main stars had the last names "Smith" and "Jones"... you know, the kind of super-plain codenames you'd expect two anonymous, black-suited government agents to use.
The flying saucers from the first MIB meeting in 1961, converted into towers at Flushing.
The little red button in the LTD.
K ordering J to fasten his seat belt, J lecturing him about politeness, and K politely asking J to put on a seat belt after pushing the little red button.
Chekhov's Skill: Though played for laughs, when J shoots little Tiffany, his description of the situation demonstrates a skilled ability to pick up on details in the scene. While it seems he's simply embellishing to Zed, J is later the one who makes the connection between the jeweler's cat Orion and the "Orion's Belt" clue. It's made all the more awesome by the novelization revealing his rational for shooting Tiffany was CORRECT, something none of the other applicants succeeded at. He also remembers the flying saucers at the World's Fair in Queens, realizing that the Bug could use the mothballed ships to escape.
Drives Like Crazy: K. Just push the Big Red Button, and his car grows a rocket. He then drives on the roof of the Queens-Midtown Tunnel while singing along to Elvis Presley's "Promised Land", and pays the toll without missing a beat.
Drool Hello: Indirectly. After K enters the morgue to find out what's happened to J, he tries to light a cigarette but the match is put out by a drip of slime. He looks up, and now we know what happened to the clerk...
Eat Me: Trope Namer. K goads the Bug into eating him so he can retrieve his gun and blow it up from the inside.
Eccentric Exterminator: The first movie gives us Ed, who is a pretty normal fella (or as normal as someone played by Vincent D'Onofrio can be...) until a giant bug from outer space uses his body as disguise and steals an exterminator's van, giving us quite a bit of this vibe.
Enemy Rising Behind: After K blasts his way out of the Bug, he and J sit back to reflect on the moment while the upper half of the Bug crawls behind them to attack, only to be blasted at the last second by Laurel using J's gun.
Enforced Method Acting: Tommy Lee Jones was not amused by the script he was given, so he ad-libbed a good deal of his dialogue. Look closely enough and you can see Will Smith trying to keep up, as expected of the fresh recruit. The resulting synergy is well over half the movie's charm.
Epic Fail: Played With;"May I ask why you felt little Tiffany deserved to die?". J points out that the freaky looking aliens all could be doing fairly innocuous things like working out, while Tiffany is walking around with physics textbooks well out of her grade range in a dark alley. Zed is not amused. The novelization reveals J was actually RIGHT in his reasoning and had shot the only real threat.
E.T. Gave Us Wi-Fi: The MIB has been supporting themselves by selling alien technology, helping along the development of modern tech. Microwaves and wi-fi are all alien tech, and in the expanded universe, cell phones, solar power, and many more were all reverse-engineered from contraband.
Et Tu, Brute?: The worms are spotted leaving MIB headquarters with a cartful of cigarettes, leaving their co-workers to rot.
Zed: You SORRY LITTLE INGRATES!
Eureka Moment: J figures out the Arquillian prince's last words meant when he sees Frank barking at a cat.
Even more layers of this in this scene, as the novelization reveals that prior to assimilating Edgar's memories, the Bug was using a crappy translator. It renders the saying "Your funeral" into the exact meaning of "Your proposal is acceptable."
Also, Bug-Edgar, when talking with the head chef in regards to where "little Ivan" is (the server who was supposed to be serving the ambassadors of the two alien races that Bug-Edgar is trying to assassinate and steal the galaxy from), responds that he "gave him a break." The camera pans, revealing that Bug-Edgar means this quite literally, having broken his body in half and stuffed him into a shelf.
Fantastic Racism: The Bug clearly despises humans, and refers to them by a variety of unflattering terms, including "undeveloped pond-scum," "monkey-boys," "meat-sacks" and "milk-suckers." The rest of his species, according to K, are probably very much the same.
This seems to be a major factor of most aliens as K explains that human though is so primitive it's considered an infectious disease in the better galaxies.
Fashion Dissonance: Agent J's getup at the end of the film (oval-rim sunglasses, long Nehru jacket, and band collar without a necktie) was Hollywood haute-couture for a brief moment towards the end of The Nineties. Its purpose in the film is probably to make him look more "up-to-date" and "hip". Tellingly, he goes back to a normal black suit for the sequels.
Fiction As Cover Up: Tabloids serve a double purpose: they act as part of the alien cover-up by causing people to dismiss any stories they hear about aliens while also being a legitimate source of news for those in the know.
First Day From Hell: J becomes involved in a plot to save the galaxy within his first day or so.
Freudian Threat: "I want you on the next transport off this rock or I'm going to shoot you where it don't grow back."
Funny Background Event: Zed neuralyzing the rejected recruits as J and K walk by shortly after the recruitment process. Also, the memorable alien-childbirth scene, which supplies the page image for the trope.
J: See this badge?! Huh?! N-Y-P-D! Means I will kNock Yo' Punk-ass Down!
Gas Leak Coverup: The course of action taken after people who witness UFO's or aliens are neuralyzed.
Agent K: The flash of light you saw in the sky was not a UFO. Swamp gas from a weather balloon was trapped in a thermal pocket and reflected the light from Venus.
Played for Laughs in one scene when Agent J tries to give the standard cover story without having a neuralyzer.
Genius Bruiser: J can beat aliens in a foot race and punch some of them out. But he's also a lateral thinker able to see the forest when everybody else is focused on the trees, and is usually able to make logical leaps that K can't.
Hammerspace: How the Bug fits in the Edgar-suit (although he's clearly not too comfy). It makes some sense when you know that roaches are capable of pressing their bodies together to fit into tighter spaces; it makes them extremely resistant against being killed by stepping on them (you need a hard flat surface for that to work). Since the Bug is based on roaches in design and physiology, it's not too far-fetched to assume he has an improved version of that survival technique.
Humans Are Morons: "A person is smart. People are dumb, panicky dangerous animals and you know it."
Agent K: Human thought is so primitive, it is looked upon as an infectious disease in some of the better galaxies. Kind of makes you feel proud, doesn't it?
Ignorance Is Bliss: "There's always an Arquillian Battle Cruiser, or a Corillian Death Ray, or an intergalactic plague that is about to wipe out all life on this miserable little planet, and the only way these people can get on with their happy lives is that they DO NOT KNOW ABOUT IT!"
Insignificant Little Blue Planet: Zig Zagged trope. It's clearly stated that most aliens view Earth as a very unimportant planet. In fact, that's why these aliens visit: it's "an apolitical zone for aliens without a planet," the Casablanca of the universe. Of course, having so many alien species mingling every day (some of who are considered royalty on their homeworld) means that, in consequence, Earth Is the Center of the Universe.
Which leads into a nasty conclusion: the Men In Black will keep using the neuralizers forever, as they themselves agree with all the aliens that humans are so stupid that they only way Earth can thrive is as a neutral zone. As long as the Men In Black are around, we will never go to deep space.
Insult Backfire: Human intelligence is so primitive that it's considered an infectious disease on other planets. "Kinda makes you proud, doesn't it?"
Inventor Of The Mundane: The MIB owns the patents to some 'out of town' inventions, naming a few which make quite a bit of sense; Velcro (invented by NASA), microwave ovens (invented by a military defense contractor), liposuction (pre-dates alien contact, but was mostly a creative form of mutilation before the development of ultrasonics - another military invention)...
Laser-Guided Amnesia: How the Neuralyzer works. They can be set to wipe someone of certain memories of someone, or the last twenty minutes of aliens trying to kill them. Repeated neuralyzations, however, cause deja vu in some subjects.
Combined with No Fourth Wall in one of the commercials, in which J and K ask viewers how they liked the movie, then fire the Neuralyzer directly at the camera, and then invite the audience to go see the film: it's full of surprises.
Layman's Terms: Zed compares Earth's predicament to being the last party-goer who gets stuck with the check.
Leno Device: The end of the first movie shows tabloid articles talking about the effects of the climax on the public, including a conspiracy theory forming about Detroit perfecting a rocket car and one story about the baseball player who missed the catch during the baseball game shown in the movie claiming "UFO MADE ME MISS HOME RUN!" (which is actually true).
Of course, the joke is that the tabloids contain the best source of information for MIB ("You can try the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes.")
Long List: K and Zed muse over the NYC and Jersey-based aliens who have already flown the coop. The list ends with Staten Island ("Gone, thank God.").
Losing Your Head: Jeebs. K shoots him in the head and he regrows it, with complaints about the inconvenience.
Jeebs: You insensitive prick! Do you have any idea how much that stings?
K: Show us the merchandise or you'll lose another head, Jeebs.
Lost in Translation: The Arquillian Prince says that "The galaxy lies on Orion's Belt." Orion is actually his cat's name and the "belt" is actually a mistranslation of "collar."
Mobile Suit Human: Rosenberg. The alien prince of the Arquillian Empire who had the Galaxy was piloting one ("the little dude inside the big dude's head"), the better to hide from enemies — and to pet his cat.
Mood Whiplash: J is more than happy to help K with doing the whole Good Cop/Bad Cop routine while questioning Jeebs, until K holy shit blows Jeebs's head off, at which point J drops the act and screams at K to drop his weapon. (The mood is restored when Jeebs's head grows back.)
Naïve Newcomer: J in the first movie indulges in Uncle Tomfoolery. K is somewhat less of one in the second when J tries to bring him back, though J still gets exasperated when he keeps poking everything.
Needle in a Stack of Needles: When "Edgar" escapes with the Galaxy and Laurel, J realizes he's escaped in a cab. The trouble is, the movie is set in New York, and it's rush hour.
J:(to K) The dude was that ugly before he was an alien?
No Such Agency: Played with - originally a Federal agency, the MiB splintered off since the government "asked too many questions." They erased any and all records and memories of their existence from their own government.
Noisy Shut Up: The Bug losing patience with Laurel and J's bickering.
"Hey, OLD GUYS." (cut to Zed and K shooting Death Glares at him)
Non Answer: During the recruitment, J asks why they were there, and one of the military-trained recruits responds that Zed is looking the "the best of the best of the best, sir." J deduces, correctly, that none of the others knows why they're there either, and are following a "do what you're told" mentality.
Given the results of the test, it's entirely possible that the recruitment process was just a going-through-the-motions act put on for the benefit of J and/or Zed.
Nonverbal Miscommunication: J (understandably) misreading Laurel's frantic signals that the Bug is hiding in the trolley as a come-on.
Noodle Incident: Agent K tells Agent J, "you should've been here for the Zeronion migration in 1968." Additionally, whatever's going on in the Arquillian empire that has resulted in one of its princes living in exile.
Not This One, That One: Agent J is shown an awesome-looking Series-4 De-atomizer, but is actually issued a puny-looking Noisy Cricket.
Obfuscating Stupidity: J, to a degree. The entire first act of the movie is designed to show that his streetwise smart-ass routine is largely a put-on and he's actually a very good, and even insightful, detective.
Oh Crap: Only once does Agent K briefly lose his composure, thanks to witnessing the Bug revealing itself.
Public Secret Message: Agent K explains that tabloids, which are assumed to be hoaxes by muggles, are in fact based on true events behind The Masquerade (since tabloids have less Weirdness Censor than "serious" newspapers). Later, when Agent K retires, Agent J notices an article with Agent K's photo and an article about a postal worker who returned to his old job after years in a coma, revealing Agent K's fate, which then becomes a major plot point in the second film.
Edwards to K after K shoots Jeebs in the head, only to drop it when his head grows back
The Bug to J and K when they confront him in the morgue
Race Lift: J. He was white in the original comics and was supposed to be played by Chris O'Donnell who was filming Batman & Robin at the time.
Recursive Reality: The MacGuffin that draws Edgar Bug to Earth in the first film is a miniature galaxy. The final scene reveals that our galaxy is just like the MacGuffin, and lies several layers down within a miniature galaxy-orb that an alien is playing marbles with.
Men in Black II pulls a similar gag by showing a world inside a locker where K's watch is a symbol of worship, then at the end, K shows J that their world is also simply inside a larger locker (doesn't work quite as well as the first film, due to Fridge Logic).
An alternate ending has J going on vacation and ending up on the world inside the locker and the size of its inhabitants, implying some sort of change in size when you go through the locker door, or that the lockers are more of a Portal Network.
The bit about the gun is a Mythology Gag referencing the surprisingly obscure comic the movie was based on. It turns out much better for the farmer in that one, though - the bugs REALLY needed his gun (for a high-stakes scavenger hunt), but not so urgently that they couldn't wait him out.
Subverted somewhat in that K neuralyzes J after he identified the gun, anyway.
Sadist Teacher: J discovers that one he had in grade school is actually an alien from Jupiter.
Safety In Muggles: While the Neuralizer makes fighting outside doable, the general idea is to avoid being seen when fighting aliens.
Science Marches On: A minor one. When J heads to the morgue to retrieve a cat, he hilariously tries to convince Lauren that the cat is a witness in a murder investigation. Fast forward about ten years and advancements in forensic science mean that animals who 'witness' a murder can be checked for any forensic evidence the killer may have left behind.
Also, when kidnapping Laurel, she threatens that if Bug-Edgar does anything to her (after claiming that she's Earth's ruler or even a goddess), Earth will declare war on his species in an attempt to get him to let her go. Unfortunately, this gave Bug-Edgar a lot more incentive to kidnap her than before ("War? Good. That means more food for my family. All 78 million of them. That's a lot of mouths to feed, Highness.")
Throw It In: Will Smith's "It be raining black people in New York" line after he jumps onto the bus was ad-libbed.
Tommy Lee Jones was famously dissatisfied with the script and so he took it upon himself to "fix" it by ad-libbing a good deal of his dialogue and one-liners. The result was Will Smith, not to be outdone, having to play along too. The movie is unquestionably better for it.
Toilet Humour: The deneuralyzer room in the Mi B HQ in film 2 is shaped like a toilet bowl. When serleena attacks Mi B HQ, they are literally "flushed out".
And the MIB operates on a 37-hour-day. According to Zed, "You get used to it. Or you have a psychotic episode."
Two Roads Before You: As the first movie demonstrates with J, all prospective agents have the choice between remaining in their current occupations and leading their lives, or joining the agency and severing all ties to their former lives.
J: Is it worth it? K: Oh, it's worth it... if you're strong enough.
K: But go ahead, read the New York Times if you want. They get lucky sometimes.
Worthless Yellow Rocks: The two Arquillians at the diner were chatting and one noticed an ornamental case on the table and said with awe "Is that it?" The other replied "No, just some diamonds for my children."
Know that weird language J speaks in to the guy in the mail room? Well, the mailman is actually Biz Markie, and that "weird alien language" is actually beatboxing.
Let's not forget that Patrick Warburton played a not-too-bright agent who joined MIB because he wants to be a hero. His codename? "Agent T."
A lot of mentions were made of Serleena's ravenous appetite. One scene shows her scarfing down a massive burger. At the time the film was released, Lara Flynn Boyle was in the tabloids a lot because of her emaciated appearance, with a lot of gossips claiming she was starving herself. Like most starlets facing similar accusations, Boyle deflected it by claiming she was actually a Big Eater and just had a superfast metabolism.
Anal Probing: Sci-Fi nerd Newton, upon finding out what J and K actually do, raises the question, "What's up with anal probing?"
Apathetic Citizens: J is thrown through the window of a New York subway train shortly after attempting to sedate the giant toothed alien monster with a tranquilizer and immediately starts shouting at everyone to evacuate to the next car. The passengers ignore him until a giant toothed alien monster bites a chunk off the car. Once the crisis is resolved and the train limps to a stop in the station, he neuralyzes them and starts chewing them out about this by pointing out that in an actual emergency, they would have been eaten. He then reneuralyzes them once he realizes that he's carried on for far too long, now with a hilarious story requesting that they enjoy using new space-efficient, energy-saving cars.
Arson, Murder, and Jaywalking: Serleena murders Ben after he refuses to divulge the location of the Light of Zartha. She also steals some of the pizza from his restaurant.
Ascended Extra: Frank the Pug and the worms from the first film, having gone from bit characters to supporting ones. This is likely because of the cartoon having given them more popularity.
Badass Grandpa: Don't mess with Zed, man. He will air-juggle your ass.
Balloon Belly: Serleena gets one after swallowing the mugger in the park whole, which she manages to get rid of by spitting him back out.
Balls of Steel: K is trying to fight off an alien with little success until J points out that that particular alien is impervious to groin attacks...because his balls are on his chin instead. Apparently his species is Ballchinian!
A hilarious ad-lib, to boot, as some of the other takes identified him as a Godnadineck, Nutchinian, Chinball, Nutthroatean, and Chinsackian. There were likely many others.
City of Weirdos: MIB 2 had a scene where J can't clear a subway car he just crashed into because everyone dismisses him as just a New York nut. At least they get moving when a giant worm starts eating the car.
Cut the Juice: J ordered the power to the facility be cut in order to cancel Serleena's flight with Laura and the light of Zartha, but the plan ended up proving to be unnecessary after J managed to stop the launch sequence at the last second.
Disney Death: Variation. When J attempts to establish a communication channel with Frank, he gives Frank an order, but his transmission was cut inexplicably, leading the worms and Frank (and initially the audience) to think that J and K were shot down and killed by Serleena. However, it later becomes apparent that J and K survived, but the earlier shot only disabled their communications, thus explaining why the transmission ended.
Face Full of Alien Wing-Wong: K, Frank, and Zed all talk about their own sexual experiences with aliens at the end of MIB II to cheer J up after his Love Interest was forced to return home, much to J's disgust.
Fanservice: Rosario Dawson's presence, though it's kind of dwarfed by having Lara Flynn Boyle playing as an alien that disguises itself as an underwear model in leather. Not so implausible, since III confirms that all of Earth's supermodels are aliens.
Forgot the Call: K got tired of working, and asked to be neuralyzed. The first half of the second movie is spent trying to get his memory back due to him knowing a Plot Coupon he also forgot.
Inferred Holocaust: Averted but lampshaded. After they have Laura, the Light of Zartha, leave the planet and destroyed her pursuer, K tells J to leave and head back to headquarters. J then points out that a great deal of people had witnessed what had happened with the implied possibility of having to a long night of neuralyzing all of New York before they can go back to HQ. K then puts on his sunglasses and nonverbally tells J to put on his sunglasses, and then activates a giant neuralyzer located within the Statue of Liberty's torch.
Mythology Gag: When the man reading the newspaper expresses his gladness while reading his newspaper about J and K returning to the MIB headquarters after Serleena locked it down, the headlines state that Satan has returned to Earth. In the original comic of the Men In Black, besides tracking aliens, the MIB also tracked down demons and supernatural entities.
Naïve Newcomer: K, when J tries to bring him back. J gets exasperated when he keeps poking everything.
Never Live It Down: in-universe, Jay has gotten a reputation of neuralyzing people on a whim, and Zed won't stop chastising him for it.
This might qualify under Noodle Incident, but when J was attempting to establish a channel with Frank during their chase by Serenna, Frank the Pug is saying to the Worms with a cigar in his mouth "So I said 'Listen, bitch! If you don't want me to kick your skinny, zone-diet ass, I suggest you turn tail and leave the planet!'"
Red Herring: J (and the viewer) are led to believe that the Light of Zartha was Laura's watch. Actually, the watch was a time bomb activated to blow up with enough explosive power to destroy the planet (presumably as a means to avoid the villain from gaining it on Earth). The real Light of Zartha was actually Laura herself.
Rule of Perception: The ropey alien disguises are supposedly Invisible to Normals, but MIBs are fully able to spot them. Lampshaded in this movie when freshly-deneuralysed K starts seeing them for himself. We see even more in the third movie.
Sci-Fi Writers Have No Sense of Scale: Arguably averted. Serleena at one point asks for a spacecraft that can travel 300 times the speed of light. To put it into perspective, this speed would get you to Alpha Centauri, our nearest star, in 5.31 days. Still hardly the instant travel across the universe we always see in sci-fi, but at least the writers made an effort.
Sequel Non-Entity: Laurel gets mentioned once just to "explain" why she isn't with them.
Sequel Reset: The first movie ended with K happily retired, all MIB memories erased and given a chance to start things over with the love of his life. J, meanwhile, became K's replacement and got a new partner of his own in Agent L. The sequel drops L (her absence is merely Hand Waved) and brings back the amnesic K. Thing is, once his memories are restored, the same character dynamic from the first movie (despite J having five years of experience) is repeated.
Sexy Coat Flashing: Serleena really wants to become an underwear model (but not before infesting MIB headquarters).
Shout Out: In the aforementioned beatboxing scene, the second of Agent J's beatboxes is from La Di Da Di by Slick Rick.
Starfish Language: J communicates with an alien played by Biz Markie with beat-boxing.
The Napoleon: Serleena, technically, given her true form is a little worm.
Take That: When J sees the intro of the Z-movie about the light of Zartha in film 2, he says, that it "Looks like Spielberg's work." Doubles as Self-Deprecation, since he's also the producer of film 2.
Thirty Second Blackout: When J has to use Jeeb's illegal deneuralyzer to make K remember, a big part of NYC has a blackout because of it.
Unstoppable Rage: After J's new recruit foolishly tried to pull on Jeffrey (the Subway Worm's) flower, to put it simply, it was extremely P.O.'ed, and started lashing out at everything, including J, and then rampaging across the Subway tunnels. He eventually calms down after J attempts to threaten to blast it if it doesn't calm down, and presumably also due to the tranquilizer that he injected earlier finally going into effect after the slight delay.
What Does This Button Do?: In the original, K's car has the little red button. In this one, J's car has two - one that turns it into a jet, the other deploys a dummy to look like the car is being driven by someone. Used to hilarious effect twice:
K: That come standard? J: Well, it came with a black dude, but he kept gettin' pulled over.
You Taste Delicious: While the villainess was talking to K she stuck her tongue in his ear. This was actually an improv by Lara Flynn Boyle in an attempt to make Tommy Lee Jones break character. It didn't work.
These were actually the first words Serleena heard after landing on Earth and assuming a human form, when a would-be mugger licks the side of her face. Her reply?
You Were Trying Too Hard: At the pizzeria, when J realizes the photograph is pointing at something, which seems to be another photo pointing at something, which was ultimately... a cabinet full of sardines. K, however, sees the first photo is pointing at a key hanging from the wall.
K: I hope I'm not slowing you down, partner...
Zeerust: Jeebs' de-neuralyzer is distinctly less advanced than what was previously shown.
Age Lift \ Continuity Snarl: In the first movie, K deletes J' data, which shows a 1975 birth date. In the third movie, he finds a young James Edwards in 1969. To make it worse, Will Smith was born in '68.
Blessed with Suck: Griffin's future sight. At one point he shows J and K the Mets winning the 1969 World Series three months before it happens. J says it's incredible; Griffin replies that it's a pain in the ass due to him not only having to juggle constantly seeing a multitude of possible futures with no clue as to which one is the one that's going to occur, but also seeing those futures long before they are anywhere near relevant in the first place. (though he does still enjoy it to some extent).
Brick Joke: Possibly with Agent J being pulled over in 1969 simply because he was black (he had stolen a car but the cops didn't know that). In Men in Black II, J remarks that the inflatable autopilot agent in the car used to be a black guy, but he kept getting pulled over.
"Man, what happened to you?"
Broken Aesop: Played for laughs with the cops that pull J over in 1969.
J: Just because you see a black man driving a nice car does not mean it's stolen! [Beat] A'ight, I stole this one, but not because I'm black!
Butterfly of Doom: Griffin is constantly referring to those. The trope is actually lampshaded when he is really worried upon seeing a butterfly...and with good reason, because in the timeline in which the butterflies appear Boris enters and begins shooting from the window, not the door.
Cerebus Retcon: The reason K has always been such a curmudgeonly old guy is because he witnessed J's father sacrificing himself to save K from Boris back in 1969, which ended up with him somewhat becoming a surrogate to J.
The movie also explains why he talked Zed into recruiting J despite him being the most unconventional candidate.
Close Enough Timeline: Boris' initial change (killing K) seemed to keep things the same enough for J to have become an agent in the first place. And despite J's involvement in the past it's implied minor things were also different but still "close enough." To the movie's credit, when J and 1960's K are together J makes a point of trying to keep K going along on the detective path he took in the original timeline rather than skipping to everything ahead of time due to J's future knowledge (which was minimal since he glanced over the case report in the first place).
While he doesn't appear in the film, Frank is referenced twice. Over J's bed, a huge portrait of a pug is hung, and a sideshow poster on Coney Island references the "amazing talking dog" - a pug.
Jack Jeebs (or someone who looks a lot like him) is the guy in the newspaper stand in front of the Chrysler Building in 1969 (it's a blink-and-you-miss-it thing).
Agent K is back living in the apartment that he used to have prior to Men in Black II.
The Colonel says "that's some next-level stuff" as the Arknet Shield is deployed. J said "there's some next-level shit" when getting on the elevator as he returned to officially join up in the first film.
The cafe K and J go to is the same one J took T and Laura to in the second film.
Hey, K, have you ever flashy-thinged me?
Using "Eye exam" as a euphemism for neuralization.
The worms leaving Earth when an alien invasion is about to occur.
J climbing on top of a car to shoot an escaping alien and ending up in a pile of trash.
Creator Cameo: Director Barry Sonnenfeld appears as one of the people watching the rocket launch.
Darker and Edgier: The third movie. It includes a much darker villain than any from the first two, and partly as a result of this the heroes face tougher moral dilemmas and more emotionally overwhelming circumstances than before.
Dawson Casting: K is supposed to be 29 in 1969. He's played by Josh Brolin, who was 43 during the filming.
J lampshades this, looking incredulously at K and snarking "Got some city miles on ya, huh?"
Inverted with Will Smith as Smith was born in 1968. We learn J was at least 4-5 in 1969, making J a few years older than Will Smith.
Also inverted with O. Emma Thompson was born in 1959 and thus would have been ten in 1969. The younger version of O looks to be in her mid to late twenties and is played by Alice Eve who would have been 28 to 29 during filming.
Disney Villain Death: Subverted by both versions of Boris. Future Boris survives getting pushed off a great height, but he is burned alive by the rocket as it takes off. Past Boris falls after his arm is blown off, but he gets blown up by K.
Eureka Moment: J figures out where Griffin is by hearing two diner patrons talk about the Mets. This is K's intent, deliberately invoking this by interrupting the case to get pie and getting their minds off the case.
That one big-eyed alien at Zed's memorial service who keeps blinking, and blinking, and blinking...
More of a Throw It In but look at one of the guards when J, K and Griffin are talking to the colonel.
Genre Blindness: The prison guards in the opening scene. Someone brings a cake into a prison and you don't think to check it beyond a cursory scan? Not to forget leaving massive guns in the same area of a prison some of the worst inmates are kept in and not shooting Boris, despite him having a gun that can punch a hole in the hull of the lunar prison.
Boris is utterly sure he will be victorious, even despite his future self coming back to tell him that he wasn't.
Historical In-Joke: Undercover agent Andy Warhol desperately needs a transfer. He's so low on ideas he's been reduced to painting bananas and soup cans!
Horde of Alien Locusts: The Boglodites. Their species can only survive by conquest, they wipe out entire species as they move through the galaxy, and if they can't move on to a new species, they will die out.
I Hate Past Me: Boris. He sees in his past self all the mistakes that led to losing his arm and ending up The Last Of His Kind. The loathing is mutual, though, as Young Boris sees in his future self all the failures that he hasn't suffered yet.
Leaning on the Fourth Wall: Towards the start of the movie, Agent J claims that a fallen flying saucer was caused by someone on an airplane not turning off their cellphone when instructed to do so. He then starts a lecture telling people to turn off their cellphones, which could also be a message directed at the audience.
Meaningful Background Event: In the scene where J tries to get a time machine, take a close look at the television screens, which play news reports showing the Alien Invasion underway in different parts of the world. It just takes a bit of time before said aliens actually reach New York.
Multinational Team: There are hints that the MIB have members from different countries, if O is any indication.
Mythology Gag: The plot resembles the MIB animated series episode "The Head Trip Syndrome" which was about a human bigot who hated Aliens and uses a time machine to kill off the founding members of MIB. The difference for the film is that the villain is an alien who wanted to travel back in time to kill K.
Both also involve K in an important event in history. In the TV show episode, K was there when the first aliens landed and presented them flowers (originally meant for a date) as a welcome gift (this actually was a callback to the first movie when K mentions the MIB origins). In this movie, he was responsible for sending a defense network out into space around Earth to keep alien invasions from happening by planting it on the Apollo 11 launch. This is part of the reason Boris wants him dead (though the majority of his motive is revenge).
Boris is also similar to Agent Alpha, a Psycho Prototype who K knew in the past, fired spikes, and required Jay's help to take him down.
A Chase Scene begins with a shot of the New York Pavilion's metal globe that was destroyed by the Bug's ship in the first film.
The Nameless: The Colonel from 1969 is never referred to by name. Given he's J's father, his full name must be James Darrell Edwards II.
Plot Hole: In this case, Characters ignoring or avoiding obvious solutions to their problems. With the organization being a space-oriented organization in a universe with Casual Interstellar Travel, many viewers scratched their heads at having to put the Maguffin on Apollo 11 specifically. Reasons can be justified and finagled out through Wild Mass Guessing, and even some potential Fridge Brilliance, but the fact that this alternative is never brought up in dialogue at all despite the fact that Agent J has been saying "what about this or that" every two minutes so far is a minor plot hole.
Politically Correct History: Averted. J is warned before jumping back in time that "it wasn't the best time for your people," and is later pulled over simply due to being a black man driving a nice car. MIB was also apparently less alien-friendly in those days.
Rubber Forehead Aliens: MIB headquarters in 1969 is populated by aliens that are accurate to late 60's scifi portrayals.
Including Human Aliens wearing space suits that look like they came from sci-fi movies about the future.
Save Scumming: J time travels one minute backwards after memorizing Boris' attack pattern.
That's what it looks like at first glance, but pay attention, Boris went back in time that minute as well. The first attacks are Left-Right-Left, the Second are Right-Left-Left. This makes for a bit of Fridge Logic as to how J dodged perfectly the second time.
Sea Monster: The alien fish the Chinese restaurant keeps for their non-human patrons. The reason K and J show up is because they're serving them to human patrons.
J: Wong, we had a deal. Earth people get Earth fish!
Interestingly enough, along with J fixing the direct problem, future Boris and J also help fix something else by accident. Because of future Boris, K has a legit reason to shoot him instead of arresting him. Likewise, meeting future J means K knows the boy will develop right, lessening the guilt of not having been able to save his father. Both changes cause K to be less grumpy and more friendly, somewhat.
Stable Time Loop: Apparently, the time travel plot was always supposed to happen. It results in J's father not being there while he was growing up, K becoming The Stoic (and looking after J throughout his life), and J having Ripple-Effect-Proof Memory. Some things are changed around, though.
The Stoic: K. He has never been so stoic, and there's a good reason for that.
Subverted Rhyme Every Occasion: A case of a subversion being subverted in the song "Back in Time" - "Give credit where credit is due don't cha. / Know that I don't give a number two."
Sudden Sequel Death Syndrome: Zed, whose death happens offscreen. The film opens with J and K discussing what K will say at his funeral. Though oddly he does not make an appearance when J goes back in time when they had a perfect opportunity to use him but not deal with the troubled Rip Torn.
Suspiciously Specific Denial: When Agent J returns to 2012, and does a Calling the Old Man Out routine on K and O's relationship in 1969, Agent K cites an MIB no-fraternization rule between agents. But he never actually denies J's claim, and J doesn't believe K's deflection anyway.
Technology Marches On: The movie has a lot of fun with this, as the 1960's MIB gear is still advanced but looks like what the 1960's thought future technology would look like. 60's K pulls out his communicator that looks like an infamous 80's "brick" cell phone with chrome plating. The reliable neuralizer is the size of a room, with a pocket sized version that requires a connected belt battery and manual tuner. And this was before the creation of the Big Red Button so J and K needed to actually strap on some rocket packs to race to the climax.
Terminator Twosome: Boris is the history-changer, J is the history-preserver. Interesting in that the pursuer actually arrives before the quarry.
This Cannot Be!: When J dodges Boris' darts and throws him off the top of the launch gantry, Boris shouts "That's not possible!"
Timey Wimey Ball: Inevitable since Time Travel is involved, but this film seems to have more temporal plotholes than the usual Time Travel film. If J was present at K's death in the alternate 1969, why would he remember the original timeline's K? Why would the events of 1969 have been changed the second time around? Shouldn't he not remember 1969 at all since it hadn't happened to him yet? What exactly happened in the original 1969 timeline? Was J always part of it? Why would Jeffrey remember sending Boris back in time if the timeline was changed? Who recruited J into the MIB if K was dead? Why is it that when J time jumps with Boris, there isn't a past!J and Boris where they were?MST3K Mantra is very much in effect here.
Time travel plot hole explanations: Alternate J doesn't exist, because of regular J's immunity to the timeline change, O explains this shortly before J goes back in time. Boris did not travel back in time fully, but J did, because apparently the time device is single-person only. Jeffrey remembers sending Boris back in time, because for him, it seems, nothing that changed in the past changed his life up until the moment J walked into his shop.
It's a minor one, but there's no issue with J getting recruited. His stopping that dual-eyelid alien from the first movie is what attracted the attention of MIB, and that would've happened anyway, they just wouldn't have sent K. Now, this movie implies that K had a vested interest in J from the get-go which may have been why he fought so hard for him during recruitment, but J still would have had his opportunity to join up.
Poor Griffin lives in one inside his head. He seems to enjoy it at times, but knowing how every moment in existence could go horribly wrong in infinite ways obviously wears on his nerves.
Not to mention the whole problem with the invasion. When the timeline was changed then shouldn't it have occurred sometime in 1969 instead of the morning of the change? It is mentioned repeatedly that the race is extinct for 40 years meaning that their invasion was thwarted in 1969 so if they waited forty years to invade for god knows why after the change than why aren't they all starved to death and extinct?
When J goes back in time and asks O about K, he is told that Boris escapes to his planet 20 light-years away. So it took a 40 year round-trip to go back to his planet and come back to invade with an army.
If future goes back, he only knows what happened before. He knows the reality where he lsot his arm, but he changed that (and orrected) that when he died. It makes sense. A bit.
Jeebs, who is usually the go-to-guy for the latest not-very-legal technology, is nowhere to be seen. A fat man running a toy store replaces him, though as the tech that sends J back is human, it makes a bit more sense.
Frank's nowhere to be seen, aside from a couple of references (a picture of him hanging on Jay's wall, and a sign advertising the Amazing Talking Pug at Coney Island). Frank's actor died, necessitating his disappearance.
You Didn't See That: When K climbs over the command module, one of the astronauts points out that if they report it the launch would be scrubbed. All deny seeing anything.
Ungrateful Bastard: Poor girl goes through all the trouble to sneak an ...alien thing... in to help him to escape. He repays it by letting her fly out into space. but since young Boris got killed by K this event does not exist anymore.
You Killed My Father: It is revealed very late into the movie that Boris is the reason why J's father never saw him grow up. However, J never actually finds out until after 60s-era Boris does the deed and dies by K's hand and J finds his father dead, and likewise, J didn't remember until then because K neuralized him.
Zeerust: Done deliberately with the MIB headquarters in 1969.
(*FLASH*) You weren't at your computer for the past few minutes. You got up, got something to eat and then visited a few other sites. Checked some blogs, answered a couple e-mails, nothing too eventful or life changing. After a few minutes, you returned to TV Tropes and found a completely different page to view.