Would you watch a Men In Black sequel if it didn’t have Will Smith? How about one that didn’t have Tommy Lee Jones? Would you watch a fourth Men In Black if neither of them showed up? You might soon be given the choice.
There has been talk for years now of another Men In Black movie making its way to theaters. At one point, a rumor (that I believe stemmed from the Sony email hacks) connected the next Men In Black movie to Sony’s developing 21 Jump Street series. That’s likely not the case, but producers Walker Parkes and Laurie MacDonald did confirm to THR that a Men In Black revival is “very active,” but that leading man Will Smith will not return. When asked if the A-list star is coming back, Parkes admitted:
Most likely no.
After which, MacDonald confirmed that the next movie will be the kickoff of a new trilogy of films. You know, right next to the Terminator trilogy, the new Ghostbusters trilogy, and the sequels to The Man From U.N.C.L.E. that suddenly nobody wants.
Let’s pump our brakes for a second and think about what’s happening here. The Men In Black films have been successful for Sony, earning a global total of $1.6 billion over the course of three films. The most recent, 2012’s MIB 3, earned the most money in the franchise, posting a global cume of $624 million – though domestically, it was the least popular of the three original films, by a decent amount.
That being said, the concept behind the Men In Black series lends itself to easy reinvention. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were but two agents in a large operation, and new Men In Black stories could easily follow two new sunglass-wearing operatives on different missions to save the planet. The third movie even made time travel possible, so that opens up several possibilities.
Casting is crucial. The effects and creatures in the Men In Black films were eye-popping, but most everyone came to these films because they enjoyed the way a boisterous Smith played off of the crusty Jones. You don’t necessarily need to replicate that chemistry, but you do need to find a duo who prove to be dynamic. I do find it interesting that this is the second major Will Smith franchise – after Independence Day -- to move on without Smith. The actor has Bad Boys 3 on the horizon (according to come reports), but if that shifts gears, should we stat to worry about the actor’s ability to maintain his status as a major movie star?