Continuing the legacy of a series like Men In Black often lends to moments that playfully wink and nudge at the series’ storied past. In Men In Black International, Tessa Thompson’s Agent M gets one of those very moments, when she picks up a Noisy Cricket during her orientation and rejects it outright.
However, there was one moment that Tessa Thompson, a self-admitted fan of the original films, was approached to reenact that she absolutely would not put her own spin on. And it was Will Smith’s famous post-transformation moment where he uttered the now iconic line, “I make this look good.” During a recent interview, Tessa Thompson explained why she chose to reject that specific reference:
I wouldn’t have said it. In fact, I think someone did ask me to — just as an option — and I said no. M is just different from that character [Agent J]. Yeah, I was really conscious of too much nostalgia. Also, inside of that, there were moments when I thought, 'Let’s lean in.'
Comparing Agent M to Smith’s Agent J, the differences are pretty night and day. While J’s self-assured cool and smart-assed temperament were what drove Will Smith’s character in Men In Black, Tessa Thompson’s Agent M is more of an analytical personality with particular taste. It would feel totally at home for Agent J to compliment his choice of wardrobe, but the only time Agent M makes a remark on the black suits is when she compliments Emma Thompson’s Agent O on hers.
But moving into how Men In Black International might have played with that line actually being in the film, it also doesn’t fit that film’s bespoke style of humor, as evidenced in Tessa Thompson’s discussion with The Hollywood Reporter. If anyone was going to make that reference, it’d probably have been Chris Hemsworth’s Agent H, as he’s the more vain personality of the two. But even in that case, it’d feel weird hammering home the first Men In Black movie’s presence in this newer film, as it’s already honored pretty respectfully.
Between the Noisy Cricket, and an oil painting depicting Agents J and K defeating Edgar in their New York adventure from the 1997 origin story, that’s all you really need to anchor Men In Black International in that same universe. It’s just enough to connect the series’ historical threads, but also sparse enough for Tessa Thompson to help make new history with her character’s exploits.
Knowing how to honor the past, while moving forward into newer territory, is something every legacyquel should keep in mind when trying to attempt what Men In Black International, and any other film of its ilk for that matter, have tried to make happen. And should there be a moment where the creative forces behind these projects forget that approach, let’s hope actors like Tessa Thompson will continue to speak up in the name of franchise integrity.
Men In Black International is currently protecting the earth from the scum of the universe in theaters this weekend.