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It’s been seven years since the final installment of the original Men in Black trilogy came out, and this past weekend, Sony Pictures revived the franchise with Men In Black International, starring Thor: Ragnarok duo Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. Unfortunately for all parties involved with this spinoff, it failed to impress either critically or commercially, opening at a mere $30 million domestically in the latter category.
It all started when Sony decided it didn’t want to move forward with the long-talked-about Men in Black/Jump Street crossover after producer Neal Moritz (who was one of the main people behind the Fast and Furious franchise until recently) refused to play ball. Since bringing back Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith for Men in Black 4 was deemed “an expensive and not as forward-looking proposition,” the studio decided to go the spinoff/reboot route.
Sony reportedly believed that Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson’s star power would be enough to bring in new fans, and one insider described Art Marcum and Matt Holloway’s Men In Black International script as “good,” hence why Hemsworth and Thompson agreed to star in the movie in the first place. Unfortunately, after David Beaubaire, the Sony executive who’d been overseeing Men In Black International, exited the studio last summer, F. Gary Gray and producer Walter Parkes, who had a hand in the first Men in Black movie, started clashing.
Supposedly early drafts of Men In Black International were “edgier and more timely,” and the story was tied into the current debate surrounding immigration. There was even a point where a Beatles-like music group were the villains, and the four members would eventually merge into one being.
Evidently these story beats didn’t meet Walter Parkes approval, as he oversaw rewrites during preproduction and production. New pages were being delivered to the actors daily, the rewrites stripped away what some considered to be the “more modern sensibilities,” and Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson ended up hiring their own dialogue writers.
Walter Parkes also stepped in to direct Men In Black International on a few occasions, and F. Gary Gray tried to exit the projects several times, but was convinced to say. The two men even fought over things like color-correction.
Interestingly enough, unlike the also recently-released Dark Phoenix, Men In Black International did not have a rough postproduction, as there were no major reshoots or public test screenings. However, two versions of the movie were tested for friends and family: F. Gary Gray’s cut and Walter Parkes’ cut. Ultimately Parkes’ cut was chosen because he had final say.
It was also mentioned that Sony did not provide any guidance when Walter Parkes and F. Gary Gray were feuding. A source describing the studio as an “absentee landlord,” and Sony chief Tom Rothman took steps to ensure that its exposure was “limited.”
Assuming all this information is legitimate, I’d be interested in seeing what the “edgier and more timely” version of Men In Black International looked like. Hindsight is 20/20, but if that version of the movie had been released instead, maybe it could have enjoyed a lot more success than the product delivered to the masses, although the report noted that there appeared to be a lack of “urgency” to check out the movie.
Which brings us to Men In Black International’s post-release, where the movie ranks at just 25% among critics on Rotten Tomatoes and has so far made close to $104 million worldwide. With numbers like that, it’s highly unlikely that International will get a sequel. That being said, one of the sources expects that the Men in Black franchise will be revisited again through another movie, as a TV series or through a streaming service, so one shouldn’t look at a franchise killer just yet.
Make sure to read CinemaBlend’s review of Men In Black International and stay tuned for any updates regarding the franchise. In the meantime, feel free to plan your trips to the movie theater this year accordingly with our 2019 release schedule.