The summer season may be the most highly-anticipated season for moviegoers, but last weekend was as disappointing as it gets. Men in Black and Shaft are two properties that have opened to massive appeal and dollar signs in the past, but not in 2019. Both films had underperforming debuts and are sure to be overshadowed the comeback of Toy Story 4 this weekend.
Men in Black International certainly might have done better for itself if fans were promised the return of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agents J and K, who hung up their sunglasses and suits in 2012. That’s not to say new leads Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson don’t have star power. The pair unforgettably dazzled us with their chemistry in 2017’s Thor: Ragnarok, but sometimes continuity just works better than Hollywood using a neuralyzer on our favorite franchises.
The producers of the sequel/spinoff, Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes, recently talked to Variety about why the iconic Men in Black pair were not involved in the new Men in Black installment. Check it out:
Laurie MacDonald and Walter Parkes have been producers on all the Men in Black films. As MacDonald said, when they finished the trilogy with Men in Black 3 in 2012, they felt they had closed the chapter of Agent J and K’s story arcs and didn’t plan to bring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones back to continue their stories.
They did, however, add one wink to the original agents. In the office of Liam Neeson’s character, Agent High T, there is an oil painting of J and K saving the world in the original 1997 movie. Take a look at the painting to the right:
When they decided to revitalize the franchise, they moved past these key actors and injected some girl power with Tessa Thompson’s character of Molly, alongside Chris Hemsworth’s goofy but badass persona. The movie centers on Molly, who watches her parents get neuralyzed as a kid and curiously seeks out the secret Men in Black organization.
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones cameoing was apparently decided against because they knew their inclusion would have fans hungry for more from them. It does show some lack of confidence on their part to say this. There have certainly been plenty of fun cameos of these sorts that haven’t taken away from the new additions to franchises.
In a recent report on the behind-the-scenes drama on Men in Black International, a source said that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were deemed an “expensive and not as forward-looking proposition” for the studio to pursue. The movie went through multiple script changes and director F. Gary Gray almost left the project a few times as well.
Men in Black International has made $113 million worldwide since its opening last week (being made off a $110 million production budget) and received poor reviews from critics and fans. So one could assume that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones probably couldn’t have saved this one anyway.