When Men in Black first hit theaters back in 1997, there wasn’t anything quite like it in the realm of sci-fi. Here we had a movie about a covert government organization protecting the world from a secret population of aliens, told in a comedy format. Starring A-listers Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, it was a full-on sensation, even scoring a lofty 92% Rotten Tomatoes score. There hasn’t been anything like it since, and two largely disappointing sequels did little to continue the legacy of the original. Soon though, we may see a revival brings the sleeping franchise back into the world of the living.
Details are scarce on specifics, but producers Walter Parkes and Laurie McDonald were candid in their confirmation of its existence in an interview with The Hollywood Reporter. “We’re in the middle of it. It’s very active,” said Parkes when queried by THR. McDonald went on to note that it “will be reinvented as a trilogy,” albeit without Will Smith’s involvement. A reboot of the franchise sans its lead actor would represent an entirely new direction for Men in Black, further accentuated by rumors of a 21 Jump Street crossover that surfaced during the Sony hack.
The stage is set for a whole different kind of Men in Black franchise that’ll face a whole host of challenges. First and foremost, it will have to accomplish what two MIB sequels couldn’t do: Top the original film in the series. Both Men in Black 2 and 3 were widely regarded as inferior to their parent movie, with the final installment doing poorly enough to ditch the whole original franchise in favor of a reboot. It’s a tall order to say the very least, and yet still not entirely impossible to achieve.
The first thing to consider here is that Men in Black wasn’t made with an eye on the future. Sure, the final moments that saw Agent J and Linda Fiorentino partnering up left some wiggle room for a sequel. But the writers of MIB didn’t sit down and write that movie with a plan for two more films laid out. Any new trilogy will construct each installment with a greater story arc in mind, which in turn could give it the cohesion the original sequels lacked.
All this calls into question the proposal for a 21 Jump Street crossover. While it is merely a rumor, it would make for one of the crazier world-building decisions Sony has ever made, and in a lot of ways would undermine both franchises in the process. There are few shared elements (if any) between the two worlds, and combining them seems more like a way to sell tickets than creating a natural creative match. For a new Men in Black trilogy to build on the original, it’ll have to survive as its own universe rather than piggybacking on a dissimilar franchise for support.
For now, you can color us tentatively excited for whatever Sony has planned. It’s certainly not as though the original MIB trilogy was up to snuff with hallowed sci-fi properties like the first Star Wars installments. That said, it’ll still be measured up against the very first Men in Black, and will have to do so without the charisma and appeal of Will Smith in the lead role. With very few other franchises to lean on, it’s a safe bet that Sony will pour all their resources into this one. It’s only a matter of how well they can execute their lofty aspirations.
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