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Making a legacy-quel like Men In Black International is as difficult to create as it is to sell. What’s probably the hardest detail to nail is, naturally, the balance between the classic source material and the new and exciting stuff this latest film is supposed to bring to the table.
Early on, there was one influence that needed to stay out of the picture, and that was Will Smith’s Agent J. The reasoning being that once you invoke his classic charm from the original Men In Black trilogy, any efforts to do something new would be saddled with the unfair burden of expectations.
Not only did Tessa Thompson realize that, but in the following excerpt from an interview with both Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, that expectation was something the both of them faced down early on. In Hemsworth's words:
It was interesting at the start of the film, trying to work out who are characters were. We’d jokingly go, ‘Am I Will Smith? Are you Will Smith?’ But then kind of going, ‘No, no, no. That’s not what we’re doing. We’re not mimicking anything. These are two fresh news things. Amongst our [mine and Tessa Thompson] trying to navigate what the chemistry was, it was actually the first part of the shoot… was exactly what was supposed to be happening onscreen.
Despite Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth already being seasoned partners through their experiences in both Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame, putting this team into a new environment still comes with a learning curve. In the case of the Men In Black series, it’s a 20 year learning curve with a lot of history behind it.
Even more interesting is that Chris Hemsworth, during this conversation with Black Girl Nerds, revealed that the struggle to find their new tone came during the early days of shooting Men In Black International. Reading through the eventual resolution between the two to strike out their own path in the franchise, it really is a perfect mechanic to show the growing work relationship between the two compatriots.
In fact, with the recent story on how the tone of the original Men In Black evolved through various revisions and the casting of Will Smith himself making the rounds, it just goes to show that even the original Men In Black needed to figure itself out in the beginning. No matter if your property is established IP or a brand new title looking to breathe fresh air into the market, there’s still that learning curve to get around.
Sadly, it looks like Men In Black International forgot how to navigate those same waters its ancestors made great strides through. With stories of behind the scenes drama complicating the production, not even the insanely effective and original chemistry of Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth could save the film from a lackluster opening.
Their chemistry, if anything, is the reason that the Men In Black franchise shouldn’t give up just yet. Because while this outing may not have hit the way Sony would have wanted, there’s a chance that the right follow-up might help bring the franchise back once and for all.
At the very least, this variant of Men In Black reboot sounds like it was in a better place than the previously suggested crossover with 22 Jump Street. Though could you imagine that world colliding with Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth’s brand of comedy?
Men In Black International is currently in theaters now, with the original Men In Black trilogy available on digital HD, 4K UHD, Blu-ray, and DVD.