Sony Moves Toward a Men in Black Cinematic Universe
In twenty years, Sony Pictures has only gotten three movies out of the Men in Black series, but that’s going to change very quickly. A new report states that a Men in Black spinoff film is going forward with a release date that is already in place: May 17, 2019. But don’t expect Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones to return. The early word is that Agents J and K are out.
Deadline broke the news that Iron Man writers Matt Holloway and Art Marcum are handling the script for the currently untitled Men in Black spinoff. Apparently this is not a reboot, so Jones and Smith’s characters are not being recast. Instead, the new film is being conceived as a Jurassic World style relaunch that acknowledges the past of the franchise while introducing new characters to take over the narrative. As for the story, all we’ve been told is that it is “a contemporary sci-fi pic about the secret black clad force that protects earth from the alien scum of the universe, focusing on new characters chasing villains that put the picture on more of a global scale than the two previous films.”
Well, they could do that, obviously. There’s admittedly a lot of material that went unexplored because the Smith and Jones era never really expanded beyond the original premise. But there is a better way to keep this world alive than simply saying “here’s a new batch of agents, go follow them now!” And the solutions lie in the Men in Black comic book series.
Oh, you didn’t know that Men in Black used to be a comic? That’s probably because it’s been out of print for decades, and we can probably blame Marvel for that. There was a real Pac-Man progression of ownership, as the comic rights belonged to Aircel Comics, which was sold to Malibu Comics, which itself was purchased years later by Marvel, and of course, Disney now owns Marvel. But we’re giving Disney a pass here because Marvel had these rights for over a decade before they were bought out, and they chose to do nothing with them beyond a few reprints.
Lowell Cunningham’s The Men in Black comics were a little rough around the edges, but almost everything you love about the movies came from his stories. Along with artist Sandy Carruthers, Cunningham established who the Men in Black were, and they weren’t only going after aliens! Instead, their focus covered almost anything strange and unusual, from the supernatural to conspiracy theories. It was The X-Files before The X-Files, and that would be the perfect way to expand the scope of the films. The movies don’t have to always be about an alien plot to destroy or invade the Earth.
We can tell you one thing that the movies will never give up is their sense of humor. The comics had a much more serious and even bleak tone, which just isn’t what people expect from the MiB franchise anymore. There’s no way to change that without alienating the larger fanbase, but it doesn’t mean that the new movies have to be so light and fluffy. The comics had the agents go in some dark directions, and one agent, Ecks, actually went rogue because he was horrified by MiB’s agenda for the world. That could make for some good drama without losing the comedy.
Apparently, the new spinoff film also means that the proposed 21 Jump Street/Men in Black crossover film is on the back-burner for now. We can’t help but think that it’s ultimately for the best. Men in Black is a sci-fi action and comedy series, but it’s not a complete farce. Going too far into 21 Jump Street style comedy would have upset that balance. Plus, this is a franchise that doesn’t need to crossover with any other property. Men in Black has been a blockbuster before, and it can be again. We just want to see it bring something new to the table. And sometimes that means looking to the past.
Images: Sony/Marvel Comics