Buzz around the upcoming Men in Black III has improved in recent months – thanks to the release of an overall decent full-length trailer, coupled with the promise of both new inspired celebrity “alien” cameos and imaginative extraterrestrials designed by makeup/effects icon, Rick Baker. Hence, there’s been more reason to suspect that MIB 3 could both rake in lots of dough and leave moviegoers wanting… well, Men in Black IV, basically.
In a recent promotional interview for the sci-fi comic book movie threequel, MIB franchise director Barry Sonnenfeld addressed many a topic of interest concerning Men in Black III – including, the much-publicized tumultuous development process for the film (which he describes as the most “emotional” of the trilogy) and how MIB 3 serves as a fitting finale for the series… while also leaving the door open for a (dare we say it) reboot.
Here is Sonnenfeld revealing the history behind the time-travel storyline for Men in Black III (via MTV):
“I think the important thing is to have a new, different story to tell. We didn’t want another regular caper where some alien just comes down to threaten Earth, and the Men in Black have to solve it. The big idea — and it was actually Will’s idea, while we were shooting ‘Men in Black 2’ one night for an exterior shot. He said to me, ‘Barry, for ‘Men in Black 3,’ Agent J needs to go back in time to save Tommy Lee Jones’ [character] from some event that’s happened decades earlier. He needs to learn something about Tommy’s character that he didn’t know before.’ That was the genesis. Ten years later, we’re about to come out and show the world what that meant.”
Sonnenfeld goes on to offer a description (with MILD SPOILERS) of the first act in Men in Black III – the end result of which is Agent J heading back to 1969, where he meets up with a younger Agent K (Josh Brolin) – which you can read by checking out the full MTV article. However, he sums it up with the following statement about the ending.
“… The second and third act is all about tracking down [the villain Boris, played by Jemaine Clement] and [J] renewing his friendship with a different K than the K he knows from 40 years in the future. What’s really cool is that J is constantly wondering why this guy who seems sort of open and happy became the sort of curmudgeon that has been his partner for the last 14 years. He makes a discovery about that. So, “Men in Black 3″ is by far the most emotional of the movies. It has a really surprising ending.”
It’s interesting (if not entirely encouraging) to learn that the third MIB flick was actually envisioned as a timeline-disrupting adventure from the get-go, considering how such story elements tend to be incorporated into franchises only by the time they’re either in need of a shakeup (Star Trek) or have seemingly run out of gas otherwise (Shrek). Still, the promise that MIB 3 will offer some closure for longtime fans of the series – that’s certainly welcome.
With regards to the documented strenuous task that was bringing Men in Black III to cinematic life, Sonnenfeld said:
“First of all, I don’t know that I’ve ever been on a shoot that wasn’t stressful for the director. I think all movies are stressful in different ways. What was reported on this one was that we took a several-months hiatus to work on the script. As it relates to that, that concept was built into the shooting schedule. We wanted the next movie Will Smith was in after a long time where he wasn’t in movies to be “Men in Black 3.” We also wanted to shoot in New York, which had a tax incentive that was about to expire. It didn’t expire, but we didn’t know it wasn’t going to expire, because New York state legislature had to vote it in again, and we weren’t sure that was going to happen. So we started the movie with a full script and with a really great first act — but the second and third needed work. We built in a two-month hiatus so we could continue working on the script and not need an eight-week reshoot. So that’s what we did. The truth is, the great thing about the movie, is that there was no stress between myself and any of the actors. We all got along very well. You don’t ever want a director and a movie star who see two different movies. But we all were working with the same ideas in mind. We knew the characters, we knew the history, and we were very much in sync.”
That’s a somewhat more diplomatic (and wordy) response than Sonnenfeld’s previous comments on the MIB 3 production process – wherein he admitted that the approach could either be “genius… [or] a really stupid idea,” depending on how the final product turns out. Seeing how the director is coming off what many people feel was a weak second installment in the MIB series, the idea that Sonnenfeld and his crew would intentionally take such a roundabout approach to making Part 3 does raises some concern.
On the other hand, it’s a well-established rule in Hollywood that some of the best movies are those that result from pretty hectic (if not downright crazy) production processes – so MIB 3 certainly has that working in its favor.
In summation, it’s best to keep all that in mind while you read Sonnenfeld’s concluding assurance that Men in Black III aims to pull double-duty as a fitting trilogy finale and a rebirth of the series:
“The fantastic thing about ‘Men in Black 3’ is that it totally closes out the trilogy, it answers questions that you didn’t even know you should be asking, it leaves you emotionally warm and sad and happy, and it could also reboot the franchise. But I can’t even begin to tell you how to interpret all of that. [Laughs] But I would say this: If your interpretation is that ‘Men in Black 4’ will only star the worm guys and Frank the pug, you are wrong.”
We will find out for certain if the Men in Black will go on to fight another day – or finally head into retirement – when Men in Black III opens in theaters (2D, 3D, and IMAX 3D) around the U.S. on May 25th, 2012.