A new report has shone a light on what went wrong behind the scenes on Men in Black: International. Based on the comic books of the same name, Sony's Men in Black movie franchise launched in 1997 and grossed $1.6 billion worldwide over its first three entries alone. However, by the time Men in Black III hit theaters in 2012, it had become pretty clear the series was in need of a creative overhaul. It got just that with this year's International, a revival-sequel that's set in the same continuity as the previous films, but which focuses on a different set of MIB agents.
In an effort to fill the hole left by MIB trilogy stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, Sony recruited Thor: Ragnarok duo Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson to lead International and, hopefully, kicked off a whole new set of movies about the men (and women) in black. Unfortunately, something clearly went wrong after that; the resulting film earned the lowest Rotten Tomatoes score for a MIB movie yet, and took in a similarly franchise-low $30 million in its first weekend at the U.S. box office. Now, in an increasingly familiar turn of events, a newly-released report claims to reveal exactly what happened and who's (mostly) to blame.
According to THR, Men in Black: International producer Walter Parkes and director F. Gary Gray clashed over their visions for the film. Parkes reportedly oversaw several rewrites of the well-received initial script draft by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway that removed the screenplay's political overtones (the plot originally tied into the ongoing discussion about immigration in the U.S.) and changed the villains - both after Hemsworth, Thompson, and Gray had signed on, and then again during production. As a result, fresh script pages arrived daily for the movie's actors, causing some confusion and removing the story's "modern sensibilities", to the point that Hemsworth and Thompson apparently hired their own writers to try and improve their revised dialogue.
The creative differences didn't stop there either; THR says that Parkes and Gray disagreed over other elements (like color-correcting), and Gray came close to quitting several times, but was convinced by Sony to stay on. In the end, the studio tested separate cuts of the film by Gray and Parkes, before eventually releasing Parkes' version in theaters. Somewhat surprisingly, there were no major reshoots or changes made to the film during post-production, unlike Fox's own recent misfire Dark Phoenix. Then again, by the sound of it, Gray may've been ready to move on to greener pastures by that point anyway.
Overall, the THR report indicates that Men in Black: International's woes are almost entirely Parkes' fault, fairly or not. Obviously, though, the only people who know for certain what went wrong are those that worked on the film, and (for the time being) they're staying silent on the matter. As mentioned earlier, though, this report is part of a recent trend of articles being released shortly after a movie bombs with critics and general audiences alike, in what's clearly an attempt to assign blame where it may or may not belong (see Hellboy and Dark Phoenix for other recent examples). It's more than a little frustrating that, with so many reboots and/or sequels under-performing of late, studios seem more interested in passing the blame around right now - as opposed to simply listening to the criticisms and trying to better understand them, in the hopes of not repeating them.