There are a number of nods to Will Smith's Agent J character in Men In Black: International. While the recent revamp of the original Men In Black trilogy stands on its own as a standalone story, the fourth movie in the popular franchise still pays tribute to the central character of the first three films.
The first Men In Black movie, released in 1997, was a smash hit which firmly established Will Smith's credentials as a movie star after he made the leap from music and television to blockbuster movies a year earlier in Independence Day. Over the past two decades, Smith has continued to dominate the A-List of Hollywood action movies. He's also proven his worth as a dramatic actor, earning Oscar nominations for Best Actor for his work in Ali and The Pursuit of Happyness. Smith does not make a cameo appearance in Men In Black: International, but his character's influence upon the organization is acknowledged in subtle ways.
One example of this lies in how the new film's rookie character Molly (Tessa Thompson) is introduced into the Men In Black. In the original film, Smith's character was an NYPD Detective named James Edwards, who earned himself an audition to join the MiB after he impressed Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) when they both wound up chasing the same perp, whom Edwards didn't know was an alien. The organization's old methods of recruiting new talent are referred to in the new movie, when Molly manages to sneak into the Men In Black's Manhattan headquarters after devoting her life trying to prove that aliens and the MiB exist. As the New York Bureau Chief Agent O (Emma Thompson) wonders what she is going to do with Molly, another agent helpfully notes that "in the old days, we would have recruited her." This leads to Molly becoming Agent M and being given a probationary trial as an MiB agent.
Later in the movie, Agent M is transferred to London to complete basic training. She is placed under the command of Agent High T (Liam Neeson), whose office contains another nod to Agent J and Will Smith. As Agent M is looking around High T's office, she sees two paintings - one of which depicts High T and his former partner Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) saving the world from an alien creature called The Hive. The painting next to it depicts Agents J and K and their battle at the end of the first Men In Black movie.
While Men In Black: International did a fine job recreating the spirit of the original trilogy of films and acknowledging its roots, it has failed to attract the audience the same expansive audience as the original films. The latest MiB movie made only $28.5 million over its first three days of release. This is far less than the first three films, all of which managed to make at least $50 million on their opening weekends. Opinions are divided as to whether a number of negative reviews or a summer film schedule overburdened with sci-fi releases is responsible for the dismal earnings. In either case, it cannot be denied that the latest MiB movie is DOA.