The 2019 sequel/spin-off Men in Black: International is breathing new life to a beloved franchise that started out in 1997 and went on to endure two decades. At this point in time, the Men in Black universe has unleashed four feature films and one animated TV series that aired for four seasons.
Having grossed over one billion dollars internationally at the box office, there is little reason for Sony to pump the brakes on the Men in Black series, even if a new installment has to be made for less money. However, regardless of whether International will mark this franchise’s swan song or propel it to new heights, there is no denying that the MIB movies have made their mark in the history of cinema.
If you thought you knew everything about these movies, think again! And you better not blame a neuralyzer.
10 CHRIS O’DONNELL WAS ALMOST AGENT J
From 1993’s The Three Musketeers up until 1997’s Batman & Robin, Chris O’Donnell was having a massive film career in the 1990s. As such, it came as no surprise that Men in Black executive producer Steven Spielberg was very interested in casting O’Donnell in the role of Agent J.
However, MIB director Barry Sonnenfeld had quite a different idea for the character. Unlike Steven Spielberg, Sonnenfeld wanted to cat Will Smith in the role, and went to great lengths to guarantee that his vision would come true.
During an interview, the director admitted that he went out to dinner with Chris O’Donnell to talk about the movie, but ended up lying to the actor, saying: “I told Chris that I wasn’t a very good director and I didn’t think the script was very good and if he had any other options he shouldn’t do Men in Black.”
Thankfully, Barry Sonnenfeld’s wishes to cast Will Smith came true, and we all got the Agent J that we’ve come to love.
9 MEN IN BLACK IS A COMIC BOOK MOVIE
Even in the golden age of live-action adaptations of comic books, a lot of fans fail to realize that Men in Black is one hundred percent a comic book movie.
Created by Lowell Cunningham, The Men in Black comic book was released in 1990 by publisher Aircel Comics. Aircel went on to be bought by Malibu Comics, which in turn was acquired by Marvel Comics in 1994. By the time that the first Men in Black movie was released in 1997, it was already a live-action adaptation of a Marvel Comics property.
While it is certainly weird to think of Men in Black as a franchise that has source material owned by Marvel, that is certainly the case here.
8 EVERY MIB MOVIE IS UNDER TWO HOURS
One of the most curious and fun facts about the Men in Black franchise goes completely unnoticed by even some of the most die-hard fans. As it turns out, every single MIB movie is under two hours, with the exception of International, which clocks at just about 120 minutes.
The first Men in Black has a 98-minute runtime. Men in Black II is even shorter, with a running time of 88 minutes. Then, there’s Men in Black 3, which is 106 minutes long. With the ever-growing trend of longer and longer blockbuster movies – 2019’s biggest movie, Avengers: Endgame, is 3 hours and 2 minutes long – it is certainly curious to ponder on how short the MIB movies were and remain to be.
7 THE “KNOWN ALIENS” WERE ALL FAMOUS CELEBRITIES
During the first Men in Black movie, viewers were exposed to a panel of “known aliens” that existed on Earth. While the shot of the panel is over rather quickly, it is possible to see that the film was actually taking a jab at several famous individuals, including actors, politicians, musicians, and filmmakers.
Across the panel, one can spot Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld, his daughter Chloe, television hosts Al Roker and Isaac Mizrahi, filmmakers Steven Spielberg and George Lucas, singer Dionne Warwick, politician Newt Gingrich, and even actors Danny DeVito and Sylvester Stallone.
6 INTERNATIONAL IS THE FIRST MIB MOVIE WITH A DIFFERENT DIRECTOR
Barry Sonnenfeld was directly involved in the creation and development of the Men in Black franchise on the big screen. As such, Sonnenfeld directed all three first installments of the franchise, from 1997 until 2012.
However, as Sony began developing Men in Black: International as somewhat of a spin-off rather than a direct sequel, not only was actor Will Smith detached from the franchise, but so was director Barry Sonnenfeld. Consequently, International is the first installment of the series to be directed by someone else. F. Gary Gray, whose directing credits include The Italian Job, Set It Off, and The Negotiator, was brought on board to direct the movie.
5 THE MIB FRANCHISE HAS WON AN OSCAR
While it is not common for massive blockbuster sci-fi franchises to be given Academy Awards, the first Men in Black movie was quite the critical darling, earning it a 92% score on Rotten Tomatoes. After its release, the film was nominated for Best Comedy or Musical at the Golden Globes (and lost to As Good As It Gets), and earned three Oscar nominations.
At the 70th Academy Awards, which aired in 1998, Men in Black was nominated for Best Original Musical or Comedy Score, Best Art Direction, and Best Makeup. Despite the fact that it competed with none other than Titanic in the latter category, MIB took home that award.
4 WILL SMITH TEASED A FOURTH MOVIE A LONG TIME AGO
Back in 2012, when Men in Black 3 was released, Will Smith revealed to the BBC that a fourth installment in the series was already in the works. However, when asked if he would come back for another MIB film, the actor danced around the subject, stating that he didn’t “want to be the sequel guy.”
It is important to note that the idea for a fourth Men in Black movie has taken several different shapes over the years, and it is likely that Men in Black: International as we know it was nowhere to be found in 2012. With that said, Will Smith’s statement has not aged entirely well, as the actor is about to be featured on yet another sequel, 2020’s Bad Boys for Life.
3 THE 21 JUMP STREET & MEN IN BLACK CROSSOVER PLANS
Two major things happened for Sony in 2012: Men in Black 3 was released, ending one of the most beloved trilogies in the history of the studio, and 21 Jump Street came out, starting yet another extremely successful trilogy for the studio.
While the common ground between these two franchises seemed to end there, Sony very actively explored the idea of setting Men in Black and 21 Jump Street in the same universe, opening the door for a crossover movie. The email leaks from Sony in 2014 revealed that the studio had even hired screenwriters to pen the script, and by 2016, the project was tentatively titled MIB 23.
However, the idea seemed a little too complicated, and MIB 23 was eventually canceled.
2 AGENT K HAS THE SAME FIRST LINE OF DIALOGUE IN TWO MOVIES
One of the most fun pieces of trivia related to the Men in Black franchise goes nearly unnoticed by most casual fans. As it turns out, the very first thing that comes out of Agent K’s mouth in both 1997’s Men in Black and 2012’s Men in Black 3 is the exact same line.
Agent K, who is played by the brilliant Tommy Lee Jones, first appears in both movies delivering the line: “We’ll take it from here.” Not only is this a perfect line to establish Agent K’s authoritativeness as a trained agent and command of his craft due to his many years in service, it is also a very on-brand thing for this character to say.
1 INTERNATIONAL CHANGED THE MIB CANON
We all remember Agent K telling Agent J in the first Men in Black film that the monitoring of alien activity on Earth began sometime in the 1950s. However, with the release of Men in Black: International, fans now have to wonder if Agent K was lying or simply misinformed.
Charles Wood, who worked as a production designer in International, has stated that alien-monitoring operations on Earth may have actually started many centuries ago. This very long history not only makes Agent K look wrong, but it makes him look very wrong. However, given that the MIB organization is very secretive, it wouldn’t be entirely inconceivable to believe that the U.S. agents were never given the full story.