Back in April we reported on news from the Sony ShoWest presentation that the studio was developing a script for a third Men in Black movie, something which built on the rumors from over a year ago that franchise stars Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were interested in suiting up for some alien escapades once more. Fast forward to now and an update has come out that Men In Black 3 has found its writer in the form of Tropic Thunder screenwriter, Etan Cohen (not to be confused with one half of the famous Coen brothers, Ethan).
Variety is reporting that Columbia Pictures (which Sony owns) has tapped Cohen to pen the script, but beyond that no deals have been made for either Smith or Jones to reprise their roles. Although I'd be very surprised if the studio didn't have talks going on with the two stars to come back for another if they've already got the screenwriter sorted out. Unfortunately the studio is currently staying tight-lipped as to the direction they're going with the story of MIB 3. Let the speculation begin :) .
What Columbia has working in its advantage even more than it did when the last Men In Black came out, is the fact that Smith is now a mega movie star, being pretty much the only true bankable name right now (in every genre). I've said it before but look at the numbers: his last 8 movies have reached the $100 million mark (worldwide), that's including the dramas Seven Pounds and The Pursuit of Happyness - put pretty much ANYONE else in those lead roles and they wouldn't have gotten close to that level of financial success.
As Variety notes, this MIB move is similar to the one they made with the Ghostbusters franchise, that is when they brought on The Office scribes, Lee Eisenberg and Gene Stupnitsky to pen the script to the third one (It's coming, we've been told over and over...). Columbia has few franchises at this point, with the shortlist including MIB, Spider-Man and Ghostbusters (not that I'm discounting them). Funny enough, Bill Murray, Dan Akroyd and Harold Ramis' first ghost-busting antics was the studio's biggest grossing film before, you guessed it, Men In Black came along. And then their Spider-Man came along and took the top spot for them. Funny how the movie business works sometimes, isn't it?...
The first MIB was written by Ed Solomon, the man who wrote the Bill & Ted movies. For some reason they didn't bring him back for the sequel, instead opting for Robert Gordon (Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events) and Barry Fanaro (I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry... ouch...). In my opinion, it definitely showed since Men In Black II was a big step down from the first one (although I had fun with it in a guilty pleasure sort of way).
Personally, I think Cohen is a fine choice to write the script for MIB 3 (III?). He's written some genuinely entertaining stuff, not the least of which was last year's Tropic Thunder (although he co-wrote it with Ben Stiller and Justin Theroux), as well as King of the Hill and Beavis & Butthead. Madagascar 2 is the only one that sticks out from his resume, but apart from that, so far Cohen has proven himself a worthy screenwriter. I still would prefer they went back to Solomon, but still...
I can't say I would be overly excited for Men In Black 3, but I guess I wouldn't mind it either. What would make it drop from sitting on the fence into the "not interested" side would be if Smith and Jones didn't come back. To me it wouldn't make sense for it to be about two new Agents, at least not at this point. I realize that if they make more and more of them beyond number three that they can't always have those two headlining, but I think if they're passionate enough for third go, that they should use the two already established characters and actors.
It's also the only way I think they'll really make much money - if the general movie going audience saw ads for MIB 3 and it was sans Smith and Lee, I really think a lot of people would opt out of handing over their hard earned money to watch it. Even if Smith demands a hefty paycheck to come back for another, I think him (with his audience drawing power) and the established franchise recognition will let it do very well at the box office. I just wonder if they can come close to the almost $600 million and the almost $450 million that the first and second movies made, respectively.
As with so much, only time will tell...
What do you think of the writer attached to write Men In Black 3? Would you pay to see the movie if Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones weren't in it?
No release date has been set for Men In Black 3. Stay tuned.