How MEN IN BLACK’s Past Will Influence the Future

Grab your sunglasses and put your neuralizer in your pocket, because Men in Black is back this summer with a brand new installment, Men in Black: International. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, and Kumail Nanjiani, the film takes MIB across the world in an adventure filled with action, humor, new aliens and tech, and so much more. The Men in Black franchise spans multiple decades and generations, and there’s been a pair of producers who’ve been there from the start: Laurie McDonald and Walter F. Parkes. Kicking off their film career with the first Men in Black, McDonald and Parkes have a few ideas about the world building they’ve done, and where to take the franchise in the future.

The genesis of Men in Black was inspired by the comic book, according to Parkes, as well as the uniqueness of its heroes. “Laurie and I saw this comic book,” he explained, “there were three or six out of print and there were just some elements to it that appealed to us. The style, the suits, the guns. But beyond those two things, that they were human characters in an extraordinary world.”

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Parkes continued that the MIBs are classic existential American heroes, with a twist. “Whether they’re GIs or sheriffs, you go and save the town or in this case you save the world and the universe and your thanks is to get no thanks. You just go on because there’s going to be another emergency tomorrow. That sort of toughness inside of it really appealed to us.

Merging genres also appealed to the pair of producers. Parkes continued, “if you take science fiction, cop procedural, comedy, and action… for good or bad or indifferent, we’ve been able to follow the interest in those elements and here we are 22 years later and they seem to still be of interest to the audience.”

One of Men in Black: International’s newest heroes is Molly, played by Tessa Thompson. Laurie McDonald cited Molly’s story as the onus of bringing back the franchise after its seven year hiatus. “[She’s a] young girl who sees an alien encounter and also sees her parents being neuralized and becomes obsessed with finding out more about the organization,” McDonald explained. “We did feel there was something in that that was compelling and allowed us as creators to feel like maybe we can bring something new to it. So that was key.”

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Another key to Men in Black: International was its very Bond-inspired and retro feeling, featuring the agents traveling from location to glamorous location. This was a conscious decision, according to Parkes, who wanted the film to retain a realistic and grounded vibe. “I do remember seeing From Russia with Love,” Parkes explained, “and Bond’s in Whitehall getting his assignment; it says you have to go to Istanbul and on a cut on the John Barry music, it’s Istanbul. And at the time, the cut itself felt like a special effect.” This kind of globe-trotting adventure drew Parkes to the world of Men in Black. He continued, “I do think even just in the sort of progression of this movie there’s something, I don’t know, exciting in a way that we haven’t seen as much because again, it is rooted in sort of the wonders of the real world.”

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Speaking to that real world feel, McDonald was most excited to see one of Men in Black‘s signature identifiers: the building’s entrance in New York, which was actually torn down recently. “I’m thrilled to see that entrance,” she gushed, “the building from New York. And to see the guard, right? And you know what’s really kind of touching, that building’s gone. It’s been torn down. We shot it like the last minute, that’s gone. But to me, in some ways for fans, that does ground it in that world in a cool way, to see this young woman sneaking in rather than being recruited. I love that we managed to keep that in it.”

Fans may remember that before Men in Black: International went into production, there were talks of a potential crossover with 21 Jump Street. Parkes and McDonald didn’t count out the future possibility of this crossover, but also explained why this version never made it to the big screen. “I think in retrospect,” said McDonald, “the mashup doesn’t make sense, oddly enough. Because if you look at Men in Black, it’s sort of about accessing a very extreme world of imagination and science fiction and tie in some big ideas and playing it all very deadpan. Whereas Jump Street is sort of accessing more recognizable worlds and then going over the top with it. And actually those two things don’t mesh as well as you might think.”

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The future of Men in Black is still up in the air following the release of Men in Black: International. However, Parkes and McDonald are excited about the future. When asked about the possibility of more Men in Black in other formats, McDonald and Parkes both discussed the future in terms of VR and streaming capabilities.

“I recently started a location-based VR company called Dreamscape,” Parkes shared. “We’re doing a Men in Black experience. And you realize it works great for that because there’s a basic aspirational, in fact our teaser poster just has a black suit floating in black and it says, ‘We’re looking for a few good agents.'” He continued that the idea of literally entering the world of Men in Black is extremely enticing. “I could imagine,” he said, “not necessarily as a comic book or in streaming, but there could be other digital representations of the IP that would really be compelling because you are offering people to go inside the tent.”

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Obviously a franchise based on the existence of aliens is full of endless possibilities, but we’ll just have to wait to see where  Men in Black: International takes us when it hits theaters on June 14. What do you folks think? Are you excited to see a new Men in Black movie? And where would you like the agents to go next?

Images: Sony

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