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One of the saddest and most disappointing pieces of entertainment news over the last week was that Men in Black International is not a very good movie.
Directed by F. Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton), the sequel/soft reboot to Sony's lucrative science fiction/comedy/action franchise tanked at the box office during its first weekend in theaters with less than $30 million. Critics were not any kinder to the feature, with nearly every review begging for a flash of the ol' neuralyzer, a fictional device used by the MiB to erase the memories of witnesses to extra-terrestrial events.
Thanks to a new report from The Hollywood Reporter, we now have a better idea of what may have gone sideways with the project, which was originally supposed to be a lot more topical, tackling such relevant themes as immigration. The motif is certainly touched upon in International, but not greatly fleshed out. As it turns out, the film we got was supposedly very different from the one initially written by the Iron Man team of Art Marcum and Matt Holloway.
"Early drafts of the script were described as being edgier and more timely, tying the story to ideas of immigration. At one point, a music group a la The Beatles were to be the bad guys, with four people merging into one villain," reads the THR report. It also details "multiple sources" claiming that producer Walter Parkes, who had final cut, was involved in "overseeing rewrites" throughout the course of production.
Similar to the immigration parallels, echoes of the Fab Four baddies did make it into the final version of the movie with Les Twins (aka Laurent and Larry Bourgeois) playing a pair of ethereal, shapeshifting aliens thought to be members of the nefarious Hive.
Unfortunately, alleged creative conflicts led to two cuts being tested by the studio, the report claims. In the end, per THR, Parkes' cut won out, and that's the one reportedly playing in theaters right now.
The movie certainly had an impressive pedigree as it hit the promotional circuit, with Steven Spielberg attached as executive producer and an all-star cast of Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Ferguson, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, and Rafe Spall. While its current box-office performance casts a shadow on a potential sequel, don't count out this franchise anytime soon.
As a studio executive tells THR, the franchise's concept is a "great idea", and the exec predicts that “Men in Black will be revisited again at one point, either as a series, as streaming, or as another movie.”