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SYFY WIRE Men in Black International

Men in Black International drops more details on plot and tweaks to franchise canon

By Josh Weiss
Men in Black International

Five months from now, an ultra-secret alien-monitoring organization will return to fight the worst scum of the universe in director F. Gary Gray's Men in Black International.

Thanks to Entertainment Weekly's latest cover story that covers the highly-anticipated sci-fi sequel/soft reboot, we now have more plot details on the film. Until this point, we knew that the story would revolve around young agents H (Chris Hemsworth) and M (Tessa Thompson) tracking down a traitorous mole within the MiB ranks. However, thanks to this new report, we learn that the mole hunt is kicked off after "an emissary from a powerful alien government is killed on H’s watch."

According to Gray, H and M are not meant to be replacements for Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones), who carried the first three installments of the franchise.

“We went into the project knowing the deep affection we and the fans have for Will and Tommy,” said the filmmaker, whose screen credits include The Fate of the Furious and Straight Outta Compton. “We’re not replacing them, simply adding to their team.”

Since the legendary Rick Baker (creature/makeup designer on the first three movies) is now retired, the world-building fell to Jeremy Woodhead, a veteran of the MCU, particularly Age of Ultron and Doctor Strange. Speaking with EW, Woodhead revealed that he came up with "between 400 and 500 individual sketches for production."

Interestingly, it seems like International will be tweaking the Men in Black canon in terms of the organization's original founding. In the first movie from 1997, Agent K  tells Agent J that the need to monitor alien activity on Earth began in the mid-50s, thought to be a joke, until the first visitors from outer space arrived on our planet just outside of New York.

Nevertheless, since the upcoming movie takes place at MiB outposts all over the world  (hence the title) in countries that are much older than America, the institution's origins may go back to before the 1950s. Production designer Charles Wood touched on this when he said:

“Whereas the original look of Men in Black was sort of set in the 1960s, we’re actually taking it back in time and saying that International exists in many cities around the world, and maybe even started a century ago."

This actually makes sense when you think about alien landings from a statistical perspective; the United States could not have been the only place in the world where aliens landed. Perhaps the Men in Black were founded in America before it branched out into to other nations that began to report their own alien activity. Another likelihood is that different countries founded their own MiB-style collectives before being combined under one name, sort of like the United Nations of extra-terrestrials.

All of this talk of intergalactic immigration is ripe for exploration in today's political climate, a topical subject that did not elude the makers of the film.

"I mean, the start of the first movie talks about immigration,” Thompson said. "Will [Smith] has these really searing jokes about race ... I think you do have the chance inside of all this escapism to say something, and make a movie that has heart and that has satire and that holds up a mirror to our stuff. I think that’s possible, without preaching."

Barry Sonnenfeld (director of the first three) and Steven Spielberg serve as executive producers on the project, which co-stars Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, and Kumail Nanjiani. Men in Black International hits theaters June 14.