Men in Black: International was supposed to revive the zinger-slinging, alien-blasting franchise with two hot stars straight off the Marvel movie path. Instead, director F. Gary Gray's reboot of the franchise had an uninspired box office showing and failed to impress critics. But don't worry, neither critics or the bigwigs at Sony blame Thor: Ragnarok's Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, the movie's leads. Instead, the problem seemed more structural in nature — something that comes up more and more as old IP is mangled and reconfigured to be the latest hit.
Tom Rothman, chairman of Sony's Motion Picture Group, doesn't beat around the bush. He knows the problem was the story and he's not afraid to say it — or compare it to his company's recent hits. Speaking with Business Insider, Rothman acknowledged that International wasn't "a restart in the way that we hoped it would be," even if the film will eventually make $250-300M internationally.
"I think the truth of the matter is the audience really liked that film and the cast was wonderful," Rothman said, "but if we made any mistake, I think it probably was that there was not a strong enough idea in the story. Especially when you compare that to, say, Jumanji, which had a very, very strong idea." Written by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (best known for contributing to the script for the original Iron Man), Men in Black: International sits at 22 percent over at Rotten Tomatoes. Words like "uninspired" and "halfhearted" fill reviews. As fun as it was to see the stars suit up, they didn't reinvent the wheel — especially not like left-field reboot (and smash hit) Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.
So did the relatively tepid response to the new film signal for Sony that the world was done with the Men in Black franchise? Rothman "would be surprised if that is the last movie." He explains that it's not set in stone yet, simply because there's still more money on the table. "I don't know the answer to that because we're not done yet with that movie," Rothman said. "That movie is still in theaters, playing out in the rest of the world, so ask me that question after ancillaries — after we go out in digital and DVD. I mean, we are making Zombieland 2 right now, the audience is crazy for that. But if you asked whoever was in my job a few weeks after the theatrical of Zombieland whether you're going to make another one, they would have you hauled off to the loony bin."
Even if International failed to spark a reignition of Men in Black fever in worldwide moviegoers, it was still a AAA comedy/sci-fi film from a major franchise...it was going to make some money. The only question now seems to be about the bottom line — and if Sony can find someone to write a story worthy of the IP next time.