MIB Sans J: Alien Concept?
According to the IMDB, another Men in Black film is already in the works, with Oren Uziel (22 Jump Street) wielding the pen. The catch? Will Smith has said he’s finished with the franchise. The star, whose turn as NYPD-maverick-turned-galactic-peacekeeper Agent J helped cement his status as the King of July Fourth, feels that three MIB movies is enough for him. And it’s difficult to argue with that — trilogies have a poetic symmetry that’s lacking in series like, say, the Rocky films. That’s particularly true here, since 2012’s Men in Black 3 did such a deft job providing full-circle closure to the relationship between J and his mentor, Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones).
Yet the producers are going ahead with a four-peat. So, if Smith doesn’t play J, who does? Or does J have to show up at all?
There have been some rumors floating around both possibilities. The first — and most obvious — has Smith’s son, Jaden, assuming the role, in a reboot that introduces J at a much younger age (Jaden Smith is 17). The success of J.J. Abrams’ two Star Trek films, which followed a similar template — coupled with the younger Smith’s charismatic appeal — make these speculations a no-brainer. However, no mention has been made of an offer, and there’s no guarantee of Jaden Smith even being interested. He co-starred with his father in his last major role, playing a cadet space ranger in M. Night Shyamalan‘s widely panned After Earth (2013), and there’s a good chance it left a sour taste in his mouth about lingering too close to the elder Smith’s shadow. At his age — and especially since he’s already proved his chops with 2010’s remake of The Karate Kid — it’s more likely that he would want to pursue roles that take him a bit further from home, figuratively speaking.
The second possibility, of altogether eliminating the character of J from the fourth film’s storyline, has likewise sparked a rumor — and one so weird it could have come from another planet itself. Since Uziel struck gold with 22 Jump Street, there’s concept art floating around that shows Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum suited up as the new Men in Black, in an all-new crossover franchise: 2121 Jump Street, anyone?
No thanks. Given the heights of the current rebooting epidemic, nothing would come as a surprise at this point, but this idea comes close. It’s hard to imagine it being taken seriously by anyone, on a business level as well as a creative one. Why cannibalize the ticket sales of a potential 23 Jump Street by sharing them with M4B? After all, two films are better than one (look to another trend — the final-book-split popularized by Harry Potter, Twilight and The Hunger Games — for proof).
No, the Men in Black universe is teeming with enough possibilities of its own; there’s no need to crib from other properties. In fact, the last film provided a solid one by introducing the younger version of K, impeccably played by Josh Brolin. The actor is having a solid moment right now (he has roles in both Everest and Sicario), and if he was interested in reprising the character, an in-depth look at K’s early days with MIB could be an interesting starting point for a new trilogy. The groundwork is already there, complete with will-they-or-won’t-they romantic tension between K and Agent O (Alice Eve played the younger version of Emma Thompson’s role in the last film), not to mention the unlimited potential of the alien worlds themselves.
That brings up another possibility, even if Uziel decides to start fresh with entirely different characters: space travel. The original trilogy contained only a hint of it, with Rosario Dawson ascending to the heavens at the end of 2002’s Men in Black II. Why not send a fresh batch of agents on a few routine expeditions? With the recent discoveries concerning water on Mars, it’s a timely subject, and one that could open up new discussions about why so many alien species would be hiding out in New York in the first place.