This past Friday saw the F. Gary Gray-directed “Men in Black International” hit cinemas. Reviews were pretty terrible from critics, audiences gave it a meh ‘B’ CinemaScore, and the box-office wasn’t much better with an opening weekend of $30 million in the United States – down from the $50+ million the three previous movies pulled in at opening.
A new piece for Heat Vision has gone into the problems behind the part spin-off/part refresh which seems to have faced a whole different set of challenges than the even more disastrous “Dark Phoenix”. Whereas that film suffered from extensive reshoots and retooling in post-production, the problems here all happened during the main shoot with post-production said to have gone smoothly.
Those problems? The issue stemmed from a tug of war between director F. Gary Gray and producer Walter Parkes, not to mention a studio who essentially stayed out of the whole thing as it tried to limit its own damage.
The studio was said to be initially high on the screenplay by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway according to numerous sources who praised the initial drafts. But when Sony production vp David Beaubaire exited in mid-2018, the film lost its main overseer which led to the unchecked Gray-Parkes clash of vision.
As a result, subsequent writing saw the edgier elements and modern sensibilities, including a thematic story tying to issue of immigration, stripped away. In addition, the original villain was a Beatles-esque music group with four people who merge into one character – they were jettisoned.
Parkes, who has penned his own acclaimed films in his time including “War Games” and “Sneakers” and has been involved with this franchise for years, was said to have had a heavy hand in overseeing rewrites during pre-production and filming.
New pages arrived daily for the actors, causing confusion, which led to Thompson and Hemsworth then hiring their own dialogue writers who were the ones most likely responsible for the widely lambasted dialogue their characters spout in the film.
Parkes, who had final cut on the film, also stepped in on helming duties at times though no DGA rules were said to have been violated. Gray tried to exit the production several times but was convinced to stay by the studio who was otherwise an “absentee landlord” according to sources.
The studio tested two cuts – one by Gray, on by Parkes – with Parkes’ version being the cut chosen. Sony’s deal with Tencent and several other co-financiers, along with a tie-in heavy marketing campaign to keep publicity budget spending down, limited their exposure on the $110 million budget film.
As one source said, the big problem is the film had no real reason to be and so “the urgency to see this was never there”.
“Men in Black International” is playing in cinemas now.