Sony has finally decided on the next step for the sci-fi franchise.
F. Gary Gray will direct the next film in the Men In Black franchise, according to Deadline. After breaking onto the scene with 1995’s Friday, the former music video director’s career has been a fascinating ride, from the highs of The Italian Job to the deep lows of A Man Apart and Be Cool. After helming 2015’s breakout biopic Straight Outta Compton, Gray was handed the keys to the Fast and the Furious franchise, and guided The Fate of the Furious to $1.2 billion last year.
The Fate of the Furious was a difficult film to make, the first entry made after the tragic death of Paul Walker and the restructuring of Furious 7. But Gray was a steady hand at the wheel after that tortured production process, and that’s exactly what Sony’s Men in Black needs.
In classic Sony fashion, the next installment in the venerable sci-fi franchise has been through multiple potential iterations in the years since the third film saw Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones take their final bow back in 2012. As they did with their Spider-Man stewardship, the studio threw everything they could at the wall and waited to see what would stick. They pursued Will Smith for Men In Black 4, but he opted to jump ship for Suicide Squad and Bright, maintaining his hold on the Guinness World Record for “Most Bad Decisions Made By An Actor.”
At one point, hilariously, the studio turned in desperation to their popular 21 Jump Street films, proposing an elaborate crossover entitled MiB23. That idea, so perverse in its corporate audacity that it almost crossed over into brilliance, was offed unceremoniously and without warning for this new concept, which abandons the old continuity entirely.
For the new film, which Deadline is calling a spin-off, Sony is turning to Steven Spielberg and his Amblin Entertainment to resuscitate the ailing series. Apparently, the studio is hoping for something similar to Jurassic World, a fresh installment that maintains a sense of nostalgia for the original films. What’s unclear is whether there is any nostalgia for the world of Men In Black outside of the chemistry between Smith and Jones. The frantic attempts to recapture the magic seem to forget that even the creative team behind that first film failed twice to do so.
Hollywood’s obsession with IP makes it inevitable that any franchise with a familiar name will be resurrected and made to do the bidding of modern, corporate America. Why not make a new action comedy? Why does a logo we recognize have to be attached in order to get a movie made?
All the same, maybe fresh creative juice is what was missing from the series all along. Gray is a solid director of action who gets good performances out of his actors. The film will be written by Matt Holloway and Art Marcum (Iron Man). These are talented people who will put together a competent piece of work. It’s just too bad that Men In Black can’t rest in peace.