In Men In Black II, “the good and gentle townsfolk of locker C-18” live their lives inside a Grand Central Terminal station locker in New York City, only to see themselves transplanted to Agent J’s at MIB headquarters.
“They need to know the world is bigger than that,” J says.
“Still a rookie,” his partner replies, before opening up a door that proves they, too, are living inside a locker for a separate way station filled with much more gargantuan creatures.
When press arrived at London’s Leavesden Studios in September, the message was similar: the world of Men In Black as we know it becomes much, much bigger in Men In Black: International. As franchise producer Walter Parkes put it, “If the first three movies were New York City cop movies, this,” as the name suggests, “should be an international movie.”
Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones don’t necessarily appear in this movie (that we know of), but this also isn’t a reboot in the traditional sense. Parkes and fellow EP E. Bennett Walsh explain that the film takes place after the events of the original movies, beginning with the young girl that will become Tessa Thompson’s Agent M and her trip to a familiar wind tunnel.
One night, when Agent M was 6 years old, an alien accidentally dropped into her bedroom, prompting MIB agents to handle the situation, according to Walsh. They neuralized her parents, but the girl pretended to be asleep. Fast forward to adulthood, and she’s now a woman who spent years knowing the existence of extra-terrestrial life and trying to track down those mysterious men in black. Realizing that an alien is making an illegal entry in the city, she uses the opportunity to follow the agents back to their headquarters where she meets Emma Thompson’s Agent O.
“We don’t hire off the street any more,” she says, no doubt as a nod to Smith’s Agent J. But, she, as the story dictates, she becomes convinced and puts the new Agent M on a probational trial period wherein she’s sent to London to be the partner of Chris Hemsworth’s Agent H, thanks to a hyper-loop transportation system that connects the two MIB headquarters.
“We just treat it as, this is where we left off and now we’re going on a new adventure,” Walsh says.
“I think trilogy is way too highfalutin of a word but the first three movies tell a story and culminates with this realization that there’s no random occurrences in the universe, even this relationship [between J and K] had a reason at the end,” Parkes notes. “I think we all felt we told that story in a very full way.”
Smith’s J and Jones’ K live, however, on the walls of the London MIB headquarters. As Men In Black: International heads to the U.K. to delve into another branch of the alien policers, the art on display in the office of Liam Neeson’s High T, head of the London team, commemorate “great moments in MIB history,” Parkes says. “And you might see a shoutout to Will and Tommy there.”
According to Walsh, Parkes saw the first three movies as “black-and-white films. They’re set in NY, they’re very New York, the comic book was in the ‘60s, but [Parkes has] always said it’s a 1960s black-and-white comic in terms of that palette.” For International, given the new London setting, “What we wanted to do,” he continues, “is become very Pan-European and Pan-world and bring color into it.”
While Walsh says there’s an implication in the film that Agent O and the New York bureau are “more important” than High T and the London headquarters, London, he says, “becomes a launching pad” for the franchise.
“We imply that we have [headquarters] other places,” Walsh says. “In prior drafts of the script, we did, but in terms of effective storytelling, we just didn’t find a way to come about that. But if the film’s successful, we will certainly be going to new headquarters throughout the world… I think what audiences are going to enjoy a lot of is we’re opening up the world.”
Men In Black: International opens in theaters on June 14th.