Multiple Problems Plague Incomplete MEN IN BLACK III

     March 10, 2011

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Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black III has had an unorthodox production schedule.  The film started shooting in November with an incomplete script, scheduled a hiatus from December to mid-February to fix the rest of the script, and then pick back up and finish the movie.  According to The Hollywood Reporter, Sony Pictures took this bizarre route because they wanted to take advantage of tax breaks in New York City and spring weather.

However, the hiatus has now passed and the script still isn’t finished.  As we reported last week, screenwriter David Koepp (Spider-Man) has been brought in to fix the script by Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder) and later Jeff Nathanson (Rush Hour 2).  But THR reports that those re-writes aren’t going smoothly as the project is caught between Sonnenfeld, producer Walter Parkes, and star Will Smith.  Hit the jump for more details.

men_in_black_poster_will_smithThe plot of Men in Black III has Smith’s Agent J traveling back in time to 1969 to save a young Agent K (Josh Brolin) and thus save the world from a villain played by Jemaine Clement (Flight of the Conchords).  The film, which is set to be released in 3D on May 25, 2012, also stars Tommy Lee Jones, Alice Eve, Emma Thompson, Alec Baldwin, Rip Torn, and Sharlto Copley.

Sony reportedly started production last year because they were afraid that New York’s tax breaks might expire (instead, they were extended by five years).  Plus, Smith, Jones, and Sonnenfeld were all ready to return and the studio didn’t want to miss the opportunity to deliver the third installment of a franchise that has netted the studio over $1 billion worldwide in box office alone.  Factor in all the merchandising that the property offers, and it’s not hard to see why Sony moved forward on a $200 million sequel despite an incomplete script.

But that script may end up costing far more than the studio stands to gain from the tax breaks it received.  Parkes and Sonnenfeld are reportedly pulling the script in different directions and Smith is under no pressure to approve a script that isn’t to his liking.  Furthermore, time travel scripts can be tricky and the problem is compounded by the fact that the first act of the movie is in the can and so there’s only so much freedom a writer has to tweak the remainder of the film.

All of this would be upsetting if I was looking forward to a third Men in Black movie.  Thankfully, I could care less about the future of this franchise (although obviously I’m concerned about the potential jobs lost for the crew) and it’s far more fascinating to watch the behind-the-scenes drama rather than any wacky alien hijnks the sequel may offer.

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