One of the most well-known buddy cop movies first appeared in 1997, but this time the offenders were aliens rather than people. Since then, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, the main characters, have come to be associated with the Men in Black.
The producers felt it was time to say goodbye to Smith and Jones’ characters after three commercially successful movies and a great deal of fan support. Men in Black: International, featuring Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, was released seven years later.
Blame it on nostalgia if you will but fans were heavily offended and astonished by it as well. Everyone was left perplexed as to what went wrong. In 2012, Men in Black 3 came to a relatively tranquil conclusion with Agent K still alive and one of the best scenes in the entire trilogy.
What actually transpired, though, is unclear because Smith and Jones did not return for the fourth instalment. Why were they not back in Men in Black: International? Here is all the information you need to understand why the beloved combo left one of the most cherished franchises in history. Shall we get started?
How MiB 3 Ended
Just as the original Men in Black in the year 1997 and Men in Black 2 which was released in 2002, the third instalment of this franchise also revolves around Agent J and Agent K, played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, respectively. Because there’s time travel involved in this film, we also have Young Agent K played by Josh Brolin.
The story revolves around an alien criminal, Boris the animal, who has escaped from a maximum-security prison and now intends to seek revenge on Agent K, who captured him in 1969. Boris the animal’s plan includes going back in time and killing a young Agent K, which would alter history as well as change the timeline. Agent J also decides to travel back in time, to the day before Agent K is killed.
As we near the end of the film, Young Agent K and Agent J are looking for the ArcNet, which was a shield that prevented the Boglodites, the species Boris belonged to, from conquering Earth. As they retrieve the ArcNet from Griffin, they find out that they must deploy it to save the Earth and the lives of the people.
It just so happens to be Moon Launch Day in 1969. Young Agent K and Agent J must make their way to Florida, but before that, they get into a little riff, as Agent J insists that he must do this alone, but Young Agent K refuses. Finally, Agent J reveals that the reason he was there was to stop Agent K from dying, which is meant to happen the following day when Boris the animal kills him.
However, Agent K is the only person who can deploy the ArcNet and save the planet, and Agent J cannot do it on his behalf. Now, Agent J must try his level best to try and save the planet while also saving his partner from dying. Young Agent K, Agent J, and Griffin use jetpacks and make their way to Cape Canaveral in Florida. But, before they can proceed with the task at hand, they get arrested by the military.
It all happens because Agent J, on Griffin’s advice, explains the truth about how they must get the ArcNet on top of the rocket to avoid an alien invasion. When the Colonel shows up, this time around Young Agent K tries explaining the mission, but it doesn’t work. This is when Griffin steps in as he helps show Colonel the future, revealing the importance of the mission. The Colonel asks the troops to let go of the men, explaining that moving forward they will be handled by him. Griffin parts ways with them as the others make their way to the launch site.
This mission only seems riskier as they make their way to the top of the rocket, especially when they are both attacked by the old and new Borises. The countdown to launch has begun and their survival along with the mission’s success seems more and more impossible.
With the help of time travel, Agent J manages to knock the old Boris off the launch tower. Meanwhile, Agent K manages to put the ArcNet at the top of the rocket, right before its launch. At the beach, after the launch is complete, Boris the animal survives but the Colonel sacrifices himself to save Young Agent K, who then finally kills Boris.
Agent J watches on as a young kid, James, approaches Young Agent K, asking for his dad, the colonel, and shows him a pocket watch that his dad gave him. This is when Agent J realizes that he is James and that Agent K has been watching over him his entire life.
Agent J now returns to 2012, reconciles with Agent K, and learns that the Boglodites have been extinct for forty years. The film ends with an unaged Griffin breaking the fourth wall as he tells the audience that it was his new favorite moment in human history.
As we can tell, both Agent K and Agent J survive by the end of this film, and in fact, are doing quite well. So, why didn’t they return for the next film?
The Tea Spilled
There is no denying that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were the heart and soul of the Men in Black franchise, which is why when they disappeared and were replaced by Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, fans were confused, and some were reasonably upset about this switch; though there were others who were glad to watch Thor and Valkyrie fight bad alien dudes. But what happened? Agent K and Agent J have now been replaced by Agent H and Agent B in Men in Black: International, which serves as a spin-off to the original series.
As for Will Smith, he and the producers agreed that his story had come to an emotional completion by the end of Men in Black 3. We see his character go a full circle as he sees a younger version of him being raised by Agent K since the 1960s. This tear-jerker made for a great plot twist and ending of the film, but it didn’t prepare the fans for the end of his character, especially since he shockingly made it out alive after fighting Boris the animal and time traveling.
Will Smith traded his black glasses and instead went on to play Genie in the live-action of Aladdin. The only person who reprised her role from the previous franchise was Agent O, played by Emma Thompson. Neither Smith nor Jones was bought back for a little cameo, which left the fans wondering about their whereabouts.
Their inclusion as cameos was considered, but the idea was later put to bed because the producers worried that it would leave the fans wanting for more, and just like Agent J’s character, they also felt like Agent K’s story arc had come to a completion, rendering them almost obsolete in the future of the franchise. In addition, neither of the original duo were too thrilled to return to this franchise either, realizing that their time there had come to a peaceful end.
The Men in Black franchise seemed a little dead for about seven years, with no new releases and almost no concrete information about how they would carry forward the plot without the original duo. This is why when Men in Black: International was announced, with a whole new cast, there were mixed feelings all around.
Men in Black: International didn’t do too badly at the box office, even though the critics weren’t a fan of it but the franchise does still carry a lot of weight with it, and there is no way a Men in Black film can flop at the box office, no matter the plot or the cast.
But despite that, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson did a great job in keeping the franchise alive, and the fact they both have prior chemistry because of Thor: Ragnarok, also helped a great deal in this film. Hemsworth’s goofiness and Thompson’s charm were both welcomed by the fans, given the box office number, but that wasn’t enough for the producers to distract the fans from what they wanted – the return of their favourite duo, Smith, and Jones.
The Verdict: Can the franchise survive without the OG Duo?
There is a huge debate surrounding the question of whether or not the Men in Black franchise would survive without the original duo. Change is the only constant, is what often comes to mind, and when a particular story arc ends, the show must go on, which is exactly what this franchise perceived, and received a bunch of mixed opinions. No franchise in the world finds it easy to replace an iconic cast, but they try their best to compensate, nonetheless.
Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson might not have been as iconic as Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but were a great addition to the franchise anyway. If Men in black 3 proved anything, it was the fact that the majority of the film and some of its best parts were when Will Smith and Josh Brolin starred together, where Brolin played the younger version of Jones. The truth is, this franchise is based on a buddy cop theme, which requires chemistry between two characters, whether that is Smith and Jones or Hemsworth and Thompson shouldn’t matter, but sadly, it did.
Fans and critics witnessed the fall of the franchise right in front of their eyes when they failed to embrace a duo that wasn’t their original favorites, Smith and Jones. It didn’t matter how funny or compatible Hemsworth and Thompson were on screen, the fans wanted their old duo back. The 2019 film didn’t do too badly, but that’s because of the popularity of the franchise, so how long can they really survive? And how many new duos have to come and go for the fans to be finally satisfied or until they stop missing Agent K and Agent J?