Why’d it Bomb? Men in Black 3

Right now, there are two sci-fi sequels out (two admittedly otherwise very different movies), Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2 and Alien: Covenant. Therefore, it’s the perfect time to mention Sony’s failed attempt from a few years ago at reinvigorating a big sci-fi franchise. Men in Black was somewhat of a surprise hit in 1997. Based on an obscure comic book starring someone whose more of a character actor and someone who, though he already had a couple of hits under his belt, was still more so known for his sitcom and rap career, it ended up becoming beloved by critics and audiences and it was a huge hit at the box office (and basically made Will Smith a movie star). It was then followed up with a cartoon that was successful enough to run for a few years.

But then Director Barry Sonnenfeld and star Will Smith’s attempts at capitalizing on Men in Black didn’t turn out so well. Their second movie together, Wild Wild West, was lambasted by critics and audiences and it was a box office disappointment. They then teamed up 3 years later to do Men in Black 2, which was successful at the box office but critics didn’t like it and it’s seen by most as a disappointing sequel.

Despite this, rumors had been circulating about a Men in Black 3 for years. But it also took years to make. It probably didn’t help that Smith and Sonnenfeld’s relationship had soured on the set of Men in Black 2, causing Sony to not even want to bring Sonnenfeld back at first. There were also dozens of rewrites and they had to wait a long time to see if Will Smith was even coming back. They also had to shut production once. However, it finally came out 10 years after the original and the movie actually got decent reviews, especially reviews that were better than Wild Wild West or Men in Black 2.

Also, it technically made the most of the three but that’s only the case when you add both domestic and foreign grosses. Domestically, it did not make its money back, as it made $179 million on a $225 million budget, while the first two did make their money back domestically. Thanks to that, the Men in Black franchise has more or less been put back to square one, as there hasn’t been another sequel but there’s been rumors of sequels, reboots, and even a crossover with 21 Jump Street. Also, the only work Barry Sonnenfeld can get now is movies where Kevin Spacey turns into a cat. But why was it a domestic flop? Why didn’t it do better in America?

4. Competition
The Avengers was out around the same time. ‘Nuff said.

3. It went over-budget
Men in Black 3‘s actual box office grosses weren’t drastically different from its predecessors but its budget was. Men in Black and Men in Black 2 were made on budgets of $90 million and $140 million respectively, which MIB and MIB 2 had no problem making back in the states alone. However, because of MIB 3‘s troubled production, it ended up going over-budget and was made on a budget of $225 million dollars. As it turns out, that wasn’t exactly easy to make back domestically and, unfortunately, the movie did not make that money back.

2. Will Smith’s declining popularity
Before Men in Black 2, Will Smith hadn’t acted in a movie for 4 years. Instead, he decided to use that time to try to push his kids in the spotlight. That probably turned a few people off from him and it made them not want to see the movie, especially when this movie came out only 2 years after The Karate Kid, which starred Will’s son Jaden, and the song Whip My Hair, sung by his (at the time) 10-year old daughter Willow. Unfortunately, this movie also seems to have started a trend, as any movie that he’s headlined since has not made its money back in the states. The only possible exception is Suicide Squad but it’s debatable whether or not you could really pin the success of that movie on him (or whether or not he’s really the “star” of the movie).

1. It came out too late
I wouldn’t say Men in Black is a movie that’s forgotten but, considering it came out 10 years after it’s predecessor, people probably stopped caring about a Men in Black sequel after a while. Therefore, the demand for a Men in Black sequel was probably rather low, as far as America is concerned at least. As a result, seeing as there was little interest in the movie, not as many people in America went.

Thankfully for the movie, though, other countries still seem to love the Men in Black, as it made all of its money overseas. While this caused the movie to still be a big enough hit, it’s not really one that’s causing Sony to fast track a sequel in production. But, considering how popular the first movie was, it was a shame it wasn’t a bigger movie and was, instead, just another sequel that was quickly forgotten.


Posted on May 31, 2017, in Why'd it bomb? and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 4 Comments.

  1. Josh Brolin as the younger version of Tommy Lee Jones is the sole standout thing in this movie. It is otherwise completely forgettable.


    • I wouldn’t necessarily say that. My memory of the movie is fuzzy which bolsters your “forgettable” claim. I remember also liking Emma Thompson and just being pleasantly surprised overall. Admittedly, my expectations were very low after MIB 2 and the stories of production being shut down.

      You’re not going to top the first one. A big part of the original movie’s appeal was how fresh it felt. Any sequel is bound to feel less imaginative. But I thought MIB 3 was about as good of a sequel as I could reasonably expect.


    • I do remember liking the villain and the guy who could be at different places at once but, I’ll admit, I don’t really remember about 90% of what went on in the movie. Only other thing that stuck out to me was that the green screen effects were surprisingly awful for a big budget movie that came out in the 2010’s.


  2. Happy 20th, #MenInBlack. Here’s how the Will Smith-Tommy Lee Jones flick changed movies.


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