How Men in Black Changed the Entire Plot in Editing

It’s an interesting idea, and one that could have added a little more depth to proceedings. You may remember the plot of the final version of Men in Black, which saw the Bugs hunting a tiny galaxy that could be found on Orion’s Belt—Orion being a cat with a very fancy collar. However, the original version of the movie would have brought dimension, placing Earth in even more danger as we got caught between these battling factions. It’s also a war that the Men in Black would likely be woefully unprepared for, even before a third party of extremists attempted to spread gasoline and light a match.

But why were these major alien species’ functions changed in the movie, resulting in them becoming little more than a pair of fleeting cameos? What changed the minds of those behind the sci-fi story? 

A Test Screening 

Everything remained in place until an initial test screening. Footage had even been shot that continued to push this narrative, including the war that could put Earth itself in jeopardy. The alien species were fully developed for the production, and they were put to the test with a small audience via an early cut of the movie. VFX guru Eric Brevig spoke with VFXBlog about the result of that test screening. 

Said Brevig, “Well, what happened was the actual original storyline was significantly changed after the first audience test screening. Initially, the movie that we all shot had two warring alien planets that were alien races battling each other on opposite sides of Earth, and Earth was in the middle caught in the crossfire. There were two different names for the different races, and we never got to see them, but they were always being discussed in the Men in Black headquarters where there was a big egg shaped view screen that had all the information. There were diagrams trying to explain when one spaceship is over here, and one there, and here’s the Earth. It was just very complicated, and audiences couldn’t follow it.”

Despite the ambition, clearly, the idea wasn’t going to work. With plenty of moving pieces in place, audiences simply couldn’t keep up with the exposition dump. Too many new concepts and too many characters were being introduced at a rapid rate in Men in Black, and something had to be removed for it to all feel a little more streamlined. What’s more, it’s a little difficult to work out if the Baltians are also the villains here and whether the MIB would have to take action against them. That’s why the post-production crew had to step in to provide a lot more clarity.  

A Change in Editing

Once the film hit post-production, countless scenes were shifted or changed. There’s one specific example of this that you can still go back and find, demonstrating the genius way in which the editors thought on their feet. 

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