Men in Black: International
Updated: Feb 8, 2020
Franchises do not really die nowadays. They just get rebooted with new casts and slightly different stories. Such is the case with Men in Black. The first one, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, was a critical and commercial hit back in 1997. Its 2002 sequel did fine commercially, though it was not a good movie. 2012’s MIB 3 did a little bit better, but it was pretty clear the series was running on fumes at that point. So the answer was to expand the universe with a spin-off. The result is Men in Black: International, starring Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. It is a chance to see what the suit-clad alien fighters are doing on a global scale. It has the goofy tone and special effects action, yet it is much busier and less fun than the original. Despite charming leads, this is an ultimately forgettable affair.
Molly had an encounter with an alien when she was a child and has been looking for the mysterious Men in Black ever since. She finds them and is sent to the London office where she teams with the highly decorated H. Together they battle a serious (if somewhat undefined) threat.
Thompson is the excitable Molly (or M). Hemsworth is the arrogant H. There is very little to their characters beside those basic traits. They are ciphers to plug into action sequences, instead of fully realized people. That said, it is not the fault of the actors. Hemsworth is charismatic and shows solid comic timing, even if H is kind of annoying. Thompson is likable as someone achieving their lifelong dream. Unfortunately, she does not get interesting things to do. Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson are also around, doing their wise mentor shtick. The actor who fares the best is Kumail Nanjiani, maybe because he never actually appears onscreen. He voices a small alien creature who joins M and H on their mission. He gets more good lines than anyone else. The cast nearly carries the derivative material to something watchable.
It has been well established in previous movies that the MIB protect the Earth from aliens attempting to do it harm. International (105 minutes without the end credits) applies that premise in an overly complicated plot, with plenty of excuses for its heroes to travel to various countries. It may have been smarter to introduce these characters in a simpler story, then dive deeper if this is successful enough to warrant a sequel. This approach feels like way too much at once. The characters are left as outlines and the plot is more messy than fun. The villains are never completely explained, so it just becomes one crazy sight after another. Summer moviegoers are used to crazy sights. Something substantial is needed to maintain their attention. This adventure fails to offer that.
What it does offer are a bunch of explosions and agent versus alien fight scenes. The action is not bad necessarily; it is serviceable without bringing anything new to the table. If I am unable to care about the characters or story, the action is merely noise. That is certainly what ends up happening here. Some of the creatures are cool looking, but they do not have enough personality to leave a lasting impression.
Men in Black: International is a product that exists so consumers will not forget Men in Black. It strips the concept down to its bare elements: suits, aliens, quips and explosions. When people talk about a popcorn movie, they generally mean something where the viewer does not have to think while watching. This is one where they were not doing a whole lot of thinking while making it, either.
2 out of 5
Chris Hemsworth as Agent H
Tessa Thompson as Agent M
Liam Neeson as Agent High T
Kumail Nanjiani as voice of Pawny
Rafe Spall as Agent C
Emma Thompson as Agent O
Rebecca Ferguson as Riza
Directed by F. Gary Gray
Written by Matt Holloway and Art Marcum