Men In Black: International | F. Gary Gray | June 14, 2019
With the arrival of Men In Black: International, we seem so far removed from the original Men in Black. Its 1997 release marked it as the ultimate summer popcorn film, full of star power (Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones) and a ton of fun and imagination. The franchise has been seeking to recreate this magic with two more sequels but has fallen short on both occasions. Here we are 22 years later with Men In Black: International, a new launching pad for the series that is part reboot and part sequel, but nowhere close to anything that warrants dipping back into this well that has clearly dried up long ago.
Molly Wright (Tessa Thompson) has been on the hunt for the mysterious Men In Black ever since having a strange encounter with them when she was a child. In a 1996 flashback, she encountered a small alien in her bedroom and witnessed a male duo in black suits wiping her parent’s memories. Her hunt eventually leads her to the organization’s New York HQ, and her curiosity and devotion (as well as a lack of any sort of life whatsoever) win over the organization’s chief operator, Agent O (Emma Thompson), who offers her a job. Now dubbed Agent M, she is sent to the London branch, where Agent O speculates that something is amiss. In London, she works under High T (Liam Neeson), the head of UK Branch, and alongside Agent H (Chris Hemsworth), once the top shining star at the branch, but who hasn’t been the same since a legendary mission in Paris alongside T where they defeated alien foes “with nothing but their wits and series-70 atomizers,” or so the legend goes.
Molly acts as a surrogate for the audience, diving into this familiar alien world with new little quirks and some international flavor. The only thing is this is nowhere near enough to pique our interest and the story (written by Matt Holloway & Art Marcum) lacks any new creative juices. This mole-in-the-agency concept is as familiar as they come, and if you’re paying attention to casting, you’ll know where all roads eventually lead. Now it’s a matter of how you get to that final moment and it’s safe to say that Men In Black: International lacks any of the fun flavor or memorability that explains why this film exists despite the obvious financial implications in the hopes of re-launching this franchise for a few more sequels. You get the sense that there was only so much director F. Gary Gray could do, but you would’ve liked to see him add something new or some of his signature style to really make it his own.
No disrespect to either Thompson or Hemsworth; they’re both good actors who are the lone shining stars of a rather flat and unmemorable viewing experience. They already proved so handily in Thor: Ragnarok that they had undeniable chemistry, which showcased what they can do together. There are glimpses of that here and there, but not nearly to the same effect. Alongside Thompson, there’s a fun voice performance from Kumail Nanjiani as a little alien creature named Pawny and a solid turn from Rafe Spall as Agent C, a rival officer to Agent H in the London branch. However, the turns from Liam Neeson and Rebecca Ferguson – while not bad – felt too conventional and one note, failing to bring much new to the table.
In terms of a summer popcorn flick, Men In Black: International does enough to hold your attention thanks to Thompson and Hemsworth and a few action sequences that do their job as long as you leave your brain at the door. There is, however, nothing memorable or defining in the entirety of the film that stands out post-viewing. Sure, it could’ve been much worse, but surely should’ve been much better than just a somewhat passable viewing experience that you will forget about once next week’s slate of box office-hungry tentpoles are shoved in front of you.