Movie Reviews

Men in Black International stars Tessa Thompson as Molly. As a kid, Molly witnessed the mythic Men in Black neuralyzing her parents after their home was invaded by an alien. Molly avoided the mind erasing and developed a single-minded obsession with finding aliens and becoming part of the Men in Black. Cut to adult Molly and she is still seeking the Men in Black. She has dedicated her life to finding her way into the super-secret secret agency and her opportunity has finally arrived.


Molly uses her computer hacking skills to locate an alien that is returning to Earth, with a nod to the Weekly World News tabloid, a callback to the original 1997 movie which posited tabloid alien stories as real stories. Molly's investigation stumbles over the MIB HQ and she invites herself inside. Once inside, a chat with Emma Thompson’s MIB boss, a character introduced in MIB3, she gets Molly a probationary gig as an agent.


As Agent M, Molly is assigned a task in the London office where she will be partnered with long time agent, Agent H (Chris Hemsworth). Agent H is a bit of a washout. Something happened the last time that he saved the world and he’s never really recovered. Since then, he’s bounced around from case to case, narrowly avoiding being killed and generally being a pain in the backside for his boss and former partner, Agent T (Liam Neeson), cheekily referred to as High T.


Together, Agents M and H go on a worldwide whirlwind that takes the duo from London to Morocco, to the lair of a criminal dealing in Alien technology, Riza, played by Rebecca Ferguson, and to Paris where the Eiffel Tower serves as a bridge for the worst aliens in the world to attempt an invasion that is being coordinated by a rogue MIB agent. M and H must find the rogue Agent and prevent the alien invasion while overcoming M’s inexperience and H’s broken spirit.


The story I have described for Men in Black International sounds like a story that should work. The arcs are clear with M pursuing her dream and overcoming her inexperience and H seeking redemption while not being sure of what needs redeeming. It’s not a special story but if you build in good gags and solid action and effects, this is a good enough structure to support them. Sadly, director F Gary Gray brings absolutely nothing new or fresh or funny to his take on MIB.


Men in Black International differs from the original, 1997 Men in Black by not being particularly funny. Neither Thompson or Hemsworth appears interested in being funny, each appears to be waiting for the movie around them to be funny and it never happens. Kumail Nanjiani, playing an alien, nicknamed Pawny, is the closest thing to a character that is genuinely funny but the laughs remain few and far between.


The only innovation that the makers of Men In Black International bring to bear on the MIB franchise is moving the action from New York City to London and several other international locations. Beyond that, the aesthetic of Men in Black has not changed much in 22 years. The ending of the first Men in Black had more innovation than this modern sequel and all that did was update the suits to high fashion and put Will Smith in a more modern car.


If anything, Men in Black International is a step backward for the franchise. That’s odd since the MIB3 literally traveled into the past and felt more modern than International. Men in Black International looks like Men in Black in every way which is fine for a sequel but the movie doesn’t innovate on the franchise in any way. Without bringing something fresh to the franchise and without being funny, Men in Black International struggles to justify its very existence.


Men in Black International is a bizarre failure. We know that Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth are funny, we saw that in Thor Ragnorak. And yet, there is no evidence of their humor in Men in Black International. Thompson is remote and occasionally withdrawn, delivering a perfunctory approximation of the uninspired script. Hemsworth meanwhile, rehashes pretty boy cliches that weren’t all that funny in Ghostbusters or the Vacation reboot and certainly don’t feel fresh here.


Men in Black International is professionally made. The film looks as if it should be entertaining. There is nothing wrong from a cinematography or design perspective and yet the movie is lifeless. The cast is going through the motions of a story that isn’t anything special and without any big laughs, Men in Black International just lingers onscreen going through the motions of a very average action movie.


A good example of the failure and lack of inspiration in Men in Black International are the film's villains. Les Twins, Laurent and Larry Bourgeois play characters literally referred to as Alien Twin 1 and 2. The pair is known for their innovative dance videos on YouTube and yet we get barely a sample of what makes the twins special. A scene in a nightclub is intended to give them a showcase but the scene is clumsily shot and the dancing is blink and you will miss it. 


The twist is that a rogue MIB agent is the true big bad which explains why the Twins have no real characters to play but then why include them at all? The inclusion of Les Twins in Men in Black International is further evidence of the mercenrary, marketing driven motivation behind this lifeless, soulless rehash of a well known property. The makers of Men in Black International hired Les Twins for their high social media profile and not to actually use them to serve a story being told. 


Why was this movie made? If the makers of Men in Black International had nothing new to say with this inventive premise then why did they make this movie? It appears to have been a purely mercenary effort on all sides. Everyone in the cast and crew appears to have been on hand solely to pick up a paycheck and deliver the absolute minimum effort with the only goal being to capitalize on a well known intellectual property.