Men in Black: International Review
This movie is neither as bad as you fear, nor as good as you want it to be. As such, Men in Black: International sits in a weird middle ground, entertaining but never remarkable, even though it has the ingredients to achieve that.
After a childhood otherworldly encounter, Molly (Tessa Thompson) has spent her whole life trying to track down the Men in Black. Reluctantly recruited by Agent O (Emma Thompson), Molly is reborn as Agent M and sent on her first assignment posting to London under the command of High T (Liam Neeson). There she encounters Agent H (Chris Hemsworth), a decorated agent who has lost some of his spark. But H’s past might be coming back to threaten the planet as a new alien threat arises.
Men in Black: International is fine. That’s really the best way to sum it up. It’s fine, it’s watchable, it’s not going to make any big waves in the summer movie landscape, and that’s about it. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are charming and still have the excellent chemistry that was so great in Thor: Ragnarok, and if you just want to watch those two being fun and charming, then this movie will give you what you want. However, if you want something more, and think that being charming will only get a movie so far, then you’re not going to find it here.
The first Men in Black film was a very well done, funny, and at times pretty clever film. It was self-aware - not in a referential way but in little ways - and ended on a note that poked fun at our small place in the universe. It also had that memorable turn from Vincent D’Onofrio as the space bug wearing a human skin suit. Men in Black International doesn’t really have any of that. There are a few chuckles but never any belly laughs, and some creative and cool alien designs, but nothing that will make the movie stand-out for you, although Kumail Nanjiani as sidekick Pawny and Rebecca Ferguson as an intergalactic arms dealer do come close. It’s a shame because there are times where you can feel it getting close to something really great, but it keeps falling short. It does still use the Danny Elfman theme though, and it was great to hear that again.
The characters of H and M are set up to be as different as possible from J and K. M isn’t just recruited to MIB, she has spent her life trying to track them down to join them, and H isn’t the veteran mentor who has seen it all - he’s a reckless egotist who crashes through problems with little thought given to long-term consequences. Yet it never feels like either is developed enough for us to really love them as characters. M claims that she has no life, and yet we’re never told what happened to her parents which were such a big part of a childhood incident that led her to MIB. There also seems to be a vibe setting them up as a little workplace romance, but it doesn’t entirely work because whilst Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson have amazing chemistry, it’s just not THAT kind of chemistry, and so the long lingering glances feel forced more than anything.
Supporting them is a cast that is yet again just fine. Rafe Spall gets some nice banter with H as Agent C, and Emma Thompson’s O from Men in Black 3 makes an appearance as the head of MIB New York, but it is all too brief and leaves us wanting more. Then again, I doubt any of us could name a movie where it couldn’t be improved by the presence of more Emma Thompson. Liam Neeson’s High T has a good dynamic with H, very much going to a mentor-mentee thing, but once again it’s nothing that will dazzle you.
The pacing bounces along from one decent, if not outstanding, action set-piece to the next, with a tissue paper thin plot full of McGuffins and possible traitors that is about as complex as a toddler’s jigsaw puzzle. It does at least live up to the international part of the title, taking us to London, Paris, Morocco, and Italy. Also never thought I’d see the day where a Greggs was featured in a Hollywood movie, but here we are.
It’s a shame when a movie isn’t good enough, but also isn’t bad enough to elicit any other kind of substantial reaction, and that is Men in Black: International. So forgettable you won’t even need a neuralyzer.
Men in Black: International opens nationwide in UK cinemas on June 14.