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Men in Black: International – Movie Review

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Men in Black: International – Movie Review

Rating: B- (Okay)

Trailer/Thumbnail Courtesy Sony Pictures

Barry Sonnenfeld’s Men in Black depicted the concept of secret government agents dealing with extra-terrestrial life under our noses in clever and funny ways. While the sequels tried, they just didn’t quite capture that same freshness. Shifting the focus to a new duo and showing us an international branch of the organisation allows for a great opportunity to enliven the series. However, the result is instead more of the same, with even Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth’s chemistry not quite hitting the same spark they had in previous collaborations. A few moments of inspiration appear in Men in Black: International, but everything else is just going through the motions.

The movie does begin promisingly enough, when we’re first introduced to Thompson’s Molly. Her obsession and drive to find the Men in Black gives her a solid character arc and director F. Gary Gray shows off some creative visual ideas. Thompson does a good job of showing Molly’s optimism and genuine interest in aliens and brings her trademark charm to the role. However, once she infiltrates the agency, the larger plot eventually takes over and the film slips into the familiar Men in Black formula. The film doesn’t give Thompson and Hemsworth’s Agent H the same personality traits as Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the Sonnenfeld films, which is good. Yet, even then, there’s not much of a connection felt from their partnership. This is surprising, as they played so well off each other in Thor: Ragnarok.

We get plenty of globe-trotting and Gary does an adequate job on the action scenes, but there’s little original about their adventures. There are even revelations that are telegraphed a mile away and so, it’s just a wait for the inevitable. The main villains are not that interesting or threatening, lessening the fun and excitement this concept should have. The aliens are overall a mixed bag. We get a few clever aliens here and there, with a tiny one voiced by Kumail Nanjiani getting the biggest laughs. He gets the best design and the best lines and even then, he only pops up when the plot requires him to.

One disappointing aspect is that while the earlier films thrived on Rick Baker’s brilliant creature makeup and prosthetics, International only opts for CGI. The special effects are good, but they also underline why Baker ultimately retired from the industry. Even though this movie changes focus to MIB’s London branch, Gray and the production team don’t have much fun with that. It doesn’t feel like the London aliens are that different from the ones we encountered in New York. There’s not as much exploration of the cultural differences between the branches, even though the opportunity presents itself. Everything about Men in Black: International plays it safe.

This ultimately becomes just another Men in Black movie, rather than finding a way to spruce up the franchise. The filmmakers stick with the familiar story beats, but what makes this all the more disappointing is that we know the two leads can work well together. Tessa Thompson is one of today’s best young actresses and Chris Hemsworth frequently brings an element of charm to his roles. We get a couple of glimmers of this, but not enough for what is intended as a buddy movie. Men in Black: International is just another summer sequel, a popular property returning for the hotter months and then forgotten by the time Labour Day rolls around.

Stefan Ellison

Stefan Ellison