Unable to capture the magic of the original, Men in Black: International finds itself paper thin, with solid acting by the leads keeping it alive.
Men in Black, the 1990s sci-fi franchise, carried by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, was beloved by critics and audiences alike. Unfortunately, every sequel that followed it had a tough time reaching its own standards. While both Men in Black II and Men in Black III had the titular leads to carry them both emotionally and comedically, Men in Black: International seemingly falls even shorter of that.
The film is set about 6 years after the time traveling conclusion to the Will Smith MIB era in Men in Black III. Taking a change of pace from previous films, which largely stayed in New York City, Men in Black: International is very much a product of its name, taking the agents across multiple stops in the world, with its comedic tone and frantic, yet thin pacing.
Led by the Thor: Ragnarok duo of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, both newcomers to the franchise, they both represent the highlight of this film. Thompson in particular carries the film well and provides the closest thing to a classic MIB character. Hemsworth also does a solid job playing the whimsical and veteran agent, a far cry from what audiences are used to with the frowning Tommy Lee or Josh Brolin. The two play off each other well, with chemistry earned during their stints in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Men in Black: International follow Tessa Thompson’s Molly as she has been uncovering the secret of the Men in Black after seeing them as a child. Talented enough to be an agent herself, she eventually finds them and is thrusted unto a journey to save the organization she has been so desperately chasing. She eventually is sent to MIB London headquarters, a new HQ for the franchise, and meets Chris Hemsworth’s Agent H, and the two work to uncover a mystery to save the world. The plot itself is nothing new or special to the MIB world, instead it falls the flattest of the 4 films. With a story, plot device so cliche, twists seen miles away and character motivations thin enough to barely see, the film’s story is by far the low point of the film.
Will Smith’s presence is gravely missed in the franchise that has been intrinsically tied to him. One might think a similar plot but replacing Hemsworth role with Smith’s Agent J would have elevated the film. If one thing has been made certain, Smith’s star power is unmatched by few in Hollywood and Men in Black is not exempt from it. Still, for a pseudo reboot with very few call backs to the original trilogy outside of a painting and a couple of cameos, the film tries it’s best visually to be it’s own thing. This is subverted however, by using character themes of Agent K and other iconic soundtracks, only in moments where they feel weightless and make you miss what could have been.
On a personal level, Men in Black used to be one of the favorite films as a child. I used to watch the VHS on repeat and the original film continues to hold fond memories. That being said, Men in Black: International was not a film that felt did service to the film it tried to build off of. If the Men in Black franchise ends with Men in Black: International, it would be a shame. Still, if Sony wants to attempt one last hurrah with the franchise, bringing back Agent J & K from the original trilogy and pairing them with Agent M & H from this film, could be interesting and would drive seats to the theatre. Sadly, judging this film for what it was? I was left unimpressed. Hopefully the franchise has not neuralyzed itself just yet.