Men In Black has always been a franchise plagued by missed potential. The first film is a sci-fi comedy classic, with an interesting world (universe?) and inherently cool heroes, while the second is a misfire on pretty much every level except visuals. The third outing is a fun adventure but came after a decade of nothing from the series. Now, we have International almost a decade after that, and interest in the franchise is at its lowest point. Sadly, this film does nothing to remedy that.
I really expected more from director F. Gary Gray, of Straight Outta Compton and The Fate of the Furious fame. To call the direction of this movie “bland” or “uninspired” would be an overstatement. The story moves along with no rhythm whatsoever, and Gray misses almost every opportunity to build upon the world that the first three MIB films established. Likewise, the action in this film is presented with competence, but nothing more. Put simply, the entire time I was watching, I was baffled by how a movie about Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth saving the universe could be so boring.
You’ve seen this plot played out at least two dozen times, and many of them better. In MIB: International, M (Tessa Thompson) spends her life trying to find the Men in Black after seeing them and avoiding the neuralizer as a child. When she joins, she partners up with H (Chris Hemsworth), a hot-shot and decorated agent who has fallen into mediocrity. Together they uncover a sinister plot involving terraforming aliens known as the Hive, as well as a potential mole in the Men in Black organization. Now, if that all sounds overly familiar, it’s because it is. Story beats in this film are predictable as they come, and worst of all, seem to happen for no particular reason. There is no feeling of momentum or logic to this movie; it simply plays out like a game of connect the dots.
ACTING | CHARACTERS | DIALOGUE:
If this movie has saving graces, they arrive in the form of Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth themselves. While their characters are completely two dimensional, they have undeniable chemistry as a duo. Their rapport is enough to help some of the jokes land, as well as make you wish they were in a better film so we could get a sequel. Elsewhere in the film is Kumail Nanjiani as the voice of a little alien named Pawny, Liam Neeson as Agent High T, and Emma Thompson as Agent O who was criminally underused. None of the acting is bad, but you can definitely feel Neeson phoning it in, playing a role he’s done before. It really is a waste of such a talented cast.
VISUAL EFFECTS | MAKEUP | DESIGN:
MUSIC | SCORE | SOUND DESIGN:
The score is entirely generic action movie fare, with no pieces or placements sticking out whatsoever. Perhaps it’d be more effective if I had more nostalgia for this series, but otherwise it was completely fine. The sound effects are good though, with high-tech weaponry firing off with weight and aliens making… well, alien noises.
Of all the film’s faults, this may be one of the biggest. The Men In Black franchise’s signature has always been its unique alien designs, and International does not capitalize on that in anyway whatsoever beyond its shape-shifting villains who sometimes appear in a galactic ghost-like form. The rest of the film is populated by generic creatures, with the villainous Hive featuring some of the laziest work in the series.
Even though nobody was really asking for a new Men in Black, there was a chance here to introduce this series to a younger generation of fans. I really wanted this film to be a success, as I love both Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, and I believe they’re a talented and winning combination. However, the movie fails them at almost every turn, with a generic plot, lifeless direction, and uninspired design. The film’s tagline is “The universe is expanding,” but after watching this movie, you have to wonder what good expansion is if there’s no life to be found.