Men in Black: International was directed by Fate of the Furious and Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray, and stars Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, and Liam Neeson as Agents H, M, and High T, respectively. In this new installment to the popular mid-2000s franchise, the Men in Black are facing a brand new threat called The Hive, an alien force that can transform into anyone (even one of MIB’s own agents), hell-bent on destroying everything we hold dear. Lucky for them, eager new applicant Molly (Tessa Thompson) has been vying for the MIB job ever since she was a little girl, when an alien appeared in her home and the MIB neutralized her parents; they didn’t get her though, and after 20 years of searching, she’s finally found them. It’s up to her and Agent H to stop The Hive, and save the London branch of MIB from total destruction, or even worse: infiltration.
I’ll admit I never did see the original Men in Black films when they were released, and despite my attempts to catch up before this came out, I found myself unable to pursue them due to time constraints and other personal goals I’d been attempting to reach with various writing pieces and such (my first piece for my Top Movies of the Decade series is out now and you can read it here). I’ve come into other series halfway through before, however, and it hasn’t really seemed to be a problem, given that the worlds those series were built around were well-defined and the characters were dynamic and interesting. Unfortunately, that only seems to be about half the case here, because despite how dynamic and interesting Hemsworth and Thompson are obviously supposed to be, the world around them simply isn’t built to sustain a whole new run to this admittedly half-baked franchise whose greatest claim to fame was that Will Smith just happened to be in the first one with the father of all movie sheriffs, Tommy Lee Jones.
For all the good will that Men in Black: International attempts to thrust into the world on the backs of some pretty terrific actors in its two stars (as well as a character named Pawny, voiced by Kumail Nanjiani of The Big Sick fame), it just doesn’t hold a lot of water as far as interesting ideas or characters go, apart from its main ones. Yes, the premise that The Hive, a vaguely defined and all but ignored antagonist on the character development side of things being able to turn into anyone, including one of MIB’s own agents, is interesting (if a bit overplayed in general across American cinema), but that’s the only interesting part of it. The Hive actually never does anything all that threatening that has any lasting consequences to the world around our main characters that can’t be erased from people’s minds or cleaned up by the MIB team.
To be fair, Hemsworth and Thompson do have great chemistry as a leading pair, and it’s easy to see how (post-Thor) they could carry a franchise re-fueled by nostalgia back to greatness on that chemistry, but no movie was ever sold on chemistry alone, and it just so happens that even with the added benefit of Kumail Nanjiani, MIB: International just doesn’t have much going for it. Sure, there’s the conflict with The Hive, and there’s the story of Agent M being put on her first assignment, but neither of those get fleshed out enough for them to mean much, which means that essentially, what we have is just a very long chase movie where characters go to one location, there’s a conflict, and then they go to another location, intercut with some scenes of MIB’s operations in the London office. The movie begins to introduce themes about relationships and trust but only skims the surface when it comes to addressing those issues.
And all of this reflects back on the main issue with International (and, I’m sensing, this review): it simply doesn’t know what it wants to be about or focus on. There are some genuinely clever moments it manages to sneak in, but none of them are tied to the main story because we don’t know what the main story is supposed to be. Early into the movie, we are lead to assume that this film is going to be about Agent M learning to be an MIB agent and teaching H how to be one again, except neither lesson is learned because the film just…decides they don’t need to be, I guess? M is already so good at just about everything involved with the agency (despite their apparent secrecy to the rest of the world, so she couldn’t have had access to it), and H so inept that even though she could teach him how to be a proper agent again, she never actually does anything like that. I know it sounds like I’m bashing this movie, but it’s truthfully not bad. I just realized at the end of it all, even though I had been entertained for the better part of an hour and a half, I didn’t end up caring about any of it when it was all over.
To that end, this will most likely end up being one of my shortest reviews, because in truth, there’s simply not that much to say. Men in Black: International is a surface-level, largely inoffensive, decent little film, but the lack of focus present in the story and in how that story develops the characters meant to carry a new chapter of this franchise forces the viewer to simply accept what it is rather than enjoy what should be, and the vaguely-defined, hollow villains of the piece don’t help that situation at all. If you wish to see this movie, I certainly won’t tell you not to, because it’s not (strictly speaking) a bad film, but I’m not going to recommend it either, as it’s just not all that good. It's just kind of...there.
I’m giving “Men in Black: International” a 5.6/10
- The Friendly Film Fan
Film critic in my free time. Film enthusiast in my down time. Writer for Bitesize Breakdown.