I had high hopes for Men in Black: International. For the first time in this film series’ history, we have a different director contributing their vision to a Men in Black movie. Instead of the usual Barry Sonnenfeld (Men in Black 1, 2 and 3), we have F. Gary Gray (Friday, The Italian Job, Law Abiding Citizen) taking the helm.
We also have a promising cast change. Instead of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, it’s Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, a pair of actors who have worked with each other before in superhero films such as Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame, and have proven to be very capable comedic actors who work well off of each other. I thought the new blood injected into this series’ veins was warranted. Every Men in Black sequel has managed to fail spectacularly at being an enjoyable experience partially because they kept doing the same thing over and over again. They put K and J in wacky alien situations, introduced an alien MacGuffin that leads into an investigation, J cracked jokes and K stared at him humorlessly. We needed a change. Based on the trailers, Men in Black: International looked like a fresh and exciting take with a bigger setting to soak in and some new characters to become invested. This could have changed the status quo of the series and made it feel fun and relevant again. This could have been amazing!…….But it wasn’t. It was just another Men in Black movie. And even more depressing, it felt like the worst one yet.
The movie starts off in 2016 with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and his mentor High T (Liam Neeson) attempting to stop an alien invasion on top of the Eiffel Tower. Sounds cool, right? Well, you’re going to have to use your imagination on how that went down, because the movie awkwardly cuts to 20 years earlier where we meet Molly Wright, a kid from Brooklyn who finds an alien in her house and witnesses her parents getting neuralysed by MiB agents. We awkwardly cut AGAIN to twenty-three years later, where we see that Molly has devoted her life to seeking out the Men in Black. Her applications for the FBI and CIA are constantly denied because of her “delusions” regarding the MiB and the existence of aliens. Molly manages to track down the location of MiB HQ and makes a good impression with Agent O (Emma Thompson), who admits her into the Men in Black, renaming her Agent M (Tessa Thompson) on the grounds that she found the location of the MiB on her own and has no social life to speak of. Say, remember in the first Men in Black movie when J had to take a series of tests that had unorthodox solutions and tested his intelligence, resourcefulness, independent thinking, relationship with authority and powers of observation in order to become an agent? That was cool, right? Well, this movie takes a hatchet to that concept. Apparently all you need to do to be an MiB agent is to have a computer that can track stuff and have absolutely no life. By that logic, I could be an agent. “Back in the day, we would have hired her” says a nameless agent to O after she suggests they neuralyse her. I say those people “back in the day” were morons. Anyway, M is taken to the London Branch of the MiB where she gets partnered with H, and they both uncover a conspiracy that threatens not only the Men in Black, but the entire world, blah, blah, blah. I can already feel your disinterest wafting towards me from the future as I type this sentence.
Can we talk about the comedy in this movie for a second? Or lack thereof? Because it astounds me that this movie is classified as a comedy on Wikipedia and IMDb, even though this movie didn’t get a single laugh from me or the audience I was with in the theater. It was deader than the Catacombs of Paris in there. (Except for two cackling hyenas in the back, but I’m fairly certain they were on something). Not one joke managed to land in this movie for me. This new cast is certainly capable of delivering laughs, but the terrible script doesn’t let them. It just recycles the same jokes the series has been making for years, and replaces any sort of potential wit and charm with awkward rambling, a form of “comedy” that I’m not especially a fan. And to top it off, the plot is so cliché and poorly written it’s practically insulting. One major plot hole I noticed throughout the movie is that neuralysation appears to be more of an option rather than a rule. There are action scenes that cover multiple blocks and aliens who appear in broad daylight in front of crowds of people, but there are no efforts taken or seen to wipe their memories. Whenever normal people witness an alien presence in past movies, the first thing an MiB agent does when the situation is taken care of is neuralyze the witnesses. Here though? Whatever. Two aliens who can alter matter with their minds are running amok in the middle of London with no attempts at subtlety. Not a huge deal. No neuralysation necessary.
A majority of the plot points hinge on conveniences, to the point where you’re 5 steps ahead of the story simply by gauging how lazily the script is written. Nothing about this movie stands out comedically or creatively. I used to think Men in Black 2 was the worst sequel, but at least that movie had a scene where Will Smith spoke to an alien Biz Markie via beat boxing in a post office. That’s SOMETHING. Here? Nothing. Just lazily designed CGI aliens we’ve seen before, jokes we’ve heard before and jokes that aren’t funny, a standard “rookie cop” story we’ve seen before, an annoying alien sidekick we’ve seen before and two boring main leads whose comedic talents are consistently wasted. This was such a letdown. The best thing I can say about it is that it felt short. Why is the possibility of a good Men in Black movie always squandered with each new release? Was the first movie simply lighting in a bottle? Maybe, but surely with the amount of time that’s passed since then, we’d be able to think up something better than THIS. My patience with this series is now gone. This was strike three, and as far as I’m concerned, Men in Black is out.