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Review: Men in Black: International (2019)

Men in Black: International (2019)

Directed by: F. Gary Gray

Premise: A spinoff of the series. A trainee (Tessa Thompson) is paired with an established agent (Chris Hemsworth) from the London office of the Men in Black. They suspect a mole within the organization is working on behalf of an alien species that threatens life on Earth. 

What Works: Men in Black is a soft reboot of the series. It does not restart or overwrite the existing films but rather expands the story world. A few of the supporting characters from the earlier movies return for this installment, namely a senior agent played by Emma Thompson, but the point of this film is to introduce new characters and expand the Men in Black universe. The picture accomplishes that and Men in Black: International replicates the fun, good humor, and excitement of its predecessors. While it is not as good as the 1997 original, the fourth film is definitely a better movie than Men in Black II and is about on par with 3. Men in Black: International focuses on a new agent and an experienced veteran played by Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, respectively. Thompson and Hemsworth, who previously worked together on Thor: Ragnarok, are an effective on screen duo. They are likable and funny but also distinct from Agents J and K in the earlier films. Although the new film replicates the newbie and mentor relationship, Thompson and Hemsworth’s characters are different enough from the agents played by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones.

What Doesn’t: Men in Black: International does not re-invent the series. It’s not really intended to do that but the new film offers very little that we haven’t seen before. The premise of Men in Black: International is an opportunity to expand the story world—the very title suggests this—but most everything in this movie is familiar from the art direction to the gags to the story structure. It remains within the boundaries established by the earlier movies and the filmmakers take no risks. The plotting of International is haphazard. The overall story makes sense but the film lacks a coherent purpose; it’s not always clear what the movie is about. The villain played by Rebecca Ferguson is dropped into the ending almost as an afterthought and the mole storyline is underdeveloped. The movie feels disjointed in part because it works through a checklist of familiar Men in Black tropes and strains to embed all of them into the story. That’s especially evidenced by a tiny alien voiced by Kumail Nanjiani. The other Men in Black films typically included an alien sidekick and Nanjiani’s character fits that role here. He’s funny but the alien character has no purpose to the story aside from cracking wise.

Bottom Line: Men in Black: International is an acceptable addition to this franchise. It doesn’t do much that’s new and the storytelling is spasmodic but Men in Black: International is anchored by likable characters and it succeeds as popcorn entertainment. 

Episode: #754 (June 23, 2019)