Men in Black: International could nearly be billed as an alternate-reality version sequel to Thor: Ragnarok. Not only does it see Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson side by side as co-stars again, it’s filled with joke-quipping aliens to the extent that you start to really wish that Taika Waititi’s Korg would put in an appearance.
It’s been 7 years since Men in Black 3 was in theaters, and it was only a matter of time before it would get dusted off and tried again. Now, with some fresh casting and a new decade, it should be a blast right? Well, as Chaucer would have said , “Yes, and at the same time, a huge, resounding, no.”
This time we pick up in the early 90s, with Molly witnessing her parents get neuralized (their memories wiped) by a pair of Men in Black from her bedroom window. The experience of that (and helping the little cuddly-appearing alien make it’s own escape), sets her on a lifelong quest to become a sunglasses-sporting, black suit-wearing, neuralizer-toting member of the Men in Black.
That’s well enough, it puts a spin on the whole fish out of water trope that the series had based itself around. Rather than a muggle being thrown into a sudden awareness of a larger universe, Molly knows entirely well what she’s getting into and can hardly wait.
Agent H (played by Hemsworth), is the agency’s star field agent. However he’s far more akin to his receptionist character from Ghostbusters than he is with either Will Smith’s Agent J or Tommy Lee Jones‘ Agent K. He’s a James Bond-level lush and womanizer, but without any knack or skill as an agent. The vibe feels like the script thinks we should take him as an easy-go-lucky guy where everything just works out for him. Instead on screen, he comes off of as a no-talent hack.
There are plenty of jokes that land, and the minuscule alien, Pawney (so-called since he’s the pawn from a Chess board) carries as much screen gravitas as Hemsworth ever manages to land.
Thompson is easily the best part of the film, and manages to keep scenes interesting, even as Hemsworth is mugging for the camera. Emma Thompson is near-wasted by only including her in a few scenes could could as readily have been left on the cutting room floor and it wouldn’t have been noticed in the storyline. Whenever you have Emma ready and on-set, you make use of her, not just leave her to have a few one-off jokes.
All that said, there are jokes. The main caper of the film is a pair of alien bad guys chasing after hidden technology, and Agent’s H and M are trying to stop them. There’s not nearly the sense of doom of the end of the world an in the first one, the writing isn’t anywhere as tight as it should have been. But in the end, it’s saved by it’s jokes and sight-gags that do manage to land. There’s nothing that really comes as a surprise, and the final-act twist will likely have been seen by most members of the audience for at least an hour or more.
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars.
Men in Black: International opens galaxy-wide on June 14th.