Men in Black: International (2019)
I was very surprised when I saw a trailer for a fourth instalment on the MiB franchise, based on Lowell Cunningham’s 1990 comic book series about secret government agents battling alien infiltration of earth. The third movie from 2012 managed to keep its head above water despite a very troubled production. At the time of its release, I like everyone else, pretty much thought that the series had run its course. Yet we live in the age of belated sequels as well as hard and soft reboots. And although Will Smith’s star may well be waning, Chris Hemsworth is still box office gold. Hence, we saw the release of Men in Black: International this summer. The basic concept of the franchise remains the same but this time the action begins in the London Office and then takes a more international journey with such locations as Marrakesh and Naples. Emma Thompson returns as Agent O and Liam Neeson joins the cast as agent High T.
After encountering aliens and avoiding having her memory wiped by MiB, Molly Wright (Tessa Thompson) spends years trying to track down the organisation. After infiltrating New York headquarters she is surprisingly given probationary agent status and teamed with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) The pair find themselves assigned to London, when a duo of shape-shifting intergalactic assassins, known as the Twins, kill a member of alien royalty. Investigations uncovers a missing crystal that may well be a devastating super-weapon of mass destruction. However, it would appear that the Twins may be getting information from within MiB, allowing them to stay one step ahead and avoid capture. Is there a well-placed mole in their midst? Cue copious amounts of chases, CGI driven set pieces and noise. Lots of noise.
Men in Black: International earnestly tries to change the mix and embrace change. Tessa Thompson’s addition to the cast breaks the gender stereotype of the MiB. The screenplay by Arthur Marcum and Matthew Holloway (Iron Man, Punisher: War Zone) explores the idea of aliens as migrants, rather than hostile invaders by default. Yet this interesting concept goes nowhere and the film soon abandons it to focus on the nuts and bolts of its remit. Equally Tessa Thompson who gave an accomplished performance in Boots Riley’s satire Sorry to Bother You, is hardly given anything of note to do. Her character arc follows a similar path to that of Eggsy in Kingsman: The Secret Service. Rafe Spall does his best with a supporting role as the nerdy agent H, sparring with alpha male Hemsworth to provide some comic relief. Everything about Men in Black: International is polished but perfunctory. It has all the ingredients but somehow lacks any originality or vital spark.
I was expecting Chris Hemsworth to carry this movie but all the enthusiasm and spirit that he’s previously shown in the Avengers movies and in the Ghostbusters remake is conspicuously absent. And then there is the spectre of Liam Neeson who fell from grace after making ill-conceived comments at a press conference just prior to the films release. Although I am happy to separate the film from the man, others may not. Overall Men in Black: International is a superfluous entry into the series. It is watchable and can provide a modicum of entertainment if you have some time to kill. But it really has little of note to offer and it doesn’t leave much of an impression. Where viewers may be able to recollect keys moments from the previous instalment with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, I doubt they’ll be able to do the same within a few days of watching Men in Black: International.