In director F. Gary Gray’s reboot/spin-off entry to the popular sci-fi/comedy franchise, Tessa Thompson stars as Molly, a young woman who has spent her life seeking out the mysterious MIB organisation that visited her house when she was a child and having finally tracked them down, she is made a probationary agent by O (Emma Thompson), head of the New York division, and the newly christened Agent M is soon sent on an assignment to London where she gets acquainted with the heroic, popular and uber confident Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and teams up with him on a mission to show an alien dignitary a good time. But when the alien is attacked by two incredibly powerful, matter manipulating “twins”, M soon learns that a mole is active within MIB and as she gains possession of an important artifact that the bad guys are after, M and H must work together, avoiding being hunted by their own organisation, in order to prevent global annihilation.
This was another film where I was aware of the negative reception going in but given that the trailers made it look really good as well as the fact that F. Gary Gray did such a great job with Straight Outta Compton and The Fate of the Furious and that there have also been critically derided blockbusters such as Dark Phoenix that I thought were actually decent, I hoped for the best and prepared to disagree with all the naysayers and to actually have a good time with this adventurous film.
But sadly, the negative reception is entirely justified here because Men in Black: International is a big dull dud and a disappointing entry to Gray’s filmography.
Getting the positives quickly out of the way first, Men in Black: International looks good on the surface as the cinematography, production/costume design, special effects and the design of all the futuristic weaponry is sleek and on the money, and main stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson sure do try their very best, flashing their unfairly good looks at each other all the time, having fun where they can, and treating us to a little bit more of that Thor/Valkyrie chemistry that we love so much. Plus . . . Emma Thompson and Kumail Nanjiani.
But sadly, that’s all Men in Black: International really has going for it and the film fails because it has no personality and, despite promising an entertaining, escapist summer blockbuster, the film is just boring.
The biggest culprit would probably be the story because as well as being unimaginative and uninspired, it’s also quite confusing and for me, it’s one of those rare films that, when it’s all over, you’re still wondering what it was actually about – the plot is that forgettable and jumbled. Early on, it falters by having Thompson’s character hurriedly and inexplicably accepted into MIB after a brief sob story (realistically, they would have just neuralized her) and from then on, she and Chris Hemsworth (a little too cocky and arrogant to be supportive) bizarrely embark on a mission to provide some alien with an entertaining night out or something and afterwards, it descends into a common-or-garden story featuring a mole inside MIB (the final reveal of said mole being painfully obvious from the word “go”. You don’t even need to see the film – just take a look at the cast list and guess) and a globetrotting, sci-fi-y plot revolving around a McGuffin weapon, a powerful and unseen alien being, and a seductive, four armed arms dealer played by Rebecca Ferguson – introduced far too late in the game and her character is totally irrelevant. A waste of her talents. So yes, the story here is just one big mess.
Gray’s direction is also at fault because he doesn’t inject nearly enough passion, adventure, energy or excitement as he should have and as a result, the action scenes don’t excite at all, the humour misses a lot of the time (Piers Morgan joke. Sigh), and any emotional moments feel forced and halfhearted. It’s a shame because The Fate of the Furious sure was a fun adventure but now it seems that that was more to to with the material and the actors than Gray’s leadership; I’m sure that he’ll once again impress in the future but for now, his misjudged direction leads to the film being lifeless and a slog to get through.
This franchise really needs Will Smith.