Men in Black: International – Review


Men in Black: International is one of the quietest big releases I’ve seen all year. I had no idea this film was coming out for ages. Now MIB is in theory a franchise that could really work. I say in theory because in practice it seems it hasn’t really worked. We had MIB II which was terrible, MIB III which was ‘meh’ and an animated series which I bet you all forgot even existed in the first place!?

Barry Sonnenfeld is not back to direct this film and instead we have F Gary Gray, known for ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and most recently ‘The Fate of The Furious’ (AKA – Fast and Furious 8 for UK audiences). I actually feel like F Gary Gray was a wise choice. I actually thought that at some points of Fast and Furious 8, despite the fact it’s a series at this point which has completely jumped the shark, it’s direction still felt like there was more effort put into it than Fast and Furious 7. I was interested to see what F Gary Gray would take with him to the MIB franchise.

Now I went to MIB international thinking that it was actually a reboot judging by the posters but nope, it’s not. It’s a direct sequel to the events of the previous three movies. The big difference being that the only returning cast member is Emma Thompson as Agent O. For the new cast, we have Agent M played by Tessa Thompson (who discovered that there were aliens when she was a kid and wasn’t neurolised) who wanders into MIB by investigation and presses them enough in order to be recruited. She’s subsequently transferred to the London branch to team up with Agent H played by Chris Hemsworth under the guidance of Agent High T played by Liam Neeson to investigate an alien doomsday weapon that has been left by a prince played by Kayyan Novak and to also look into a potential mole within MIB.

MIB International is one of the weirdest ideas for a Men in Black film. I wouldn’t have looked at a franchise like MIB and said, ‘What this needs to be is a globe-trotting blockbuster’. The reason the original Men in Black films worked is because they felt like rather isolated incidents, that actually leads the credence of the secrecy. Everything blends into the background. The reason why Frank the pug is funny is because he doesn’t look out of place in a New York kiosk. And yes, there is a Frank cameo in this film. We actually get a Frank equivalent with Agent M taking on an alien who disguises as a pawn from a chess board, who goes by the name Pawny, voiced by Kumail Nanjiani who is the funniest part of this film.

If you liked the previous MIB films, I’m not sure if this is really going to be one for you.

While aesthetically it’s still recognisable for the most part as MIB, on a lot of levels, they really don’t feel like they’re the same films. I’m glad that they didn’t try and make this a copy and paste of the other movies, but it still doesn’t exactly fit. The cast seemed to have been pulled in several directions, which means characterisation isn’t entirely there. Tessa Thompson & Chris Hemsworth are trying their best, but they don’t seem to have the same chemistry that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones had in their respective roles. Emma Thompson actually gets some good parts in the film but she’s barely in it to make much of a difference. Frankly though, my biggest problem with MIB International really was that I found it incredibly dull. It’s also very unimaginative. I’m serious, I have no real clear enjoyment watching this film. The film’s run time is just under two hours, but it felt like it went on for at least twenty minutes more than it should have. The film barely uses many of the MIB tropes and just decides it wants to be every blockbuster ever. For example, the neurolisers aren’t used all that much. You know, one of the key staples of MIB. Okay, admittedly I don’t want it abused as much as it was in MIB II, but you know what I mean. And then there’s the fact it just feels like a bunch of sequences and locations tied together.

Location hopping is really bizarre. The film starts out in Paris before we then go to New York and then to London, then to Morocco and then to Italy and then back to Paris. Seriously, pick a location and stick with it. The international tag line does give off the rather unsavoury thought that the film turned out to be a massive working holiday that we’ve now payed the budget for. Also, for the record, I know this is a plot point but there are way too many times that the characters are out of their suits. You know that line from the first film? ‘This is the last suit you’ll ever wear’. Yea, scratch that one.

The writing team for this movie is Art Marcum & Matt Holloway who were the writing team behind the screen play for ‘Iron Man’ but you also have to remember they did write some of the Transformers films and there is a definite hint to the influence in the latter one, granted, not as brainless and mindless as the Transformers films, but certainly the way in which they write characters. In fact, I actually think F Gary Gray’s direction kind of saves the film from being a total disaster.

Now the thing is, unlike X-Men: Dark Phoenix I reviewed last week, this one doesn’t make me angry. I just feel real nothingness while watching the film. It’s basically just there and it exists. It’s frankly a better film than MIB II which I have to stop to explain its plot every 5 minutes at incredibly stupid moments, but man, MIB International is not really what I was after.
What’s more, the special effects are actually quite good, especially with motion capture and the fact they’ve managed to do a decent job adding a third arm to Rebecca Ferguson who plays an alien dealer. God this film is the definition of a mediocre script hiding behind a franchise. MIB International really is a weak film. It’s frankly a film that stringed together a bunch of action scenes without much plot and it does not have the same substance as the first MIB film. Though it doesn’t descend to total disaster like MIB’s first sequel.

If you can’t tell who the mole is, it tries to offer mystery but doesn’t really do a good job hiding the fact the answers are all obvious and you’ll see them coming a mile away. Tessa Thompson & Chris Hemsworth, despite giving good performances, don’t seem to have the right amount of chemistry on screen to make it work. The biggest saving grace is that F Gary Gray seems to do a decent job with his direction and commands of Nijanni, who’s really funny, in his brief role. I’d actually skip MIB International as it feels like it’s a film that is just there. I feel like any plans to restart the franchise are probably going to go up in smoke.

Ok so two weeks in row I’ve done disappointing fourth entries into franchises. I’m counting X-Men: Dark Phoenix as a fourth because it’s the fourth film since ‘First Class’. Please can I get a decent one next time? It’s Toy Story 4 next week. With that being said, thanks for reading this. I hope you enjoyed reading it as much as I enjoyed writing it.
Calvin – Nerd Consultant

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