Retreating once again into a formula that proved successfully exactly one time, Men In Black returns in 2019, this time global and with a – gasp – female lead in this tireless and bland retreat into the universe no one asked for. Starring Chris Hemsworth, Liam Neeson and Tessa Thompson, Men In Black: International plays off the stock standard characterisations brought to life already in the franchise by Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. Indeed in the 1990’s there was enough camp that proved for the concept of secret government agents fighting aliens to be successful and spurned a small following that certainly dwindled by the third outing in 2013 where Josh Brolin also become involved in the series.
Here Agent H (Hemsworth) and Agent High T (Neeson) fight the aliens in a flashback that lacks any intrigue, as we also see Agent M (Thompson) as a young child witnessing her first alien and seeing the powers of the Men In Black, notably the stick that removes people’s memories (am I bringing this back to you?). Now M is obsessed with the MIB and joins before being placed with H. There are a few scenes with the leader of the whole operation Agent O (Emma Thompson), particularly one that tries to challenge the gender stereotype of the department, but it largely goes amiss and is never really mentioned again. Soon H and M are placed on assignment and an international chase begins that leads them back to the events of the first flashback.
To say the story is dull is an understatement. Everything that made the franchise remotely likeable is gone here: aliens barely feature in talking roles, the script is bereft of any wit or humour and the CGI sequences are laughable to say the least. The plot walks through sequence by sequence across the world, though it never really feels authentic.
Most depressingly is the utter lack of use of both Hemsworth and Thompson’s talents. Thor: Ragnarok inspired confidence in the duo in their comedic sparring but safe to say the script and direction lack inspiration or any understanding of what made the franchise rock. The combined action and comedy is missing, and for two talented actors, there is little chemistry because of the stiff writing. Hemsworth has more chance to shine, though it is far from his recent roles. Kumail Nanjiani has a small role as Pawny, a comical alien with a handful of good lines, easily replacing the talking pug character from the earlier renditions. There’s even a scene with Rebecca Ferguson that is so forgettable, her name appearing the credits almost comes as a shock.
The film never takes off as an exciting science fiction film nor buddy comedy, and they prove no match for the original. But it also doesn’t justify its existence enough to warrant being made. It’s a slog to watch and when the end comes, you can’t help but feel unsatisfied. And I can guarantee half an hour later feeling like you have been neuralysed and forgotten the movie existed.
Glad to see Tessa Thompson headlining a film and getting some recognition as both an excellent actress and blockbuster drawcard. Also Emma Thompson’s hair is *fire emoji*
Unexciting, unfunny script wastes the talents of everyone involved. Too much CGI, not enough authenticity and a bit of a waste of time.
Originally published on Back Row, 13 June, 2019.