Men in Black: International
Director(s): F. Gary Gray
Writer(s): Art Marcum and Matt Holloway
Cast: Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Laurent Bourgeois and Larry Bourgeois
Reviewed by: Ian Evans on
Release Date(s)Jun 14, 2019 - Wide
There’s an old adage that says you don’t buy beer, you rent it. Men in Black: International is the cinematic equivalent of that. While you might enjoy moments of its consumption, it’s not going to stick with you in any way.
We start twenty years ago, when a young space nerd’s family encounters an alien. The Men in Black visit to deal with the situation but only her parents get hit with the memory changing blast of the neurolyzer. Flash forward to the present day and Molly (Tessa Thompson) is still obsessed with finding and joining the secretive organization. When she tracks down their secret headquarters, she is interrogated and then recruited by O (Emma Thompson), who sends her off to the London office run by High T (Liam Neeson). She is teamed up with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) to protect a visiting alien dignitary, but events change their plans. They must now stop a planet-killing weapon from getting into the wrong hands while also rooting out the mole in MiB.
The latest installment of the MiB franchise has all the elements we’ve come to expect: snazzy black suits, wise-cracking aliens, and a dazzling arsenal of weapons designed to fight intruders from other galaxies. What it lacks is a clear purpose for being. Hemsworth’s Agent H was a star in the MiB ranks but now he appears to be going through the motions and doing his job with a certain amount of disinterest. This is mirrored by the film. It’s a bit odd to see Thompson and Hemsworth teamed up in this film. They had excellent chemistry in Marvel’s Thor: Ragnarok and it’s like they were hired to recreate that energy but not given the right tools to do it. If writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway gave them more than a paint by numbers script, the chemistry might actually have resulted in ignition.
The biggest supporting player is actually the film’s smallest character, the fit-in-your-pocket alien Pawny, who is voiced to sarcastic perfection by Kumail Nanjiani. If this MiB outing results in another film with these characters, I’d only go along for the ride if Pawny’s role was expanded. Heck, I’d watch a spin-off movie with this character.
The movie’s other Thompson, Emma, does a lot with her brief appearance. She has the perfect combination of power, dry wit and weariness that comes from serving an organization that exists in the shadows. Rebecca Ferguson has a delicious chance to play the Bond-type villain and chews the scenery perfectly. Looking at her scenes, complete with the remote island lair, makes one wonder why the script didn’t spend more time developing her character and scenes. Ferguson’s Riza would have given M an H a much better antagonist, but instead we are left wanting more and getting far less.
Speaking of less, Liam Neeson is not given much to do and doesn’t do a lot with what he’s given. I’m not saying he phones his performance in, but if you look closely, I’m pretty sure you can see him depositing his cheque at the ATM. Rafe Spall does far more with his limited appearances in the film and his interactions with Hemsworth should also be built upon if this reboot is given another chance.
When all is said and done, I did enjoy myself. I really liked Kumail Nanjiani’s character. There are hints of chemistry elsewhere that just don’t properly ignite. Like the aforementioned beer adage, the enjoyment is ultimately short-lived and doesn’t have any lasting effects. If this is reboot is given another chance, I hope that better material can elevate it. Otherwise, the Men in Black should just use the neurolyzer and make us forget this one existed.