The plot is not a far stretch from the 1997 Men in Black. Thompson plays Molly, someone that has always had her eyes on the stars since she was a little girl. Her pursuit of the MIB began after her first encounter with a fuzzy blue alien, which resulted in her parents memory being erased, but not hers. Since that day, she trained and searched, hoping to be a member of the secret agency, always believing they were out there. She tracks an alien ship disguised as a meteor and finds the MIB headquarters, where she is greeted by the silver haired and scarcely seen, lead Agent O (Emma Thompson). Wasting no time, we speed past any training montage, where Molly receives a probationary run with the MIB agency in London, lead by director High T (Liam Neeson), and eventually being teamed with wild Agent H (Chris Hemsworth).
What I specifically remember enjoying about the Men in Black films was this hidden world. The protective agency that kept humans on earth ignorant, fighting to save vast solar systems, engaging with various alien species, some with multiple heads, or even talking dogs. What director F. Gary Gray and writers Matt Holloway & Art Marcum seem to grasp is a unique variety of creatures- a talking beard creature or a furry thing that turns into multiple balls when you pet it- but there's just not enough. Also, it is the aliens that have plenty of character, but the humans, however, that are lacking in substance. On top of those flaws, the majority of the twists in MIB:I are predictable, where Agent M and Agent H find themselves protecting a weapon that can destroy the universe, taking them across various exotic locations, while they are hunted by a pair of shape shifting, material melting twins (played by Beyonce backup dancers- the Les Twins).
And then there is the small CGI animated sidekick character named Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani). He is a helmeted, green little guy, reminiscent of The Flintstones' Great Gazoo mixed with Jar Jar Binks. His presence is there to deliver quippy lines, sick burns, and make us laugh, but who is he really for? Not adults. Possibly the few children that will get in the theater with their parents and want to buy his toy. I kept wondering why Nanjiani even agreed to this role? The character is filmed in tight shots or distracting images where he's clearly not there. If Pawny doesn't annoy you, it is because you're too busy questioning his very existence, and even that would be too much thought.
There are some redeeming things about MIB: International, one of them being the cool charisma of Thompson and Hemsworth. This is a pair of movie stars, both with swagger, sexiness, and humor that could work in any franchise, but I think director F. Gary Gray forgot to tell them this wasn't Thor: Ragnarok. It's hard to separate the two films, especially when the actors are giving us their same, sturdy output. The other positive is the often memorable score from Danny Elfman and Chris Bacon, which has the jazziness of a James Bond film and the whimsy of the Star Wars theme. It moves the story along and leaves you humming a tune.
So no, Men in Black: International is not a colossal failure. There will be a few things to enjoy, a chase scene on a flying motorcycle, new aliens to be fascinated by, but the praise ends there. Eventually the narrative becomes a massive intergalactic advertisement for Lexus cars, a run of the mill good guys on an adventure before fighting the bad guy movie, and not nearly memorable enough to exist at all. Maybe I was shown the blinking light before I left the theater? Either way, Men in Black: International is nothing to remember.
Written by: Leo Brady
MOVIE: MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL
STARRING: CHRIS HEMSWORTH; TESSA THOMPSON; LIAM NEESON; KUMAIL NANJIANI
DIRECTED BY: F. GARY GRAY
AMovieGuy.com's RATING: 2 STARS (Out of 4)
The biggest sin that Men in Black: International commits is having a tremendously charming cast and finding a way to make it feel like another wheel in the mega budget movie machine. There will be plenty of worse movies in 2019 and MIB:I has some aspects for audiences to enjoy, one of them being the charismatic Tessa Thompson, but I left the theater feeling unfulfilled. The Tommy Lee Jones/Will Smith trilogy made its mark as an original science fiction franchise, but this was the first time for me where the Men in Black movies truly feel like a product, complete with a cute animated sidekick. Men in Black: International is off somewhere in space when it needs to be grounded for good.