The long-running Men in Black film franchise gets a fresh new voice in director F. Gary Gray in a different yet still all too familiar entry.
Molly (Tessa Thompson) has always wanted to become an agent of the Men in Black ever since she was a young child. Now as an adult, she finally manages to get in, known as Agent M. Once a part of the agency, she teams up with the witty Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) to take on alien scum. While on their missions, however, they realize that the Men in Black has a mole in the organization, and it is up to them to find out who it is.
The Men in Black franchise is one that has definitely declined in quality with every sequel and I think that most people can agree with that. Barry Sonnenfeld’s 1997 blockbuster original film was an extremely clever, hilarious, and exciting picture that won the hearts of many upon release and is still beloved decades later. Its eventual sequel was not received as highly though. It was certainly not as good as its predecessor, but still had its moments, whereas the third installment fell short on practically every level. For many years, audiences thought that Men in Black 3 would be the final entry in the exciting series until now.
As far as similarities go between the original trilogy and International, one of the biggest is its sense of chemistry between its two lead protagonists. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were remarkable as Agent J and Agent K, respectively, and the exact same thing can and should be said about Hemsworth and Thompson here. This does not mark the first time these two actors have been on screen together, as they have shared the screen together in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame most notably. The chemistry they exude in this film is some of the best of the entire year so far. They are lightning in a bottle.
Since this is a Men in Black movie, long time fans of the series as well as general moviegoers can expect to see some over the top, zany action sequences that the franchise has become known for at this point. However, do not get your hopes up thinking that there will be dozens of these moments because they are rather limited this time around. It definitely would have been nice to have seen more of the wacky chaos that we are used to thus far. There are really only a handful of these scenes which was a bit of a disappointment, especially considering that this is a series of films in which agents wear sunglasses, tote around gigantic futuristic weaponry and attempt to crack down on other worldly threats.
Stuart Dryburgh served as the director of photography for International and the cinematography here is actually quite nice to look at. It is not amazing in any way, but it is most definitely not ugly to look at. Peterman makes effective use of the camera in some interesting and unique ways at times which was a delight to see.
When it comes to the humor in this movie, it is one of my biggest problems. The original two Men in Black pictures make me laugh consistently throughout the entire running time, whether its Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones doing ridiculous things together or them getting into crazy alien fights. It is rather apparent that writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway were really making an effort to make this a hilarious film with a sense of cleverness to it much like the others, but to be honest, I barely found myself laughing at this movie at all which is a big shame. The humor almost always comes off rather dry and weak unfortunately.
Some of the acting here can be a bit off and sometimes just downright weak as well, most notably from Liam Neeson who portrays High T, the head of the United Kingdom branch of the Men in Black organization. Most of the time he is on screen, his acting comes off as a bit wooden sadly.
In addition, some of the computer generated imagery looked somewhat unfinished which is weird considering that this is a film being released in 2019, and the visual effects in the aforementioned films do not look too much different than this one. There is one character in the film named Pawny, who does work quite well in a few scenes, and he is one of the only CGI characters that does not look too bad. It is the other creatures shown in various moments that just seemed off.
Furthermore, the story was never one that I was really all that invested in, mostly because all of the eventual plot twists are ones that I and most likely many others will be able to see coming from a mile away. During the final thirty minutes or so of the film, it is incredibly easily to predict what will ultimately occur. Its plot also does move along rather slowly. International‘s running time clocks in at one hundred and fifteen minutes and even still, it felt like it overstayed its welcome by the time the third act kicked in.
Great chemistry from Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson isn’t enough to save Men in Black: International from being a bland, forgettable and predictable entry in the franchise.
Overall Grade: C-
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for sci-fi action, some language and suggestive material
Cast: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani
Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Distributed by: Sony Pictures Releasing
Running Time: 115 minutes