“Men in Black: International” Movie Review


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     You had to figure the creators behind “Men in Black: International” wouldn’t be able to help themselves as they formed the narrative around a preconceived outline based on the previous installments where certain scenes and plot devices had to be present in order for the film to feel like a “Men in Black” film.  The fact they recycle the agency introduction process for the new lead played by Tessa Thompson, that has her entering the building for the first time, seeing the same aliens walking around, and the “Alien Monitoring Cam” that indicates to the audience that many of the famous people we see in movies and television are indeed from another planet, seems unnecessary given the same visuals were used in all three films previously.  There’s also the decked out black car that just has to have a special button that gives it a little extra Vroom! Vroom!.  

     We’ve seen all of this before in 1997’s “Men in Black”, as well as it’s two sequels, 2002’s “Men in Black 2” and 2012’s “Men in Black 3”, where the filmmakers of the third installment at least tried to inject a time travel twist that allowed Josh Brolin to hilariously riff on a younger Tommy Lee Jones, but the goings on in what is now the fourth film of the franchise brings nothing new to the table for stars Thompson and Chris Hemsworth to do.  Leaving these two capable performers to exist within what feels like a canned franchise primer, rather than a fresh and original story.

     Some call it simple fan service, while I like to refer to this as a series of proverbial check boxes the filmmakers feel is necessary in order for the film to qualify as a true addition to a particular series.  All of this is surprising given the notable chops displayed by director F. Gary Gray during his two recent outings, “Straight Outta Compton” & “The Fate of the Furious” respectively, but he can’t seem to shake the predictable scenery here.  Everything from the Neuralyzer famous for erasing the memories of onlookers who weren’t supposed to see the latest MIB response to the various alien mischief that we are meant to believe happen right under the noses of our unsuspecting population, is retreaded with only the gloss of the latest CGI giving anything we see on screen a hint of imagination. 

     Screenwriters Matt Holloway and Art Marcum turn in a very by the numbers story that begins with a slight variation on Wil Smith’s arc in the first film, only to pair Thompson’s Agent M with the current senior guy, Hemsworth’s Agent H, who essentially functions in the same capacity as Tommy Lee Jones did in the first film, but does so with his trademark Thor-like personality.  To spice things up, a pint size creature named Pawny, voiced by Kumail Nanjiani, is along for the ride, functioning solely as the comic relief providing the necessary banter that both Thompson and Hemsworth use to play off of.  Without Pawny, the material left for these two is the equivalent of a bare pantry where the on screen chemistry never approaches that of Smith and Jones.  As is, there are a smattering of well earned funny moments.

     After Agent M manages to make her way over the standard hurdles we’ve seen before, her and H are paired up when a mysterious alien duo arrives on Earth looking for a hidden weapon.  Fortunately for us, M and H acquire the weapon and are able to temporarily stop the threat posed by the unknown adversaries, but soon it is found these operations may have been compromised.  After an investigation by M and H reveals they were set up, the lead agent of MIB, Agent High T (Liam Neeson), determines there is a mole within the agency and sends M and H on a mission they believe will force this traitor to come out into the open and reveal who they are working with outside of our planet.

     While some of this has entertainment value, at the end of the day, “Men in Black: International” utilizes the same chase sequences, fight scenes, and futuristic weaponry featured in just about ever other summer popcorn flick these days, while offering nothing notable about any of the characters or furthering the lore of what was once a successful and imaginative franchise.  It’s as if the elevation of technology never made its way to MIB, leaving the latest agents armed with mostly the same weapons as they battle very similar foes.  Yes, it appears the aliens in the film haven’t evolved either. Even the predictable set up with one of them at the beginning falls woefully flat when the payoff comes at a time when the stakes just don’t seem high enough.  At the end of the film, an MIB agent could indeed use a Neuralyzer on you, but I think both parties would find it a waste of time given there isn’t anything in the film worth remembering anyway.  GRADE: C-