If there’s one franchise nobody wanted to be rebooted, it’s Men in Black. After Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones hit pay dirt with the fun sci-fi themed original in 1997, earning a whopping $589 million at the box office, two horrible sequels followed and quickly put an end to the series.
So when it was announced Sony Pictures were keen on bringing back the black-suited protectors of earth, I can’t say I was enthused, but that all changed when it was announced Aussie legend Chris Hemsworth had signed on. Throw in F. Gary Gray of Straight Outta Compton (2015), Friday (1995) and The Fate of the Furious (2017) fame behind the camera, a script from Iron Man (2008) writers Arthur Marcum and Matthew Holloway, and the addition of Tessa Thompson, one of my favourites, and I was soon on board this revamp.
Set seven years after MIB 3 (2012), the film focuses on Thompson’s Molly, a twenty-something obsessed with joining the secretive Men in Black agency after an encounter with an alien as a child. After finding her way into the organisation she’s soon accepted as a probationary agent and given the codename, M. Sent to England to help out with the English branch, M teams up with Hemsworth’s Agent H, a cocky and self-assured agent who once saved the world. The two are assigned a babysitting mission, with the aim to keep an eye on a visiting alien with royal heritage. When twin assassins from The Hive – the alien race H fought to save the earth once before – murder the alien, the two are forced to travel the globe and find who’s behind the assassination and why.
As the two set off for Morocco, the plot intertwines the discovery of a super weapon with the ability to destroy the earth, a mole within the MIB’s London branch and the unexpected arrival of H’s former lover, alien arms dealer Riza, played wonderfully by Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018) star Rebecca Ferguson.
Despite the fresh faces in the cast and its international location, Men in Black: International fails to live up to expectations. The script, a mixture of action and comedy featuring a number of throwbacks to the first film (look out for a cameo by Frank the pug), is rather bland and lacks originality. This also extends to the plot that’s a little too simplistic, with the twist ending one you’ll be able to spot just half-an-hour in. For the most part, the humour is so-so, with the funniest moments provided by the alien Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani of The Big Sick (2017) fame).
Gray is a capable director and used to handling big, bold action scenes after helming the last Fast & Furious film, but he doesn’t imprint his identity on this film. The same can’t be said for the top-notch supporting cast. Liam Neeson is reliable as High T, the head of MIB’s UK branch and Emma Thompson an absolute gem as Agent O, the head of MIB’s US branch. Rafe Spall is charmingly annoying as Agent C and the aforementioned Nanjiani is laugh-out-loud funny as the alien Pawny.
The true stars of this film are Hemsworth and Thompson. Hemsworth once again showcases his leading-man status, even with a shonky British accent, while Thompson is mesmerising as M, demonstrating why she’s one of the leading Hollywood actresses today.
Unfortunately, the duo of Hemsworth and Thompson isn’t enough to save this film, with Men in Black: International an average action-comedy film better left for small-screen viewing rather than heading to the cinema.
This film was originally going to be a Jump Street / Men In Black crossover, with Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill reprising their roles from the Jump Street franchise.
Deserted Island Movie Collection: Every Kurt Russell film.
Best Movie Snack: Popcorn.