The ‘Men in Black’ franchise is one that I grew up with quite closely; we had a cardboard cutout of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in our living room, and I even enjoy the second movie in the same way some people enjoy ‘The Phantom Menace’, as well as the animated TV show. So when there were rumours of expanding this universe, I was excited but hesitant as I’ve always felt there was more room to grow here.
‘MIB: International’ sees our world growing. As a child, an alien broke into Agent M’s home (Tessa Thompson, ‘Thor: Raganork’, ‘Creed’) but only her parents’ memories were wiped. For the past 20 years, she has been on the hunt not only for the Men in Black but answers to the truth of the universe. After finding them, Agent O (Emma Thompson, ‘Love Actually’, ‘Bridget Jones’ Baby’) quickly trains her and sends her to the new branch of MIB in London, run by High T (Liam Neeson, ‘Taken’, ‘Silence’). There she runs into top agent Agent H (Chris Hemsworth, 'Avengers: Endgame', 'Bad Times at the El Royale'). When he starts working on a new alien attack, Agent M forces her way onto the case, leading them on a mission around the globe - and by globe, I mean like France and a place that looks like mini-Agrabah.
This movie is just a lot of wasted potential. Thompson and Hemsworth have proven they have great comedic chemistry before, but it’s all lost here. Say what you want about ‘The Fate of the Furious’, but F. Gary Gray at least showed he can do a dumb franchise film with great big action sequences, and yet here everything is lacklustre and boring. The plot is even so overblown; they have to go to this place and talk to this alien, the alien gives them a gem, now they have to protect the gem - but people are after them, so they have go to talk to this guy to help them and then an action scene... and it’s just that over and over until the climax and then the movie's over. It takes what feels like 40 minutes before the main characters even meet one and another 20 before the plot decides to kick in. The first two acts are so drawn out, and then the third just flies by.
We have few new aliens - most are just CGI humanoid creations, but we have a few played by some big names. Rebecca Ferguson (‘The Greatest Showman’, ‘The Snowman’) continues her weird filmography playing a three-armed Egyptian-themed alien who was a former lover of Agent H. The Les Twins (Beyoncé’s back-up dancers) playing shape-shiffting aliens who seek the gem, but the best new alien is Pawny, a small green guy voiced by Kumail Nanjiani (‘The Big Sick’, ‘Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates’) and pretty much all my laughs came from him.
The Neuralyzer gun is a fitting metaphor for the film though, because by the end you can’t really remember anything about it.
The movie tries to have callbacks to the original trilogy but none really land - outside of Agent O, there is no real story connection to those films. There is a painting in High T’s office of what looks like Agent J and Agent K in a battle, but the camera never focuses on it (also this is in the London branch so it doesn’t make sense to have this painting up). Frank the Pug makes a very small cameo, even though the marketing really plays him up; same with the worm guys. They try the “celebrities are aliens” joke again but it just falls flat; it’s not supported by actual cameos, it’s just Met Gala footage on a screen.
The Neuralyzer gun has always been an iconic MIB item, even if it isn’t the most logical, but 'MIB: International' really pushes the limits of logic. In the original films they were smaller and could get away with this easier, but here we have giant space light beams connecting to the Eiffel Tower and flying cars that all go conveniently unnoticed by the public. They really pick and choose when to be strict about the rules. The Neuralyzer gun is a fitting metaphor for the film though, because by the end you can’t really remember anything about it.
'MIB: International' sounds like a good idea on paper, from the cast and the director - even for the franchise, the idea to go “International” sounds really exciting and a great way to expand the world without being too tied to the original films. Unfortunately, it’s just another boring blockbuster using a nostalgic property to make a quick buck without understanding what made the lighting in a bottle that was the first film work. We didn’t even get a rap tie-in song from Will Smith or even Pitbull, and that’s what truly hurts the most.