REVIEW: Men In Black: International (Spoiler Free)

Hey Hollywood, couldn’t you just have thrown some money at Marvel to make a Secret Invasion adaptation starring Thor and Valkyrie? Its basically the same thing.

Tasked to serve and protect the Earth from within the shadows, the Men in Black face the shape-shifting intergalactic force, the Hive, leading Agents H and M on a globe-trotting adventure to snuff out the alien threat.

Best way to describe Men In Black: International? Um… it was like the cinema screen was one big neuralyzer, rendering this movie dreadfully forgettable.

A few years ago there was word of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum moving forward with a Jump Street sequel called “MIB 23”. The film was reportedly going to continue the Jump Street franchise’s meta take on comedy and action by fusing the two loveable cops with the world of Men In Black with ingenious hijinks bound to unravel. Cool idea, right? Makes you think, how could that movie have possibly been passed on in favour of this… this Men In Black: International generic garbage.

Look, to set the record straight, International was not a horrible movie. It wasn’t as bad as I found Aladdin or X-Men: Dark Phoenix. The central feeling I got leaving International was “… meh”. For a film with a lot of great talent behind it, I was more shocked with how unoriginal, boring and fake feeling this movie appeared. Not once did I think, “hmm, that was interesting” or “ooh, I liked that”. Whilst watching International, everything felt on autopilot: both the movie and my emotions.

Judging International against the first three Men In Black movies is not exactly easy for me as I have not seen the latter two entries in the franchise. From all accounts though, Men In Black II and Men In Black 3 are both crap and probably sit around the same amount of quality as this new one. Although, I have seen the original Men In Black and yeah… that movie is freaking awesome. Not just from a blockbuster standpoint but also from an ingenious filmmaking standpoint, Men In Black is truly a special staple of blockbuster cinema. So, how in the hell has the franchise reached this point?

(Columbia Pictures 2019)

For the first film to introduce a world so insane but so fascinating, how could we possibly be up to the fourth film and still nothing eye-catching has happened since the 90s? I swear, every twist and turn International took I could see coming from a mile away. Every alien or monster International introduced felt like a carbon copy of prior creatures from other franchises. Even F. Gary Gray’s direction felt like a complete riff on Barry Sonnenfeld’s. Nothing felt new or original or fresh… and for a film about agents in black and white suits travelling around the globe to fight absurdist aliens from inside a world inside a galaxy inside a marble, I gotta say, there was nothing here I’d coin as cool.

Let’s talk about some things that did kind of work in International, namely Tessa Thompson and partly Chris Hemsworth. I’ve said before how much I love Thompson as an actress and believe she cannot do wrong in any role she takes, so naturally I found her the best part of International. Her chemistry with Hemsworth also worked really well and carried most of the film’s scenes, but the charismatic performances of the pair really was not enough to warrant the film’s existence as a piece of entertainment.

When it comes to performances, direction and writing both lend to the capability of the acting and so when the direction for this movie was subpar and the writing was incredibly flat, there really wasn’t enough to boost Thompson and Hemsworth to their greatest heights. With the filmmakers presumably wanting to recapture the magic between the two from Thor: Ragnarok, the problem came in the fact it wasn’t just Thompson and Hemsworth working to make those characters fun in Ragnarok… it was also Taika Waititi. Thompson and Hemsworth were engaging in International but they needed a little more of a push from their director and script which evidently was not present in the making of International.

As a result of the poor direction and crappy script, a lot more of International suffered than just the two leads. Although Thompson came out the other side pretty unscathed, I cannot entirely say the same for Hemsworth. I think with someone like Hemsworth, you need the right team behind him to make his performances work, otherwise you get a guy with a shoddy accent trying some hit-or-miss improvisation. With people like Marvel or Ron Howard, Hemsworth has continued to prove himself as a great actor, but in something like International he just appears like a bit of a babbling oaf. I do love Hemsworth and honestly believe in this movie there were elements of a very funny and likeable performance from him, but those elements only really shun through when he paired up with Thompson. Similarly, with not much to do, Liam Neeson also really felt like a downer in this movie. Considering this is a franchise which once had Vincent D’Onofrio acting like an uncomfortable bug inside the body of a human, International really seemed to give up on the insanity of this world and its ability to give actors platforms to excite with some real zany and exciting performances.

Also featured in International‘s cast were… well, not many international folk, but also Emma Thompson and Rafe Spall who were honestly really good and could have been great if they received more screen time. There was a surprise appearance from Rebecca Ferguson which was a bit forgettable, but then there was also Kumail Nanjiani in a supporting voice role as a little alien who basically buddied up with Agents H and M and provided the film’s comic relief… yeah, I really disliked that character. I think Nanjiani is a very funny and talented actor, but, in this movie, all his lines fell flat, nothing about him was that funny or cute and, at the end of the day, everything he said felt like a last minute inclusion to make the script funnier. Whenever the movie cut away to this character, he’d always be sitting in Thompson’s breast pocket ready to say some quippy one-liner, but all of these shots and lines felt filmed and recorded yonks after the movie ended production. I guess, what I’m trying to say, on a whole, is that International just did not feel cohesive.

Everything about this movie felt clunky and poorly paced. The biggest fault to the name of International was how boring it ended up being. Usually when the plot requires the characters to go on an adventure around the world, you would think, at least, the global-trotting element would be exciting, but even here that felt dull. All the characters did were go to the three central cities required for an adventure movie (New York, London and Paris) and then to a desert… why couldn’t they have gone to somewhere different for a change like New Zealand or Cambodia or something that isn’t the same old CGI Paris?

International trudged through a plot which was all too obvious. Nothing was shocking nor was anything thrilling. It would have also helped if the characters at the very least offered some nuance insight through their development and growth, but even then there really was nothing to these characters of any interest to latch onto. Especially Hemsworth’s character whom was oddly written; Avenger- uh, I meant “Agent” H was presented as a brave, intelligent hero but as soon as the movie introduced him, he was seen as nothing more than a buffoon. The movie never presented a case for why he was ever at one point considered the hero many believed him as and instead allowed for him to look dumb in every sequence of the movie. Characters kept saying how Agent H had changed and blah, blah, blah, but we never saw how he changed or why he changed. His character was just dumb from beginning to end for no other reason than, I guess, it was funny… but it wasn’t funny. If anything, I had hoped this movie would fall back on its characters but even there was not much that could be salvaged.

I will say though that, positively, there was a bit of nostalgia for the first movie to be found in International. I liked the return of Danny Elfman’s themes and the weird font used for the opening credits. Some sequences genuinely felt energised but sadly were short-lived. I don’t want to give the impression that International was a terrible movie, it was just a bit pathetic. I mean, this was directed by F. Gary Gray, an established filmmaker with a style and flare to his movies, so you would think he would at least attempt to bring a bit of flavour to this feature… but nah, I guess his notes from the producers was just to copy Sonnenfeld’s direction entirely.

Men In Black: International was not a horrible movie; it was just a bland one. I don’t really see the point defending it or ranting about it because it was just a bit of a meh product. Think of it like Chinese food; sure, it fills you up, but you’re going to feel hungry again the moment you finish it. Maybe Thor and Valkyrie should just do what they do best; stop protecting the Earth in suits and start wielding magic hammers again.

Men In Black: International, sadly, belongs in the… KINGDOM OF THE CRIMINALLY DULL…


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