“Something is wrong… in Men in Black”
*This review may contain spoilers*
Men in Black: International is a spin off film from the comic adapted sci-fi action series. Directed by F. Gary Gray (Law Abiding Citizen, Straight Outta Compton), MIB stars Chris Hemsworth (Thor, Extraction), Tessa Thompson (Thor, Creed) & Liam Neeson (Taken, Schindler’s List). When an unknown artifact is handed to probationary agent M by a dying alien prince, the rookie agent must team up with an honored Agent H to save the world from a conquering parasitic species.
MIB International is the sequel that no one asked for, which saw Sony yet again spinning their bingo wheel of franchises to see what 2019’s disappointing reboot would be. On paper, MIB had the potential to be a fresh and funny spin on a franchise that was beginning to run its course, steered by a proven director in Gray who has historically created a couple of fantastic films. Following the huge success of Thor: Ragnarok, both Hemsworth and Thompson were brought onboard to deliver more of their impromptu humour and authentic chemistry, giving the impression that the filmmakers were moving towards a more light-hearted comedy over its predecessors dark, stylised aura and sharp wit. When translated to the screen, it is painfully obvious where MIB rocked off the rails, but we will begin discussing the positives as there are so few…
Despite some questionable CGI, this film looks great. The shots are bright and busy, with action sequences being easy to follow from direction with a clear vision. There is a mix of both simple and creative camera angles, but it is not packed with fast cuts, lingering on specific moments to allow a break for audiences. I was impressed with a fight scene that trades between our leads, with one shot cutting from Thompson grasping a piece of wood and swinging to Hemsworth landing the same attack, or when a dialogue exchange with a miniature alien saw the camera looking up at the two agents from its perspective. MIB got one laugh out of me which was a nod to Thor, as Hemsworth tries to draw a hammer from the floor, then throws it at an enemy who catches it mid-air. I reiterate: MIB got one laugh from me. It is all downhill from here.
MIB’s script is abysmal. Dialogue consists of characters spouting gibberish or attempting to deliver a disturbing amount of jokes, most of which seem unscripted and none of which land. Agent M is depicted as a hyper intelligent science dork, who speaks entire sentences that nobody would naturally say in real conversation. Thompson’s innate clout gives a conflicted, if not irritating personality to a character whose job it is to simply push an agenda. There is little beneath the surface of M, as she began to force me further away from a character I was expecting to relish. If shunning Thompson wasn’t enough, I am now forced to state that Hemsworth couldn’t be further away from the leading man MIB deserves. He is playing goofball Thor in a role that sees him at a respected level of authority. A fruitless twist proposes that Agent H has been neuralyzed, rendering him as an incompetent playboy, which goes against MIB lore as Agent J (Will Smith) was neuralyzed as a child and it didn’t appear to affect him with any additional lasting symptoms. The dialogue renders a wildly talented cast ineffective, to the extent of cringe-worthy, which is no surprise given that the same writers wrote the script for Transformers: The Last Knight and Punisher: Warzone.
The bizarre, mysterious and macabre comedic tone of the first 3 films is gone, making way for a run of the mill action comedy in the same universe. The aliens stood out as an obvious lack of inspiration, as we are given disgusting animations that belong in Monsters Inc., one in which ridiculously impersonates Nelson Mandela and sexually gyrates its hips in an alien nightclub to force a laugh. It’s only funny on a level that it is so awkwardly misplaced, you laugh at how it even made it into the final cut. Danny Elfman’s supernatural score is occasionally pushed aside for unwarranted hip hop songs, with the suit up scene appearing like an amateur music video. When you compare this to classic scene of Will Smith putting on the “last suit you’ll ever wear”, with the epic Zed voiceover and Elfman’s stirring score, you remember just how far this series has fallen since 1997.
Scenes feel like they were conjured on the day of filming, then edited to form a linear story. Particularly during the opening scene on the Eiffel Tower, the structure of scenes is sporadic and sometimes doesn’t know what it is trying to illustrate. I was conflicted as to whose fault it was that I was not understanding the relevance of anything onscreen, mine or the filmmakers! The MIB mole plot is a lethargic attempt to create a thriller that is strikingly obvious, I couldn’t understand how the cast couldn’t work it out. MIB has a back catalogue of exciting villains, all of which are dangerously fun and original, but International uses 2 unbearably monotonous shapeshifters whose most interesting trait is that they are intergalactic street dancers. They have an odd nightclub dance circle scene that I still have no idea as to its relevance and these two overpowered, enhanced energy villains walk annoyingly slow towards our leads whilst dance dodging bullets. It is as laughable on screen as it is in writing, with their characters having literally no real significance to the overall plot but to consume time, then die at the hands of nameless Agents instead of simply explaining their actions.
MIB: International is comparable to a cheap market knock off of a once exciting franchise, with its only role is to be played in the background of a family gathering. Despite generally pleasant visuals, MIB is a slowly sinking ship due to its unbearably irritating characters and a thin, generic plot, bringing a fantastic cast down with it. Surprisingly, I would be open to giving a sequel a chance at redemption, as there is potential in this concept and cast, but for now not even the children can enjoy it due to a couple of disturbing sexual references. I give MIB: International a 3/10!
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