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Review - 'Men in Black: International'

Review - 'Men in Black: International'

Team “Cookie-cutter” has a new mascot and it comes in the form of Men in Black: International. Here’s a few things Sony Pictures and the film makers did to qualify for the moniker: Picked a franchise that needed resuscitating, soft-rebooted it, found some good-looking, hip actors that have worked together successfully before, added some slap-stick comedy, inserted a pointless but cute CGI creature that makes cute noises and does cute things that make the kids laugh and go “Awww”, threw in a couple of mildly amusing chase sequences, removed stakes because it’s just supposed to be a fun romp that pleases everyone, guys! Then sprinkled in a light heist sequence, added a dash of a not-so-surprising character turn and then stirred it all up with a tease for a sequel. Your weak sauce is served.

In Men In Black: International there is a mole in the Men in Black organization. Agents M and H (Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth) must figure out who it is while also securing a crystal that is actually a highly dangerous weapon and contend with two very deadly “twins” who could turn them into goop at the drop of a hat.

This is the first film this year that if I didn’t feel obligated to review it, I may have considered walking out. There is no reason for this movie to exist other than to cash in on the Men in Black name. F. Gary Gray’s Men In Black: International is bland and without identity. Everything is played safe and nothing is original. As I type this I am forgetting huge swaths of this film because there was no sense that any care or heart went in to this project at all. Sure, it still functions as a movie in the sense that is has a beginning, a middle and an end, but there’s nothing on display here that drew me in.

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What drags down Men in Black: International the most is the lazy writing throughout. In terms of original properties, Men In Black was a thanksgiving dinner, and International is the re-heated left-overs you question eating a week later. There are plot-points here that are lifted whole-cloth from the first film. It’s obvious that the movie had many of the same resources to work with that the previous film did, but the filmmakers, producers, or whoever called the shots had no idea how to use said resources effectively and decided that being a copy-cat was the safest route.

The characters suffer massively as a result of the poor writing. Agent M played by Tessa Thompson follows a much similar character arc as Jay (Will Smith) did, but her character never comes off as genuine and stumbles into being one of the Men, or rather Women, in Black way too conveniently. In the original film we saw Jay struggle in the first and second act, but you could also see that spark in him that made him worthy and ultimately led to his satisfying graduation to full-on agent. M hardly struggles and she has virtually no initiation process to be accepted into this supposedly elite and highly secretive organization. She practically walks on in and is handed an assignment without much fuss at all. H, played by Chris Hemsworth, is almost equally as disappointing. He’s basically playing a less-dumb but equally clumsy version of his Kevin character from the Ghostbusters reboot. He’s fine and there’s nothing particularly bad about his performance, it just feels very autopilot for him. The only character injecting any sort of life into the proceedings is Kumail Nanjiani, who plays a miniature alien version of Kumail Nanjiani. I didn’t like the design of his character at all, but I’d be lying if I didn’t giggle a couple of times at some of his jokes. Liam Neeson and Emma Thompson also make appearances as High T and Agent O, respectively, and they are both welcome presences, but their screen time is far too brief to make any sort of lasting impression.

The special effects are also somehow worse than they were in the previous films, except for maybe MiB 2 which hasn’t aged well at all, and for the record, I still think Vincent D’Onofrio’s cockroach alien from the first film looks pretty darn good, especially considering that film came out in 1997 (!!!). I know this movie is operating at around half the budget of Men in Black 3, but barring the villainous twins who actually have an interesting and well-developed look to them, all of the aliens here look obviously fake and don’t fit in with the world around them.

All things said, Men in Black: International is a pale imitation of the original that makes no effort whatsoever to distinguish itself. It’s serviceable at times, but there is not a single note-worthy moment that gives this film even a modicum of originality.

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