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“Men in Black International” channels the fun of the first film

“Mind the gap.”

Story: After years of trying to find MiB, brand-spanking new Agent M (Tessa Thompson) is eager to make an initial for herself. So she teams up with MiB legend, Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) to protect a member of an alien royal family. It goes badly. Is there a mole in MiB? Cue groovy alien cameos!

Genre I’d put it in: Rip-roaring Fun Re-imaginings

Remake, Sequel, Based-On, or Original: Set in the mythology of the earlier Men in Black series, based on the Malibu/Marvel comics of the same name.

Gotta say: Let’s face it; MiB 2 was a letdown. And by “letdown”, I mean it really sucked. All apologies to the cast, but that film was a cash-grab with star power. MiB 3 wasn’t all that great either, but at least it had a fun new twist by introducing a young Josh Brolin as a young Agent K. Hopefully 2 will be the real stinker of the series, because with International, we’re back to the goofy fun of the original. Is it as good? Nah. But it sure does deliver loads of enjoyment and some truly spectacular FX.

With the action taking place outside of the well-traveled New York office, International pumps some sorely needed fresh blood into the franchise. Add the amazing onscreen chemistry of Thompson and Hemsworth – doing a riff on their Valkyrie/Thor cameraderie – and you’re in for a good time. Shut your brain off and enjoy, dammit. This ain’t no navel gazing indie thing; anyone expecting deep themes or fully fleshed out characters is in the wrong theater. We come for the crazy-cool aliens, the buddy back-and-forth, and the biff-pow action.

Which makes T&H a perfect fit for the rebranding/rebooting/extension of the MiB universe; with their expertise in superhero films, digging into a sci-fi riff on the “get the bad guy” hero tale so beloved by the comic book film genre, they know exactly how to play in this sandbox. And they’re here for all of it, with tongues planted firmly in cheek, and just enough in-the-moment realism to ground M and H, keeping these characters from becoming unfunny jokes.

The special effects here are absolutely amazing, and keep with the Agents-as-superhero vibe. An explosion wrecks s city street and causes a car to flip over and crash INTO THE SIDE OF A BUILDING. Not into the first floor. Right smack dab into the side. My jaw dropped, and that hasn’t happened in a good long while. And yeah I’m gonna comment on set design like I always do; it’s really great. From the middle of a desert to the hustle and bustle of downtown London, the attention to detail made my heart do a happy pitter-pat.

As supporting casts go, Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson dust off their best Posh attitudes for Agents O and High T. And Rebecca Ferguson gets to have a blast as arms trafficker (in more ways than one) Riza. Director F. Gary Gray knows when to focus on the action, and when to let his cast off the chain. There’s a nice blend of nonstop chaos and lower-key character interaction, and while these characters are kinda thinly drawn, because I love T&H so dearly, there’s an easy shorthand that comes with these two working together. If more MiB films come with these two at the helm, I’m guessing there’ll be more digging into their back-stories, beyond the jokey one-off anecdotes seen here.

Like aliens? Special effects? Thompson & Hemsworth? Don’t mind disengaging the ol’ brainparts in order to sit back and enjoy a summer blockbuster? Grab your shades and enjoy.

Grade: B

#Protip: Keep an eye out for everyone’s favorite pug/Remoolian, Frank – he’s only onscreen for a brief cameo near the beginning of the film, but he’s a welcome addition to any MiB joint.

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Denise Kitashima Dutton
Denise has been covering books, movies and music since 2003. She's hoping she'll get the hang of it any day now.