Let’s be honest here, the 1997 Men in Black has not aged well. However, what has stood the test of time is the on-screen partnership. I’m not just talking about the partnership of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, it’s also the pairing of witty and surreal sci-fi. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, who have worked together wonderfully on two occasions (both in the MCU), feel as though they’re a safe bet to bring back the feeling of the original Men in Black. I could tell that this was Men in Black: International’s intentions all along, but it’s trying too hard to the point where most of the film becomes an insufferable bore to watch that is only scratching the surface of Men in Black’s coolness.
By far, the chemistry on display between Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson is what people will pay to see and it’s what they’re going to get. The two made an unlikely pairing in Avengers: Endgame and Thor: Ragnarok, Men in Black: International builds on this chemistry in a way where you can see the two having a blast with this film. This is a partnership that is going to continue getting stronger with every film.
While I can bring myself to admire the chemistry, I can’t exactly say the same about their characters. With the two characters of Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and Agent M (Tessa Thompson) sharing similar character quirks seen in the Men in Black films (one professional one humorous) I only found myself growing to like Agent M, only slightly. She seems to be the only character who goes on a sense of journey. Agent H, on the other hand, is an “ego-boosting” character. Essentially a character that profits off of the likeability of a performer giving them an ego-boost.
I actually had hope for this film as it was being directed by F. Gary Gray who has done fantastic work in films like Straight Outta Compton, 2003’s The Italian Job, films with a good sense of vibe. Men in Black: International on the other hand lack anything of the sort which comes down to the film’s main goal of resurrecting the feel of a Men in Black film. One way in which the film attempts to achieve this is to have a plot that takes logic out of the equation. It centers around a cliched MacGuffin by at which point you have already predicted the story beat for beat. It was the little things annoyed me about the script, for instance, there is a scene in which Agent H and M along with their chess piece come to life Pawny (Kumail Nanjiani) are in the middle of the desert and they have a log fire. A log fire. In the desert. Where did they get the wood? Are all MIB agents equipped with emergency firewood?
The bond of witty and surreal sci-fi is nothing to marvel at either as almost all attempts at humour are either flat or not pushed further. The dialogue and turns in the story feel as though they were thought up on the day of shooting, it felt like very bad improv. Even Pawny, who has been hailed as a gem in this film by other critics, I found to be just there as an extension to the bland humour and to get audiences saying “aww”.
Some of the presentation choices in the film are questionable at best. You have these two sub-antagonists, alien twins (Laurent and Larry Bourgeois) who after looking up are real-life hip-hop dancers. Which is exactly how they move in the film. They’re also the second antagonists I’ve seen in a row where all they do is just following the protagonists. In fact, the film doesn’t even feel like it has a main antagonist which It compensates for by having twists that create the illusion of a main antagonist. Another side note, the text font in Men in Black: International is also the same font as the Slenderman film, somebody check that out.
If you were to personalize Men in Black: International, it would be that kid who always wanted to copy your homework. That is what it pretty much boils down to. It’s a cheap attempt to show that the Men in Black series was not just a one-off, lightning in a bottle hit. I wish I could sympathize with F. Gary Gray because I do like him as a director but everything, I liked about his previous film I couldn’t find in this one. Will we ever see a day when a Men in Black film can honestly say “we got it”, judging by this abomination, the chances are next to none.