While Men in Black: International may contain aliens, black suits, glossy silver guns and a style reminiscent of the original, it captures nothing that has made the franchise special and unfortunately marks the lowest point in the series.
Leaving behind agents J and K, MiB: International attempts to takes the series outside of New York City limits. The film follows Agent M (Tessa Thompson), a Brooklyn native who has been searching for the MiB since she was a little girl, and Agent H (Chris Hemsworth), a Londoner highly regarded in the agency, as they attempt to stop an alien force, known as The Hive, from consuming the world. As big fan of the 1997 original and the series as a whole I was pretty open to the idea of new ground to explore in the MiB universe, there was some great promise with Hemsworth and Thompson reuniting and booking director F. Gary Gray, known for Straight Outta Compton and Fate of the Furious – but these great parts failing is what makes this film such a disappointment.
Hemsworth and Thompson have some prior history and chemistry (Thor: Ragnarok) but generally struggle beyond this. It’s hard to blame them though since their characters are so poorly written. Agent M’s motivation and character arc are completely pointless as the film attempts to set up her desire to understand the universe, but never really gives her any answers. She’s also very hard to relate to as a crazed fan of MiB and the logistics of her joining the force are very forced and shaky. Hemsworth essentially just repeats his performance from the Ghostbusters reboot and the two of them are stuck spouting dialogue that lacks any bite to it.
The original had strong elements of horror, witty banter between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones and the looks of the aliens came off as realistic thanks to the use of practical effects. Even the hectic NYC atmosphere boded well to its grounded nature and it was a film full of characters who were easy to connect with. Here, there’s none of that. Everything comes off as cheap and anywhere it tries to differ ends up being very generic. Even the cameos from Frank the pug and the group of worms feel forced and are just painfully easy fan-service.
What’s more disappointing is the direction from Gray, as the film lacks anything that has made his other films special. His well received humour from films like Friday is completely watered-down and has no punch to it, coming off childish and dull. A lot of this can be seen with comic relief Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani), who seems fine at first, but quickly dives into annoying territory. The action sequences are choppy and not remotely special, which is particularly sad considering Gray most recently directed The Fate of the Furious. Most of the film features the two leads standing and shooting at aliens and the obligatory final fight is incredibly underwhelming – but the worst thing has to be the special effects. The CGI is just awful and the alien designs they’ve settled on are truly uninspired and forgettable. Most of the time, the aliens don’t even feel like they’re there and I needed more than two hands to count the times I could spot when a green-screen was blatantly used.