By Bradley Lane
Men in Black initially released in 1997 from director Barry Sonnenfeld and starred Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as agents for Earth’s super-secret space protection agency, the Men in Black. It created a well-thought-out and interesting world where aliens live among us, hiding in plain sight as other humans. It was hilarious thanks to its excellently performed straight man routine with Tommy Lee Jones as the permanently scowling agent K and the wisecracking newcomer, Will Smith as Agent J. It was a refreshing science fiction comedy that had a meaningful message about sacrifice, the importance of relationships and the value of diversity. Men in Black: International is the first film in the Men in Black series not directed by series creator Barry Sonnenfeld, and not staring Will Smith. Instead, opting to hire Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray for a fresh new direction for the series.
The film sets in motion with Tessa Thompson’s Molly discovering, pursuing and infiltrating the Men in Black. After being accepted into the MIB, Molly, now agent M, gets assigned to the London division to test her place in the organization. There she meets the lazy, arrogant and yet somehow revered agent H, played by Chris Hemsworth. After the idea of a mole in MIB takes root, H and M take the fall and must navigate the MIB’s hunt as well as manage to save the world from a growing alien threat, the invasive hive mind collective conveniently named, the Hive.
Men in Black’s plot is easily its weakest feature. It feels as though they were making up the film’s story up as they filmed, and this ends up greatly hurting the pacing and overall weight of the film. In no scene do you ever feel as though H or M are in any sense of danger or peril. The loose structure of the story also means that the themes of the film are inconsistent, and at times contradictory. The film also consistently disrespects the intelligence of its audience by not allowing the plot to develop naturally; rather it has to remind the audience over and over again of elements it already established. It feels as though the filmmakers are talking down to the people who are paying their own hard-earned money to see their work. It is poor filmmaking and poor treatment of audiences. This film feels like it was made not as an artistic statement, but rather a popular intellectual property they could exploit to maximize profits.
It isn’t all bad, though, despite a vapid plot, the comedy in Men in Black: International works (for the most part). Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth have excellent on-screen chemistry due in part to their past work together in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The jokes often don’t warrant laugh out loud moments anywhere, but I found myself chuckling to myself throughout the film. Thompson and Hemsworth provide a needed dose of personality to an otherwise flop of a film.
Men in Black: International is a film without a purpose, but at least you can laugh at it. – 1.5/5 stars