The Men in Black films have never impressed me. Sorry, they just haven’t. I think the idea of a secret agency protecting the Earth from hostile aliens, while also providing the infrastructure for friendly alien integration into our society, is a cool premise. But even with Barry Sonnenfeld (The Addams Family) directing and Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones leading the charge I’ve never enjoyed their execution or found them to be that much fun.
Men in Black: International is a cringeworthy new chapter introducing fresh talent into this fading franchise and does nothing more than showcase how terrible Chris Hemsworth is as a leading man.
The story starts with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and Agent High T (Liam Neeson) at the Eiffel Tower where they encounter an alien menace called The Hive. Just as we are about to see our heroes fight the evil aliens, the story jumps back in time 20 years and introduces us to a young Molly (Mandeiya Flory) witnessing a couple of MIB agents wipe the memory of her parents using a neuralizer. Moments later she encounters an alien who she helps escape from her house which sets her on a path of wanting to learn about the secrets of the universe.
Back in the present, Molly (Tessa Thompson) has grown into an intelligent and tenacious woman hellbent on finding the MIB agency. She successfully applies to join the FBI and CIA, hoping to be recruited into their “alien” department but is disappointed to learn the elusive people in the black suits and cool sunglasses don’t work for them. Finally, an opportunity presents itself when she tracks an incoming UFO that leads her to the entrance of the MIB agency in New York City that she manages to get inside. But not unnoticed. After being discovered by MIB security and held in an interrogation room, she manages to impress Agent O (Emma Thompson) and is subsequently recruited into the agency.
As a new recruit on probation, Molly – now Agent M – is sent to London where her first assignment is to find out what is happening at the London MIB building. She teams up with the reckless and handsome Agent H…and quickly botch up their first mission together of looking after an alien of significant importance. This leads to a series of escalating events that puts the new partners on a path to – hold your breath – saving the world! But saving the world isn’t going to be simple. In addition to facing a unique and dangerous alien adversary as well as unscrupulous aliens out to make a buck, there’s a hidden danger within the MIB agency itself that threatens their mission of saving the world as well as the galaxy!
The acting for the most part suits the silly sci-fi comedy style of the film. Tessa Thompson is a strong female lead who portrays the resourceful, determined and observant Agent M. She shows strength of character and is thirsty for the opportunity to prove herself worthy of being an MIB agent. Liam Neeson is perfectly cast as the experienced agent who exudes authority and trust, i.e. the father figure looking out for those under his watch. Emma Thompson is great as Agent O who is a senior agent willing to give an ambitious and resourceful young woman a chance at proving herself. Throw in a mixed bag of weird CGI alien characters with silly voices and silly dialogue (see Kumail Nanjiani’s Pawny for both) and it’s a pretty good cast all round delivering what you’d expect for this type of movie.
Then there’s Chris Hemsworth. He is the fly in the ointment. The weakest link in the chain. To be frank – he’s terrible. Agent H is basically a himbo who bumbles his way through the story using his good looks and the competence of other agents to get him out of trouble. It’s scene after scene of cringeworthy performances as Hemsworth tries so hard to be funny and witty that it quickly becomes a painful viewing experience. Add to the fact he’s surrounded by more competent actors and it becomes really apparent that he’s miscast as the lead and his performance alone brings down this whole film.
Director F. Gary Gray (The Fate of the Furious, Straight Outta Compton) has delivered a film that isn’t anything special. There’s nothing wrong with it, technically, with good CGI FX, fun art direction, etc. But none of that makes up for the fact that this movie isn’t funny. Not just because Chris Hemsworth is crap. But the script isn’t funny, instead oozing and oozing desperate attempts of trying to be funny instead of actually being funny. Great comedic actors like Robin Williams have the ability to make a mediocre scene humorous, however much of this cast lacks what it takes to lift the mediocre script to the comedic levels it needed to warrant being called a comedy.
Men in Black: International is a subpar, forgettable sequel to a franchise that probably didn’t need a fourth film, especially one lacking the one thing that made them so popular – the leads’ chemistry. The original trilogy had the double-whammy charisma of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones to coast on when everything else stunk. Fans of the previous movies will be disappointed that Hemsworth lacks the screen presence, charisma and acting skills to carry the silliness to the next level, though they can take salvation with a solid performance from Tessa Thompson. The descent special FX that bring the plethora of aliens to life look fantastic but a lackluster story that brings nothing new ultimately makes this a movie I’d gladly use a neuralizer to forget about.