Pairing Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth helped revitalize the "Thor" franchise (though together they're just a sliver of the talented "Ragnarok" cast), and clearly Sony hopes the duo can do the same for the "Men In Black" series with the release of "MIB: International," out June 14. Will Smith, Tommy Lee Jones and series director Barry Sonnenfeld are all out, so it really is up to the new folks to save the world and the "MIB" series. Here's what the reviews have to say:
Like The Original, This 'MIB' Pairs A New Agent With A Veteran On A High-Stakes Mission
The latest Men in Black sequel stars Thompson as Molly, a young woman who encountered an alien when she was young and has spent her life obsessing over the mysterious "men in black." She wants to know who they are—and, more important, become one of them. She spends decades trying to uncover the truth, and succeeds. She's recruited by Emma Thompson's impeccable Agent O into the Men in Black.
When she overhears that legendary Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) has been assigned to babysit a visiting envoy from an allied planet, Molly—now just M—volunteers to back him up. But M's adventures lead her to a mysterious device that comes with an ominous warning: someone within MIB is not what they seem, and the ramifications to this infiltration could be intergalactic war.
The Pairing Of Hemsworth And Thompson Still Works, Though Not As Well As It Did In 'Thor: Ragnarok'
Hemsworth's self-depreciating "himbo" act earns him good will, and he and Thompson mischievously bat at each other like kittens play-fighting throughout. But their sibling-rivalry energy, while endlessly charming, is similarly unfocused. Besides, Men In Black: International rarely stays still long enough for the audience to really savor the chemistry between the two.
Thompson and Hemsworth do their damnedest to brighten the limp material presented to them. The film wants to be loose and improvisatory, but also needs to follow the beats of a sci-fi mystery story. It gets caught, then, in some awkward middle place, where the wan, off-hand jokes can't hold up to the zipping alien action. I'd love to see Thompson and Hemsworth paired up in something else, non-Thor-related; a project that doesn't have them trying to distinguish themselves against other people's legacies.
Thompson's Doing The Heavy Lifting Character-Wise While Hemsworth Does A Bit Of A Bond-Turn
Thompson's unique blend of snark and self-deprecation has been evident since "Dear White People," and in this context, suggests she could be the natural heir to [Will] Smith's appeal (though he's still chugging along for now). There's enough charm and intrigue in these opening stretches to make the case for a whole movie about Molly's quest, but once she tracks down the MiB headquarters with remarkable ease, it's business as usual.
Thompson remains a joy to watch, making flat lines like "I have no dog, no cats, and absolutely no chill," work in her favor.
The most surprising thing about the film is that it functions best as a send up of old-school espionage capers, with Hemsworth essentially doing 007 with a taste for more exotic dalliances. Early on a high-stakes poker game ends with him copping off with a tentacled floozy, while a brief sojourn to Naples later on reunites H with old flame Riza, a similarly limby arms dealer played by Rebecca Ferguson.
Kumail Nanjiani's Pawny Is A Memorable — Perhaps Even Lovable — Alien Addition To The Cast…
Along for the ride with the duo is a wisecracking alien creature called Pawny, a sort of cross between a tiny iguana and a chess piece; he's voiced by Kumail Nanjiani and given a lot of insistent, overly cute interjections that feel more desperate with each passing minute.
Goddammit, I loved Kumail Nanjiani's stupid pawn alien, as much as I wanted to loathe him. He felt tacked on, to the point where I think they added dialogue for him in scenes that had already been shot, but I didn't care. Nanjiani is a delight, and got the most laughs at the screening I went to.
Pawny's the funniest creation in a movie that often doesn't go far enough with its outlandish parade of bug-eyed creations, as Industrial Light and Magic populates the story with an anonymous parade of half-baked creations.
… But The Movie's Sorely Lacking For Awesome Aliens
The aliens M meets on her journey from "probe" to full MIB agent are all imaginatively designed but look awkward and out of place next to their human counterparts. That's typical of Men In Black: International's elaborate but lukewarm world-building: Nearly every scene features aliens or spaceships or top-secret technologies from beyond the Milky Way, but none of them evoke amazement, wonder, delight, or any of the other emotions one would hope to experience while encountering beings from another galaxy. And sure, this is part four in the series, so expecting a full tank of astonishment might be unrealistic. But is a little awe too much to ask for a film that lists Steven Spielberg among its executive producers?
"Men in Black: International" begs for more attention to its zanier inhabitants and the tone they serve. Instead, they dangle there, as leftover signifiers of a nineties franchise that never asked for a face-lift.
The Writers Fail To Hit On Interesting Characters Or A Truly Intriguing Plot
Not only do writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (Iron Man, and more recently, Transformers: The Last Knight) woefully overcomplicate the story of a "mole hunt" in Men in Black without making it any more intriguing, they barely seem interested in alien cultures as a counterpoint to our own, and seem to assume that Thompson and Hemsworth will provide all of the necessary buddy-cop chemistry that their characters lack.
Thor: Ragnarok showed that she and Hemsworth have great on-screen chemistry, so more fool screenwriters Matt Holloway and Art Marcum for failing to give them the platform to spar as we know they can.
Writers Matt Holloway and Art Marcum seem too concerned with making sure that everyone likes these characters at every moment, and that means keeping them blandly competent and charming, with minimal faults and mistakes.
Pair That With Just-OK Direction From F. Gary Gray…
That frenetic plotting, combined with workmanlike direction from F. Gary Gray (a once-exciting filmmaker who brings as little to this film as he did to The Fate of the Furious), overwhelms whatever natural spark Hemsworth and Thompson might have had together.
Gray directs dutifully, but all these cutesy aliens and goofy sight-gags feel outside his wheelhouse. Yes, he's done a Fast and Furious movie, which is about as silly as movies can get—but that series still has some real-world grit and grime binding things together. The Men in Black universe is cartoonish, gleaming, antic in a way that needs a director who's a little lighter, wackier, maybe. Gray does a respectable job (as he always does), but there's not a ton of style or personality livening up MiB: International. It's functional, but perfunctory.
… And You Get An Utterly Forgettable International Romp
The story trudges through an uninteresting series of permutations and CGI detonations. The "International" of the title means we travel from New York to London and Marrakesh, although our trio's appearance in each location could as well have been achieved via a green screen.
After a perilous nightclub showdown, the pair wind up in Marrakech, where their encounters include an underground mechanic who wears an alien for a beard and a monotonous flying motorcycle chase in which everyone says "Ahhh!" a lot.
It's not that this new movie has forgotten the fleet-footed charm of the original MIB films; it's just that it doesn't quite know how to conjure it again, so it confuses levity with listlessness.
Where It Tries To Be A Little Bit More Than A Breezy Summer Blockbuster, It Barely Hangs With The Original
The original Men In Black had something to say. The very first scene, in fact, opens with MIB agents wresting possession of a convoy of undocumented migrants from border patrol, a scene that reads very differently in our current climate. One could imagine that the first film in the franchise to feature a woman of color in a lead role might take advantage of that to really grapple with the implications. Do gender constructs exist beyond Earth? What about race? Do our petty human biases really matter in the wider universe? In director F. Gary Gray's hands, MIB: International takes the easy road, choosing bombastic moments to declare its feminism instead of showing it throughout, a trap too many blockbusters have fallen into in the last year or so.
This MiB tackles the idea of aliens as migrants who are not necessarily to be reviled, although this notion goes nowhere and the film can find no way to handle it as anything other than a tricky complicating factor.
MIB:I is a perfectly fine piece of summer entertainment, easy on the brain and big on the shiny spectacle. But it feels polished to a fault, packed with straight-faced sincerity instead of Will Smith's smarmy self-satisfaction or Tommy Lee Jones' crisp, brutally insensitive professionalism. It's a kinder, gentler Men In Black, without any of the sharp edges, which makes it feel curiously calm and inert.
Watch The Trailer
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