Men in Black: International follows a legendary MIB agent (Chris Hemsworth) and a rookie agent (Tessa Thompson) as they try to stop a powerful weapon from falling into the wrong alien hands. As a threat, the Hive, makes a return, the two must find a way to find and secure the weapon before the aliens do.
Men in Black: International Review
The MIB franchise is an organic one. Its sequels were spawned not from necessity for the continuation of a story (like, say, Star Wars or Lord of the Rings), but out of potential for financial success for the studio. Sometimes franchises like this pan out, and other times they fall flat. More often than not, you'll at the very least see ups and downs in the quality of the franchise as you see major fluctuations in budget, writing style, and directing prowess. While none of the subsequent films, including International, can hold a candle to the first, this entry at least puts together a product more aligned with the product of the first than the second installment.
While many laud the third film to be much stronger than the second film, I can't give it a pass simply because it outperformed the Looney Tunes-esque approach the second film took. The third isn't bad, but it is clunky. It felt like it was trying to overcompensate the cartoony sequel it was forced to follow up. It became clear after the trilogy was complete that MIB had reached a crossroads.
So instead of bringing back staples Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, the studio decided to do a soft reboot of sorts and bring in up-and-comers Hemsworth and Thompson, fresh off their success on the set of Thor: Ragnarok, where their chemistry was palpable. The safe gamble paid off, sort of. The flaws certainly don't fall on the shoulders of the two leads, but more so the weak script and directing that often struggled to help jokes finish crisply.
The first act is a rough one. It feels like the entire cast and crew just wanted to get the origin of the current characters out of the way and get to the good stuff. It's distractingly choppy and rushed, telling the audience it's just going to drag them along for the ride and hope they make it to the second act.
When you do inevitably make it, you are rewarded with a pretty fun film. We are given some fun alien concepts and disguises that define the best moments of the franchise. The comedically talented Kumail Nanjiani's character of Pawny had more potential than actual success, too often reminding me of the failed gags of MIB 2 than a fresh perspective on an unusual alien culture.
The trope of MIB technology is used primarily for repetitive jokes that come across as cheap homage to the old films. The "little red button" and neuralizer jokes were played out in the second film, let alone the third film and now fourth film. But the movie almost redeems itself in a fairly brief action scene involving the artfully designed primary henchmen of the story and an MIB car packed with a cache of futuristic weapons in creative compartments.
International doesn't offer a ton in terms of original concepts outside of a handful of fun alien design showcases. Its script is fairly basic and many of the jokes fall flat, either due to delivery, cut or writing. Thompson, Hemsworth and Liam Neeson do what they can with a story that feels like a cheap knock off of a Mission Impossible movie at times. The end result is an entertaining scifi action romp that pales in comparison to the original diamond in the rough.