Men in Black: International (2019) Review

It’s no secret that Hollywood loves to revive old franchises for today’s generation of moviegoers. And of course, enticing those audiences who came to love the franchise in the first place by banking on the nostalgia factor. Among them that falls to such category is Men in Black: International. But instead of a long-rumoured fourth Men in Black movie that would reunite Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, we have a spin-off with all-new leads in the form of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. The kind of spin-off that no one really asked for.

Anyway, this Men in Black spin-off basically follows a new recruit Molly a.k.a. Agent M (Tessa Thompson), who is sent to the UK branch to assist on a case working alongside Agent H (Chris Hemsworth). Apart from facing dangerous shapeshifting alien threats (Les Twins – Laurent and Larry Bourgeois), the two MIB agents soon discover there is a mole within the Men in Black organisation.

Part of what makes the original Men in Black trilogy works — yes, even the mediocre ones in the second and third movies — are the terrific chemistry between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. At first glance, it seems as if the spin-off made the right choice pairing Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson as the new leads. Besides, both of them were great in Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and even their bit parts in Avengers: Endgame. But surprisingly, there are little sparks between them in Men in Black: International. Blame it on Art Marcum and Matt Holloway’s (2017’s Transformers: The Last Knight) bland screenplay, complete with hit-and-miss jokes that fail to make good use of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson’s talents.

F. Gary Gray, who did quite a decent job in Fast & Furious 8 a.k.a. The Fate of the Furious, doesn’t exactly offer anything fresh here other than introducing mixed genders for the new leads and a change of location from New York to London. Despite being positioned as a spin-off, the movie does little to expand the Men in Black universe. Frankly, it actually feels more of a clichéd reboot in disguise than something that has a strong worldbuilding potential. Even the effects-laden action sequences are largely uninspired, albeit all the introduction of more cool weaponry gadgets this time around. Given the calibre of F. Gary Gray who has a fair share of experience making action movies in the past (he also directed Set It Off, The Italian Job remake and Law Abiding Citizen), he can actually do better than staging the kind of set-pieces that screams “lazy” all over the place.

Then, there’s the pacing issue. At nearly two-hour long, the movie could have benefitted with some serious trimming. For instance, certain scenes only drag or did little to contribute the movie (e.g. the nightclub scene where the shapeshifting alien duo strutting their moves on the dance floor is more of a flimsy excuse to showcase Les Twins’ talents as hip-hop dancers).

Still, Men in Black: International has its few moments. Some of the supporting cast are worth mentioning here. This includes Emma Thompson’s brief but worthwhile cameo as Agent O, whose appearance is surprisingly funnier than Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson combined. How I wish if she is given a bigger role in this movie. Another surprise is Kumail Nanjiani, who steals most of the show voicing the little alien creature nicknamed Pawny.

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