Men in Black: International
When it comes to the breadth of quality in cinema, there’s a classically shaped bell curve. That is to say, most films are just “fine.” Men in Black: International sits squarely in that population.
The fourth in the sci-fi comedy series, Men in Black: International follows the formula that we’re used to seeing from the franchise. Agent M (Tessa Thompson) is a new recruit to the intergalactic policing agency. She’s assigned to be paired with a cocky veteran, Agent H (Chris Hemsworth). They get into some adventures with aliens, sniff out the larger MIB organization, and have a couple forced poignant moments together. You know, the usual. The problem here is not that Men in Black: International does anything wrong, just that we’ve seen this all before. For the dignity of the franchise, we deserve more.
While I hate to both read and write film reviews that bemoan what a film does not include, rather than look at what is actually on screen, I think that there’s some validation in expecting a little more from franchise films as the series continues. Horror films up the body count. Porn increases the number of … errr… participants. Sci-fi has greater stakes or more aliens. There’s an expectation that we will not simply be shown more of the same. We expect a reason to watch the next installment in the series, instead of just rewatching the first.
But Men in Black: International never quite gets there. Coming out on the heels of John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum, a shining example of upping the stakes and investing wholly in world creation, and at the cusp of this summer’s remakeathon, it’s disappointing to see that there’s no fresh meat being offered in this adjacent version of interstellar immigration and regulation. We’re shown new aliens (with less spectacular effects, though they manage), and get taken to Paris, London, and Marrakesh, but that doesn’t make up for a lack of new facets to this world. Simply put, it’s all the same stuff over again.
For what it’s worth, Hemsworth is easy on the eyes and generally charming, and Thompson is too. The characters have very little chemistry on screen, but they have some good jokes and keep the action moving.
Perhaps the most pandering and unfathomably successful part of Men in Black: International is the pocket-sized alien sidekick named Pawny, voiced by Kumail Nanjiani. Granted, casting Nanjiani is almost always a slam dunk, and his adorably tiny character is easy to like. He elevates the scenes he’s in and distracts from the lackluster characters elsewhere. It’s a cheap trick, but a good one.
Men in Black: International doesn’t do anything flagrantly wrong, but it doesn’t do a lot right either. This is precisely the type of movie you’ll forget you saw, even if you don’t dislike watching it.