By A.D. Beal
Expanding and continuing the world of Men In Black is an exciting prospect. The MIB trilogy was a unique and clever series that always had the potential to bring more ideas, locations and setpieces. This is why I was very excited for Men In Black: International. And I feel it both succeeded and failed in that.
The film is essentially a reboot-sequel of the series, starting with new characters and a new story while still being set in the same world with references to the previous film and a returning character in Agent O (Emma Thompson). Our new character are Agents H (Chris Hemsworth), a veteran agent who’s losing his passion, and M (Tessa Thompson), a woman who’s spent her whole life searching for the agency after witnessing an encounter when she was little. They join together after she is recruited to check out an issue in MIB’s London area. It is here our two leads discover there could be a mole in the corporation.
It can’t be understated that we have an incredible cast here. Hemsworth and Thompson may not get much in terms of development, but you do love these two together and both get their own moments to shine. Kumail Nanjiani just continuously steals the show as the little alien Pawny, a sarcastic but loyal figure who has some great banter with Hemsworth. Liam Neeson (the head of London MIB), Emma Thompson and Rebecca Ferguson (who plays a new alien creature) don’t get to do much but they all do fine. Ferguson especially brings some comedic chops that I haven’t seen from her before. I’d love to see here do some comedy work in the future. Unfortunately, the villains are the most boring the series has had yet. They look cool, but we know nothing about them, don’t really do much and disappear for a good chunk of the film. They suffer from the “Boba Fett” effect.
One thing that’s disappointing about International is that it doesn’t feel “international”. Some cool new alien designs aside, there’s nothing that separates this from the previous films or expands the world. London doesn’t offer anything new in terms of alien hideouts or how they work, nothing new in terms of the world or how it has changed. And it is essentially the same chase for a macguffin story as the previous films, though the mole storyline at least adds some new flavor and mystery to it. I can’t help but feel though that this could have been a good opportunity for the series to go into space, or at least try a different type of action film. The action scenes are still enjoyable, with some good choreography and new weapons for the crew.
Production wise, Charles Wood, who worked on several Marvel films, does make some pretty exciting locations and setpieces, even if they are standard for films like this. The film looks like a tv film though, which is strange given DoP Stuart Dryburgh’s previous work on films like The Piano. Editing is easily this film’s weakest point. It reeks of post-production interference, where the film keeps rushing from moment to moment without any time to breathe. The last battle especially is surprisingly short given some of the relationships involved. The worst bit that suffers though is M’s integration into MIB, whose flashy graphics and cuts feel straight out of a music video, and not in a good way. Not the worst I’ve seen, but very distracting.
Men In Black: International is still a fun, if disposable time. I enjoyed it on its own and as a followup to the previous films, though I still wish it did more. Keep the cast, bring in a new creative team, and we could have a great new series on hand. Just try something new, is the overall feeling I’m getting from this. It is still worth a watch in the end.