Keep your change for Toy Story 4 – you’ve seen all of MIB’s tricks before.
By Stephanie Bal
The last time I saw Men In Black, I listened to Will Smith’s theme song on my Discman afterwards – so things have changed a little. I was going to movie-marathon Men in Black II (2002) and Men in Black 3 (2012) before watching F. Gary Gray’s MIB: International (2019), but I was told I didn’t have to. It’s not MIB 4, it’s international – it’s going to be totally different.
There’s nothing new here. Will Smith has been swapped out for Tessa Thompson and the director has tried to be more special with the special effects. The characters are bland and familiar, and the storyline is old: the overly eager Agent M (Thompson) is partnered with the doesn’t-always-play-by-the-rules Agent H (Hemsworth) and, with the help of a little sidekick, end up saving the world. It’s 114 minutes of meh.
Considering $110 million was poured into this film and we’re 22 years down the road from the original, one would think the future would look a little more futuristic. The charm of the first film in 1997 was that it pushed beyond what was thought possible back then. Now, it’s a CGI-fest without any soul. The movie takes itself too seriously and it’s like it doesn’t know how to loosen up and just have fun, which is kind of disappointing because it doesn’t end up bringing anything innovative or thought-provoking. It’s like the guy who is trying so hard to look and act the part but doesn’t have the charisma to pull it off – awkward. Just be you, MIB. I miss the relaxed cool of Will Smith.
There’s a great cast (Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson and the under-utilised Rebecca Ferguson), and any Avengers fans would expect the on-screen chemistry between Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth that they’ve seen before. Unfortunately, unlike their previous films together – Thor: Ragnarok (2017) and Avengers: Endgame (2019) – where they had history and an army of writers, this film just feels thrown together like a McDonald’s salad.
The best part of the movie is the animated Pawny as voiced by Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick), but even then, I felt aware that I was being fed comedic lines I was supposed to laugh at. I could only offer a few amused smiles.
The whole point of going to a movie – especially other-worldly movies of this kind – is to escape into something extraordinary and be entertained for a while. The wonderful technological advances of CGI should support the movie, not be the movie. I was constantly reminded that I was watching a movie – like the extremely-fake desert backdrop and I was distracted during the entire scene.
The CGI isn’t bad, it’s just overused. When the majority of the film looks fake, there’s never any real danger because everything around the characters isn’t real. They could have blown the whole block up and I wouldn’t really care because they didn’t take the time to build the stakes, storyline and characters. Character arcs are non-existent – they just feel one thing until they don’t. Like the (very minimal) hostility between Agent H and M is there, until it’s not. And then Hemsworth is staring at Thompson at the end as she walks away as if they’re childhood sweethearts. Give me a break. It’s only believable because it’s so predictable.
In retrospect, this movie is for someone. The woman sitting next to me switched between nibbling popcorn with only her two front teeth from a large bucket (you can imagine how long that took) and laughing even louder than her incessant chewing. I normally walk out of a movie – even a movie I didn’t like all that much – with some kind of heart tug. Most of this movie was forgotten in a flash. Maybe I should have kept a pair of black Ray Bans handy.MIB: International had promise but it doesn’t take the time in its two-hour runtime to get there. It’s a typical sequel movie that can’t live up to its first. Go for two hours of the dreamy Chris Hemsworth, or save your dollars for a movie that’s been killing its sequels and will take you to infinity and beyond.