By Jonathan Reed
Video supplied by Sony Pictures Entertainment©
Watching Men In Black: International, you are left asking one question – did we really need another sequel to the alien-investigative franchise? Many would argue, no. But as the credits rolled, that ‘no’ tentatively transformed into a ‘maybe.’
The iconic Men In Black, starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, was a genius movie. In an era where the public were obsessed with alien conspiracy theories, it was an instant hit, and with the undeniable chemistry between Smith and Jones, it was inevitable sequels would follow. But the second and third instalment never managed to capture the uniqueness of the original, and the same can be said here too.
In a surprising take, neither Agent K nor J make an appearance besides a quick reference through a portrait of their greatest success. Instead we are presented Agent H and M, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson revisiting the same energetic team as Thor Ragnarok. Alongside Emma Thompson’s Head Agent O, returning from the lacklustre Men In Black 3; High T, the British equivalent, is brought to the screen by Liam Neeson.
T tasks the heroes with a mission to unearth a potential mole among the Men In Black. And after an alien VIP is assassinated and a superweapon stolen, H and M head across the world in search for answers.
Forgive me if the plot is vague, but what becomes arguably clear within the first 10 minutes, is that what happens in the movie doesn’t really matter. It is quickly side-lined, instead focusing on the comic chops of both Hemsworth and Thompson, who are the movies saving graces.
Having honed his comedic skills through movies such as, ‘Vacation’, ‘Ghostbusters’ and most recently ‘Avengers: Endgame’, Chris Hemsworth is at ease here. At points, cut from the restraints of a weighted down script, he truly shines as a comic master. And he equally bounces off his co-star Tessa Thompson, who’s improv worked so well in Ragnarok. Whether it is sniping with MIB jobsworth Agent C (Rafe Spall) or sulking with Smurth-sized sidekick, Pawny (Kimail Nanjiani), both Hemsworth and Thompson are a pure delight to watch, emanating a genuine sense of familiarity.
The lack of any ‘real’ serious characters works in favour of the movies tone and texture, allowing the actors freedom to not take the whole thing too seriously. Speaking to a sentient beard, or pulling apart a vintage Jaguar to reveal all manner of stupendous looking laser guns, is all in a days work, and it doesn’t feel forced or pointless.
But with the plot pushed aside, Rebecca Ferguson’s three-armed, zebra-haired former arms dealer is shamelessly underused. And the wonderful, crazy practical alien effects from the original three movies are replaced by bland looking CGI beings which simply blend into the background.
Coming seven years after MIB3, there was always a good chance that any follow up (though MIB: International does feel like more of a soft reboot) wouldn’t have to try hard to beat it. And here lies the problem with this fourth instalment. It doesn’t try hard. With a killer plot, one which allowed further exploration of the alien world and the universe of the Men In Black, then perhaps MIB: International could have steered the franchise back to the barnstorming original. Instead, the producers focused too much on the comedy aspect, making the movie resemble an elongated gag-reel and not a fully formed movie.
It is perhaps the most unnecessary sequel, but not disappointing. The central combo of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson keep you invested, in a world and alien mystery which fails to do anything. MIB: International isn’t bad; it also isn’t great, but just good enough to stop you reaching of the memory erasing neuralyzer.