When you keep going to the well, it’s important to keep expectations somewhat…measured.
Men In Black: International is a fun action romp that works thanks to the natural chemistry between its two leads. However it’s fairly uneven from a narrative standpoint and more than a little predictable most of the time.
The Men in Black have expanded to cover the globe, but so have the scum of the universe. And to keep us safe, decorated Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and determined rookie M (Tessa Thompson) are partnered – an unlikely pairing that just might work. As they face a new alien threat that can take the form of anyone, including MIB agents, they must join forces on a globetrotting adventure to save the agency and ultimately the world.
Men In Black: International is about as light and fluffy as cinematic popcorn gets. It’s not a movie with any real kind of ambition, but that’s OK even though we now live in a world where spectacle and substance are expected to go hand in hand and it all feels very safe.
Director F. Gary Grey is a serviceable filmmaker with a resume to show for it which is probably what makes him such a perfect choice for this franchise. The movie looks great from beginning to end and doesn’t really mess around with any unnecessary or superfluous moments. The script from writers Matt Holloway and Art Marcum does hit all the expected beats in spite of being more than a little uneven and rushing the development and introduction of Tessa Thompson’s character while many other actors and characters get wasted along the way.
There’s nothing in this film that’s “bad” by any stretch of the imagination, but it all comes across as an incredibly safe affair. We get reintroduced to this world, we meet our protagonists and they go along their merry way overcoming whatever obstacle they need to conquer. It’s formulaic, which can be perceived negatively at times, but in this case I actually think it’s OK. It’s not designed to change the cinematic wheel; it’s just there to be a pleasant way to spend two hours. It achieves that goal (but barely) and thanks mostly to the nature chemistry between the two leads.
Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson have such a natural chemistry and flow about themselves that they can’t help but light up the screen any time that they are together. They’re just so damn likeable and it doesn’t get enough appreciation for being a quality that you just can’t teach to be conveyed on the big screen. Hemsworth is at home playing the roguishly handsome, yet brazenly cocky agent while Thompson masterfully matches him with plucky intelligence that his character can’t help but appreciate because it saves his ass on more than one occasion. She’s overdue to carry her own film (or even series of films) as she can do it with ease.
While it lightly teases romance between the two, this is more of a brother/sister or mentor/pupil dynamic as they acknowledge that they actually make a perfect team together in spite of having very different personality traits. As a duo they have solid comedic and dramatic timing and play into the legacy of the other stories exceptionally well.
Sadly, outside of Kumail Nanjiani as the hilariously loyal (and pint sized) alien Pawny, the balance of the ensemble is absolutely wasted. Rafe Spall as a rival agent just has a series of emotive and bland comedic beats to go through as he sets up Hemsworth for punch lines, Rebecca Ferguson is barely recognizable as the alien arms dealer (and ex-girlfriend to Hemsworth’s Agent H) while Liam Neeson gets wasted in a fairly generic part while the brilliant Emma Thompson (go see Late Night this weekend) is basically wasted.
Thanks to Hemsworth and Thompson’s naturalistic and charming style of banter; Men In Black: International manages to rise above the watermark for an acceptably pleasant cinematic experience that would have otherwise flat lined without the movie star magnetism between the two. Just remember going in that this movie is really only ever aiming for the middle, its pure fluffy popcorn cinema and as long as you’re not expecting Avengers: End Game level of movie spectacle, there’s actually not a damn thing wrong with that.