Men & Women In Black
Men In Black is one of my favourite sci-fi action films. When it released back in 1997, the film nailed both its premise and characters, delivering an enjoyable, cleverly written and charismatic film made with an eye for detail and enthusiasm. Whilst I didn’t care much for its third sequel, Men In Black II had just enough originality and throwbacks to the original to make it worth a watch. Men In Black: International delivers on neither its premise or characters, delivering a messy plot that stutters along between its two lead protagonists with little of the soul and enthusiasm that made the original so enjoyable.
The story begins in Paris 20 years prior to the present, with Agent H and High T tackling a threat known as The Hive. Before we get a chance to see the ensuing action, the film thrusts us forward to Brooklyn to see Agent M’s upbringing before pushing us forward again to present day MIB headquarters where M manages to infiltrate and win over the trust of Agent O to take her on as a new rookie. It’s messy, lightning-paced stuff and from here, the film convolutes its narrative behind a myriad of throwbacks to the original film.
At the heart of it all is a conflict between two races over a very small item; a weapon that can destroy solar systems. With an alien gangster being stalked by two twins that call themselves The Hive Mind and a tiny, alien family with their own reasons for wanting to get their hands on it, it all feels very similar to the first film. While that isn’t necessarily a bad thing, everything down to the dialogue beats call back to the original film in the worst possible way. Toward the end, one of the characters says “Imagine what you’ll achieve when you’re one of us” which feels eerily similar to K’s promise to J in the original about his first day on the job after defeating the bug alien.
There are other, more spoiler-heavy examples of this but I won’t divulge them here. The reason I bring this up is because Men In Black: International isn’t necessarily a bad film on its own. It’s an enjoyable popcorn flick with pretty good pacing after its clunky opening and some nice jokes nestled in there too. One had me genuinely laugh out loud and there’s enough moments here that you’ll never feel bored. As a Men In Black film however, International is a disappointing mess.
The characters themselves are okay but the lack of development really holds the film back too. We know next to nothing about Agent H and because of that, and despite Chris Hemsworth’s best efforts, everyone is just going to see Thor in a suit. To make matters worse, there’s even a scene here that shows him holding a hammer which he throws at one of the aliens during a fight. Agent M is at least given a bit of backstory and it certainly shows here; Tessa Thompson brings Molly to life in a compelling way and is easily one of the stand-outs of the film.
On a different note, I could have done without some of the forced sexism jokes. There’s quite a few that crop up here, including one offhand remark about “Men and Women In Black” and another seeing a character proclaim that “All Women Are Queens”. I do understand that films move with trends, but given the first film literally finished with a woman joining the MIB and not batting an eyelid at the name of the organisation, it feels a little misplaced and sloppy here.
Men In Black: International will either be a film you love or loathe, depending on the reason you’ve gone to the cinema to watch it. On the one hand, it’s a fun popcorn flick with a nicely worked twist and enough humour and character to keep you tuned in until the end. Under any other name, this would be a solid 6/10 but under the Men In Black umbrella, and with so many throwbacks to the original this one feels like it’s so desperate to emulate, it fails in a pretty big way. Men In Black: International is disappointingly bland and certainly one follow-up you won’t need a neuralizer to forget.