March 20, 2023

Film Review – Men In Black: International (2019)


We don’t know about you, but it still doesn’t feel like the Summer just yet, despite it being mid-June. Not having much sun in the sky doesn’t help matters but for us moviegoers, we are still awaiting the first great summer blockbuster that gets out blood pumping and our seats shaking. Marvel has delivered, of course, but they were quick out of the gate as soon as the Easter Bunny was done with his rounds, but since then we haven’t had much to cheer about and the box office slump shows as much. Can Men In Black: International, returning to save us from the scum of the universe, also save us from our summer of discontent?

MiB: International is the sum of seven years development: after Mr. Smith and Mr. Jones (and, by extension, Mr. Brolin) abandoned their suits and shades, there was talk of an unprecedented crossover with 21/22 Jump Street but given how convoluted it’s pre-production sounded, it’s no wonder that was aborted. Something more straightforward was the approach and re-teaming Thor: Ragnarok stars Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth as the newest incumbents had many salivating at the prospect. Chuck in Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Ferguson, Emma Thompson and director F. Gary Gray (Fast 8, Straight Outta Compton) to the mix and all, on paper at least, seemed like it would do the trick. It doesn’t. And it’s not that the film is awful, it’s just that it is so utterly unmemorable and bland that makes it seem like an even bigger sin.

There’s a smorgasbord of amazing ideas that could have been brought to the screen here but everything reverts to type, not stretching the material in any imaginative new directions instead relying on audiences affection for what has gone before to see the film through, coupled with the newly-found chemistry between the leads that made Taika Waititi’s Marvel effort so wonderfully entertaining. Everything here is so flat and rhythmless which, given director Gray’s previous works, only adds to the disappointment and while a couple of set pieces do get the heart racing for a while, there simply isn’t enough to warrant the film’s existence. The script is lazy and nonsensical in places, with each and every “surprise” horribly obvious almost from the outset and the stakes feeling almost inconsequential. This from the co-writers of Iron Man, no less, only adding to the ever-growing list of calamities.

Tessa Thompson is the film’s saving grace, though, with an energetic and dynamic performance that is deserving of a better film to be entangled with, saving us from heading into truly awful territory, as does Kumail Nanjiani who is a hoot throughout as a new aliens sidekick.

The less said about wasting the talents of Emma Thompson and Rebecca Ferguson the better, but both are still lightyears better than Neeson and Rafe Spall, who both seem totally bewildered. Hemsworth, meanwhile, struggles to keep up and relies far too heavily on his newly found “Asgard” schtick to see him through. For someone who has brilliant comic timing, he sure is picking some real duds to do it in.

Summer 2019 may well go down in history as one of the most disappointing. We’ve seen a God lacking it’s Zilla, a Dark Phoenix flaming out and now Earth’s Mightiest Mind Wipers have faltered – what is going on? This latest dud is perhaps the worst offender given the talent attached, and it may signal the end of the MiB for good. And what a shame that is.

Scott S.Davis | [rating=2]

Sci-Fi, Adventure | USA, 2019 | 12A | 14th June 2019 (UK) | Sony Pictures Releasing | Dir.F.Gary Gray | Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thomspon, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani