And the summer of sequelitis duds continues.
“Men in Black: International” is the fourth film of the alien-fighting franchise that started with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith in 1997. This time around, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson take the reins while F. Gary Gray takes over directing duties from Barry Sonnenfeld. In the film, the Men in Black must evade an alien species who is planning on invading earth. Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson and Kumail Nanjiani also star.
I was looking forward to this one. Sure, the trailers weren’t anything special, but at worst they made this out to look like a classic popcorn blockbuster, plus Thompson and Hemsworth had great chemistry in “Thor: Ragnarok” and I actually enjoyed the 2012 MiB outing. So it is immensely disappointing that this is not only not very good or even any fun, but it is just plain bland.
I love Chris Hemsworth, have for years and think his comedic abilities were on display long ago with the likes of “Vacation” and “Ghostbusters.” But here he is completely wasted, and his character makes no sense. On numerous occasions Hemsworth is touted as the “greatest agent this branch has ever seen,” but the man is a complete bumbling idiot and it is near-impossible to buy that story. Some people complained that Thor got dumbed-down too much in “Ragnarok” and “Infinity War,” but it is nothing compared to Hemsworth here. You can tell he is trying to get some improv riffs off and his natural charm is certainly there, but the material he is handed is just bare bones.
Tessa Thompson is really the only character given a backstory or arc, and she does the best she can with it. Just like Hemsworth, her charisma is too glowing to keep fully contained, but either her improvised bits are either poorly edited or just not funny. Emma Thompson is charming as usual, but is completely wasted in a torch-passing role, and Kumail Nanjiani gets a few laughs voicing a tiny alien but just like Thomson, either they let him go off script to no avail or the editing (done by three different people, by the way) ruins the delivery.
And that is a big problem with this film, the editing. For both pacing and continuity, it is severely lacking and at points incoherent. The film starts in Paris in 2016, then jumps to Brooklyn “20 years earlier,” before going ahead to present day. It is either lazy screenwriting or slack direction by F. Gary Gray, who has showed with the likes of “Friday” and “Straight Outta Compton” that he can properly handle both humor and energy. So many of the special effects sequences and alien designs just look bad, and when the 1997 film of your franchise won an Oscar for best makeup, your expectations are all the higher.
This film isn’t just disappointing because it doesn’t have two iconic Hollywood stars return and wastes the pair they put in their place; it is a letdown, too, because the bar should be pretty low for at the very least “mindless summer blockbuster.” But Gray shoots the action scenes with zero motivation or flair, gives Hemsworth and Thompson no inspired material to work with (their commercials and Instagram promos are funnier than the whole film), and the plot just jumps from one set piece to the next, in a seemingly factory-mandated fashion. No one wanted “Godzilla 2” and most people were done with the X-Men, yet we got another film of them, and now we can add “Men in Black: International” to the list of “sequels released in 2019 that have no reason to exist.”
Critic’s Rating: 3/10.