The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization. (from IMDb)
After delivering such s bizarre reboot as an intentional all-female cast for Ghostbusters in 2016--which also ignored the films that came before it--Sony Pictures seems to have learned at least somewhat of a lesson in the way they've handled a soft reboot for their Men In Black franchise, which had lay dormant since Men In Black 3 released in 2012. MIB International serves to continue the franchise, while expanding it, keeping it within the same universe as the first three films, but widening the world to take the characters out of New York and across the sea to Europe. This new story takes place in the present, after a girl named Molly has spent most of her life trying to find the mysterious peacekeeping alien-fighting organization. Three years after the London branch saved the world in Paris, Molly--now named Agent M--is sent to London to help that branch fight a new kind of threat.
With the help of the now-iconic score provided by Danny Elfman, and a visual aesthetic that had been established by director Barry Sonnenfeld back in 1997, F. Gary Gray takes hold of the reins and does a good job making MIB International feel part of the same world. Sonnenfeld was never quite able to recapture the magic that the first film displayed, and Gray isn't able to here either, but Gray does a noble effort to create something new from things that are also familiar. The only other "constant" here is the return of Emma Thompson as MIB head, O, from 2012's Men In Black 3, and she's easily one of the best parts of this movie--despite how criminally small her screentime is. Thor: Ragnarok castmates Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson team up again here, with Thompson taking the spotlight this time around. I've only seen Tessa in the Creed films and as Valkyrie in Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame, and I can't say either of those roles have made me a fan. However, she's wonderful here, playing the role with enthusiasm and glee--the kind fans feel toward the best moments of this franchise. And where Will Smith had played the funnier character to Tommy Lee Jones' more serious straight man, there's a significant role reversal here as Hemsworth is far goofier than Tessa's no-nonsense, go-getting character. Sadly, it doesn't really work. Hemsworth has proven he can be funny in movies like Ragnarok, but whether it's a poor script or just poor execution, most of this film's attempt at humor misses the mark. Also, they play the gender card far too much here. Molly and O have a moment where they complain about the name being "Men In Black," and a couple other moments during the film go out of their way to make reference to things like "We are the Men--and Women--in Black!" It can be cute, sure, but a lot of movies--including this month's Dark Phoenix and the name "X-Men"--are doing it more and more these days, and it just seems bitter and angry more times than fun or tongue-in-cheek. (Did the world forget "men" has largely encompassed both genders in texts? Heck, it's IN the word "woMEN." Everyone's just so sensitive about it these days, it's crazy. However, I digress...) But to make matters worse, the film almost paints Molly as being able to do literally anything, without prior practice or knowledge, and paints Hemsworth's male character as more inept and helpless at times. It's played for laughs at times, but these movies just seem to be trying too hard to compensate for any kind of gender imbalance in the past.
Weak script moments aside, MIB International is still a fun watch. I don't think it's better than Men In Black 3 (and it's nowhere near the stellar original), but it's definitely better than the vastly disappointing first sequel, and it's good enough to make me moderately interested in a possible future installment with these characters. There's definitely more potential to further the story, and it could definitely work with the right script and cast. Liam Neeson is good as the head of the London branch, High T (get it?), and while Rafe Spall was rather out of place in last year's Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, he fits better here as some tension for Hemsworth's Agent H. The franchise also continues it's odd reliance on a little, digital alien sidekick (the dog just did NOT work in Men In Black II), but Pawny is given a few moments here to generate laughs--even if it's not nearly as often as the movie thinks it should be. I'd love to see future films break this trend entirely, though.
The content is mostly on par with the previous films, but it's probably the lightest of all of them to date. There almost is a "What the f---" early on, but Molly stops it before going very far. Otherwise, there is just a couple uses of the "S" word and some uses of "d*mn," "h*ll" and "*ss." There are a few uses of "G-d" and "Oh my G-d," but it's infrequent. In keeping with the franchise, there are definitely some gross moments, the worst of which happens when we see a person's corpse after their likeness has been absorbed by an alien force. The camera focuses on the remains, which just looks like a large mass of melting wax. It's gross, but not as bad as it probably could otherwise be. There's at least one more view of this later on, but it's more of a partially-melted dead body. Finally, we see a monster rip through a person's skin as a person transforms into a large, scary tentacled alien. It's not as gross as in the first Men In Black film (when Edgar tears off his skin to reveal the large cockroach alien), but it'll definitely frighten some viewers. There's also some surprising sexual content. Most of it is just a couple verbal references, but there's a moment where a male character is dying of poison and he tells a woman he'll do anything for the cure that she possesses. She asks "anything?" and we then see them in bed together the next morning. He's just in his underwear, and we see him peel her tentacled arm off his bare chest before he crawls out of bed and quietly leaves. A joke is made about M having a "fetish" for aliens, and when H introduces her to an alien, there's a misunderstanding that she would be sleeping with him (and she insists she won't "fornicate" with an alien).
The IMAX format definitely suits MIB International. Its image filled the screen and it made it a perfect film for the larger presentation. I wouldn't say IMAX is a "must" for this one though. Also, do keep in mind that there is NO post-credits scene (in case you were wondering).
Overall, there's really no need for a sequel like MIB International to exist, but as it stands, it's a moderately decent entry into a very inconsistent franchise. It's hard not to view this entry entirely as an attempted cashgrab from Sony, but all those involved seem to be doing their best to at least make it fun, and it shows. If you're a diehard fan of the series, it's worth a look, but more casual fans may want to pass on it--or save it for a rainy day matinee.- John DiBiase (reviewed: 6/19/19)
Disclaimer: All reviews are based solely on the opinions of the reviewer. Most reviews are rated on how the reviewer enjoyed the film overall, not exclusively on content. However, if the content really affects the reviewer's opinion and experience of the film, it will definitely affect the reviewer's overall rating.
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