There’s nothing like movie potential being wasted. The potential of a well-cast Summer Blockbuster, just not used to its excesses is downright criminal. A Cinema Sin. It’s hard, in the sphere we live in where your expectations for a film aren’t impacted by the marketing, early reviews, trailers, almost anything. The way you may interact with social media and get a growing sense of the reception to a film.
Imagine being a contributor to a project like this one and you have to smile through it. Hemsworth and Thompson, out on the publicity tour smiling through it all is like watching someone walk the plank. To make matters worse, to have your film be set in a world with critically diminishing and box office returns is like trying to get out of quick sand. I believe a movie star can save almost any project, so why didn’t it work in this instance?
I mean, we’ve got 2 of em’. Maybe too much isn’t always a good thing.
The “Men in Black” are our planet’s defense against the many worlds in and outside of our universe that are hiding in secret to us for our protection. Molly (Tessa Thompson) was a witness to her parents encounter with agents of MIB when she was a child. Her quest for them and the truth has fueled her, her entire life. Her wits and skill finally lead her to an MIB facility where she is apprehended and before having her memory wiped, she pleads with Agent O (Emma Thompson) to give her shot at becoming an agent herself. O, obliges and after a few weeks of quick training, sends her off to MIB: London to help investigate some peculiar things happening at that branch across the pond. She strikes up an instant connection with the reckless, yet effective charmer Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) who is on the trail himself of an alien threat to the entire galaxy and both work together to uncover a possible mole within their ranks.
The world of MIB is massive and rich and has a sand box of opportunity with in it. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones graced our screens in the summer of 97’ and knocked it out of the park. Smith, then was at the peak of his powers and was like a super hero to me. He could do no wrong. He had charisma, he had the look, he had the swagger, and he always got the girl. He’s the definition of a Movie Star and his presence on screen took this film that came out of nowhere and not only became a box office smash but a critically praised film too.
The formula was present, and Agent Kay and Jay were incredible on screen. Jones was the counter to Smith’s cool, but he had his charm in his own way. He was an old badass that was one step ahead but had heart too. I wouldn’t say the story was simple then either. But, it was straightforward. The generational dynamic between the 2 characters, alongside of Agent Jay being the avatar for the audience to navigate this mysterious universe we couldn’t have imagined being real, and even more being right under our noses the entire time was pulled off amazingly well. “Men in Black” had the benefit of being the first. When you’re first the things you do get the benefit of hitting you in a refreshing way, but when it’s played again in other iterations that same benefit is not always extended and come across as trite.
The subsequent sequels seem to play the same tune with not too different lyrics and felt like one hit wonders trying to recapture what made them special. Ill contend the performances in “Men in Black 3” made the movie more than passable for me, but how many world devastating adventures can we sit through. Not saying that’s not what the job entails, but what’s wrong with a smaller story that still allows for the world building to be present and lets us engage more with the charters we have in front of us?
That’s just it. Not only was “MIB: International” a film audiences weren’t clamoring for, it was a story we’ve seen before. New agent links up with a veteran one and must stop an alien threat from destroying the universe. That’s pretty much the synopsis of each of the 3 previous films. So, if you’re going to play what got you there before, at least do it better.
F. Gary Gray is a Director who gets consistent work but whose style doesn’t seem to stand out. He’s a mid-tier Director of color that gets big studio projects that aren’t very indistinguishable. I don’t believe every film should need to say something, especially a summer blockbuster, but this property had a rich opportunity to do both. The cast is great. The studio is pumping massive amounts of cash into this. There’s heavy hitters on screen but lack any direction where to go.
Film is a collaborative effort, and either the editing or the script didn’t do Gray any favors. Let’s go with script. As I’ve said repeatedly, if a Movie Star can’t save the film then that points to a dreadful script. I won’t say this script is that; it’s just uninspiring. There’s some jokes that tried to work but just didn’t land. There’s more of that forced feminist pandering going on, that when it happens it’s hard not to roll your eyes.
Listen Hollywood! Minority voices are important and so is representation. It matters to have these films say something but it’s not just, is it being said; but how it’s being said that matters too. Both points in this film were almost thrown away. One line was even delivered by a woman, and instead of picking at it and running with it, it’s just dropped kind of like how the ball was dropped in this film.
The plot isn’t great, and I think the actors knew it too. Hemsworth and Thompson weren’t as electric as they were regarding their chemistry in “Thor: Ragnarok” but, it was somewhat enjoyable. Tessa’s neuroses were cute and it’s a film that asked her to lean away from a more edgy yet sexy characterization but, could’ve been a bit more tactile and strong displaying a new kind of agent who shouldn’t know it all but does and doesn’t care who she one’s ups along the way. Chris Hemsworth’s acting choices have grown over the years and so has his comedic styling and timing. Thing is, too much of that in the wrong film can be a turn off. It appeared he had to improv a lot in this movie to over compensate for the flimsy way his character was written. Honestly, both characters may have worked better apart than together, except when a friendly alien made its way onscreen.
Kumail Nanjiani’s “Pawny” steals the show as a tiny shoulder riding alien chess piece committed to serving a queen, and Tessa Thompson’s Agent M is in the right place at the right time. He’s the glue to this film that makes the most out of a lackluster story and characters that aren’t so engaging.
There’s the weaselly other agent out to get Agent H. Hip Hop duo “Les Twin” portraying powerful and murderous aliens, whose names aren’t ringing a bell and are just there taking up space in the movie. Unfortunately, we have a completely wasted Rebecca Ferguson playing what we’re lead to believe is a vengeful ruthless mob boss who serves just as a minor obstacle to the muddled goal of our protagonists.
Most egregiously is the twist you see coming from a mile away.
This may be my first summer blockbuster where I watched in in Dolby and it added nothing more to how it impacted my review. The audio and sound design felt subdued, and so did the action. We only get a few action set pieces throughout and they weren’t thrilling, and you were never on the edge of you seat either.
“MIB: International” is another mediocre run-of-the-mill Sci-fi Action Buddy Cop comedy that’s uninspiring with its Sci-fi, mild on its action, and fundamentally misunderstands what makes the Buddy Cop formula work. This film is on par with MIB 2 & 3, but probably right behind them which is underwhelming considering all the potential it had. Just like how you’ve seen this movie before, you may have heard this one before as well; more like “Meh in Black” … … …
KOLBYTOLDME RATING- 5/10
Director: F. Gary Gray
Writers: Matt Holloway, Art Marcum
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Ferguson, Rafe Spall, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson
Run Time: 114 mins