I’ll be the first to admit that, when this movie was first announced a couple of years ago, I had little in the way of expectations for this one.
Why, pray tell, do you say such a thing?
- This wasn’t exactly a franchise begging for a reboot; lest we forget, the last installment – Men in Black 3 – was just about seven years ago.
- The movies in the series to date have been hit and miss…MIB, great. MIB 2, eh. MIB 3, solid. You see where I’m going with this, I’m sure.
- Sequelitis and franchise fatigue are very much real. Disney, Warner Bros., and Columbia – the studio behind this particular picture – are the biggest offenders when it comes to this.
It also didn’t help that I rolled my eyes when they used the Columbia Pictures torch as a neuralyzer – the portable memory wipe device, for the uninitiated – again, though the sunglasses tucked away in the robe was a clever touch.
We start out in Brooklyn, NY in 1996 where we see a young girl named Molly avoiding the neuralyzer by MIB agents on the scene (her parents weren’t so lucky) to find an alien fugitive, whom she helps escape and this results in her beginning a hellbent quest to try and find and become a Men in Black agent in her later years.
As an adult, played here by Tessa Thompson, she excels in her exams for incoming FBI and CIA agents. Slight problem: in her interviews and her intake paperwork, she comes off more like Dale Gribble than a prospective agent to the point where the agencies label her as delusional. Does this rejection stop her, though, oh no it doesn’t.
Decked out in her own rendition of the “last suit [she’ll] ever wear,” she tracks down an extraterrestrial landing with her own equipment – again, very much in the vein of Dale Gribble, sans the pocket sand or doomsday supply of Mountain Dew – and, lo and behold, she finds the MIB crew, follows them into the headquarters, tries to blend in…and fails, at least initially.
Once she manages to convince head honcho Agent O, once again portrayed by Emma Thompson, that she’ll be good for the MIB, she’s paired with Chris Hemsworth’s Agent H after being told there’s a problem at MIB’s London branch. Hence the term “International” in the title…very clever, Columbia.
The performances as a whole are enjoyable to watch, with Hemsworth, freshly shed of his Fat-Thor suit, Liam Neeson, and Emma Thompson making up the rest of the leading cast. There were some nice homages to the 1997 film, with the “We are the Men in Black” speech delivered by Agent O and a painting of Agents K and J taking down the bug at Flushing Meadows. The majority, if not all, of the action scenes were also a treat, even if some of the alien characters looked a bit crudely done.
My praises are limited, though. The “love story” between H and an intergalactic arms dealer – if we can call it that? – made me want to gag, the major “twist” in the third act was of (very) little surprise, and several of the jokes, including one that referenced Thor, didn’t even get an eye roll from me.
The picture was okay, and Tessa Thompson’s performance was easily my favorite part of it all…but was it worthy of the ad blitz that Columbia put out for it? Was it worth the lame cross-promos during the NBA Finals? Not really.