MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL / CERT: 12A / DIRECTOR: F. GARY GRAY / SCREENPLAY: MATT HOLLOWAY, ART MARCUM / STARRING: CHRIS HEMSWORTH, TESSA THOMPSON, RAFE SPALL, EMMA THOMPSON / RELEASE DATE: OUT NOW
It’s been over twenty years since the Men In Black franchise launched and Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith began protecting the earth from the scum of the universe. However, Men In Black: International sees the franchise go in a new direction: it’s the first instalment without Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith. Instead, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson step into the roles of MiB agents. So, is it a worthy succession or does it undo the good work done on the franchise?
Men In Black: International starts with young Molly, who witnesses an alien encounter at her home and sees her parents neuralysed by MiB agents. Infatuated with what she saw that night, Molly grows up and tries to find the Men in Black, while honing her skills and turning down top jobs with the FBI and CIA. She eventually finds the MiB coming face to face with Agent O (Emma Thompson), who recruits her. Now Agent M, Molly is assigned to the UK where she reports to High T (Liam Neeson) and becomes partners with “golden boy” Agent H (Chris Hemsworth), whose routine protection tail for an esteemed alien leads to a dangerous conspiracy right at the heart of MiB.
So, does MiB: International live up to expectations? Yes... but not without some quibbles. The main challenge is replacing the relationship that Jones and Smith had in the previous films. Hemsworth and Thompson create a strong new relationship without needing to copy; Hemsworth is the great hero of the MiB’s UK branch in the same mould as William Shatner’s Captain Kirk - an omnisexual chancer who gets results without always playing by the rules much to the annoyance of Agent C (Rafe Spall) - and Thompson, who is in awe of the world of MiB, is willing to put Hemsworth in his place when necessary with the right intuition despite being the rookie.
Other highlights are the various nods to the previous franchise (the great MiB finale in the first film, Frank the Pug and the Worms all getting worthy cameos). However, the plot feels like an excuse to jump from country to country (hence the International of the title) and moves a touch too quickly for any significant sense of threat, and an overindulgence with CGI takes something away from the enjoyment (previous MiB films, both good and bad, mix their CGI along with actors in costumes and makeup better for that “they live amongst us” feel).
MiB: International is an enjoyable film. There’s a new well-developed duo who you want to root for, but they carry a story that could’ve been better.