Without scientific data or reliable polling, it’s hard to make the point that Men in Black I-III’s primary appeal was Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (more specifically, their obvious chemistry)—though I’d be willing to bet that was the case. So what exactly is the point of making a fourth movie without them?
I’m not sure either, but here we are, staring at Men In Black: International, a movie that mentions Jones’ and Smith’s Agents K and J only once in passing and does nothing to continue the legacy the actors created in one of the more successful recent film franchises.
So much for dancing with the one that brought you.
Instead, we get a mini Avengers reunion, as Thor and Valkyrie don the black suits and shades, and though Chris Hemsworth’s Agent H and Tessa Thompson’s Agent M are perfectly fine (Thompson is actually quite good), they pale in comparison to what came before. Plus, the time it takes for us to abandon any hope of International channeling the Men in Black of old keeps the film from ever really gaining any momentum.
That’s not to say the core of the MiB world has been entirely jettisoned. Aliens still walk among us (including Ariana Grande and Elon Musk, we’re led to believe), and the Men (and Women) in Black still hit the streets daily to keep everything in order. Molly (Thompson) is the newest agent, having successfully talked herself into the ranks after spending 20 years trying to confirm aliens exist. (When she was a little girl, one made an appearance, and the subsequent neuralizer blast from the custodial MiB agents hit her parents but missed her, so she held onto the memory.)
Agent H (Hemsworth), meanwhile, is a veteran member of the force and a rule-breaking wild card to boot. The arrival of his intergalactic pal Vungus, an alien VIP, in London leads branch director High T (Liam Neeson) to call on H to babysit the creature, and M comes along for the ride. When the alien is killed, however, by body-snatching twin aliens (portrayed by dance stars Les Twins), all hell breaks loose, and the agents end up having to travel the world to clear their name.
International, indeed. The team zips from Marrakesh to London to Paris to Brooklyn, but the film somehow manages to end up feeling like a slog through a mud pit. The action is lack-luster (even a shootout on the streets of London feels interminable long and dull), and the story never seems to make it out of first gear.
Screenwriters Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (Transformers: The Last Knight) somehow managed to take the well-established world of super-slick agents and whack-a-do aliens—including the egg-sized Pawny (voiced by the excellent Kumail Najiani)—and come up with nothing more than a largely boring and tired story about, well, not much at all actually. The odds never seem insurmountable, the stakes are never higher than Agent H’s kneecap, and the whole movie earns little more than a yawn all around.
Since International isn’t a sequel as much as a reboot, with none of the stuff that made the original trilogy a nifty collection of fun flicks, we’re left to wonder why we even needed this thing in the first place, and based on how it turned out, it’s difficult to make a case for it at all. It’s enough to make you wish for a world that really does include neuralizers.