‘Men in Black: International’ review: Enjoy the fun while it lasts

Like its title suggests, Men In Black: International offers plenty of globe-trotting and standard action set pieces to distract you from its bland and confusing plot.

Thanks to Thor: Ragnarok, MIB: International already has one asset under its belt: the charming chemistry of Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. In here, Hemsworth continues to win you over with his dashing looks and silly antics, while Thompson balances their dynamic with her poised and confident composure. While the new leads don’t necessarily match the perfect combination of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, they’re sufficient to carry the weight of this film, even if the material lets them down. The script bears some moments of breezy humor and satire (which Taika Waititi so generously offers in Ragnarok), but more often than not, the dialogue comes out generic and forced that it would only elicit pity laughs from the kindest viewers.

The one move that MIB: International does to revamp the franchise for this feminist era is introducing its first female lead. As a young girl, Molly (Thompson) wasn’t “neuralyzed” (i.e. have someone’s short-term memory be erased) by the MIB after witnessing a supernatural sighting. Since then, she makes it her life mission to be a part of the clandestine organization, and twenty years later, she finally tracks down their headquarters and gets recruited in the process. What becomes the running joke here is rookie agent M (Molly) continually upstaging his senior, Agent H (Hemsworth). There’s much discussion of how Agent H is no longer the skilled agent he once was, but not much history is shown on screen to actually see the difference. As far as we’re concerned, H mostly uses his charm to wriggle his way out of a sticky situation, while M is the more level headed one with reliable methods. Each has their own way of getting the job done.

Agent M (Tessa Thompson) and Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) test drive an overpowered blaster.

The two take on a high stakes mission to prevent alien malevolent forces from getting their hands on an intergalactic weapon. By doing so, the film detours from the crowded markets and remote desert of Morocco, to the exotic castles in Italy. With all the globe-trotting involved, the plot starts to feel like it’s a rip-off from the James Bond franchise, except the film fails to mine the maximum tension needed. For one, this spin-off features a personality-free villain called The Twins (played by dancers Laurent and Larry Bourgeois) – a shape-shifting celestial duo that pretty much resembles the invasive space dust in Dark Phoenix. In one scene, M and H bring out various big guns to shoot these creatures to no avail. For a blockbuster director, F. Gary Gray has shown more creative sequences in his previous work in The Fate of the Furious or The Italian Job. MIB: International, on the other hand, is filled with loud laser shootouts and mandatory car chases, all of which go against the idea of the MIB remaining anonymous to the public.

It goes without saying that the true appeal of this secret organization works best when the story is focused within a single environment, to show how extraterrestrial activities (and the covering of such) hide in plain sight. This world-building is demonstrated when H and M make their way down to an alien night club via a hidden tunnel located inside a taxi. Or that part where the film introduces its funnier creation – an anthropomorphic chess piece named Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) who happens to be a pocketful of sunshine and sarcasm. These small moments, not the uninspired action sequences, is what brings the magic of the original. Only if the film sustains them throughout.

Pawny (Kumail Nanjiani) pledges allegiance to Agent M.

MIB: International really should have worked as a simple plot but its strange narrative decisions make it look unnecessarily confusing. The ending feels rushed as not much time is given to build the emotional core found in the supposed father-son relationship of Agent H and his mentor, High T (Liam Neeson). The thing is, this film is under the false pretense that ‘bigger equals better’ hence its priority to showcase bland spectacles and its apparent lack of a much more ambitious goal, say injecting an insight or two about the current political or environmental landscape.

The basic ingredients for your summer blockbuster are found here but what really leaves the impression is Hemsworth and Thompson’s charismatic buddy comedy act that reminds us of the franchise’s infinite (yet squandered) potential. You can enjoy the fun while it lasts for I can guarantee you that it’s quite forgettable. No neuralyzers needed.

3 out of 5 stars
Directed by F. Gary Gray, written by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway, ‘Men in Black: International‘ stars Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Liam Neeson, Rafe Spall, Rebecca Ferguson, Laurent Bourgeois, Larry Bourgeois, Emma Thompson and Tim Blaney. 115 minutes. PG-13.

Liam Neeson takes on enemies of the planet in ‘Men in Black: International’

Liam Neeson’s larger-than-life screen presence, honed as an action hero in the Taken films, as well as his unheralded facility for comedy, came in handy for his portrayal of High T in Columbia Pictures’ new action-adventure Men in Black: International.

In the film, the newly minted Agent M (Tessa Thompson) is assigned to work in MIB London, under the paternal command of High T (Neeson), where she’ll join the near-mythic Agent H (Chris Hemsorth) in pursuit of a powerful mole inside the MIB organization.

High T ascended to the position of the head of the London branch after teaming with H years earlier to rescue the Earth from an alien threat. Now, High T is preparing to retire, but before he does he must oversee the efforts to bring the planet-threatening infiltrator to justice.

“We had already cast Chris Hemsworth, who’s pretty imposing looking, so we were looking for an actor who could match that,” remembers executive producer E. Bennett Walsh. “Audiences are going to understand and enjoy that pairing right away.”

Pointing to Neeson’s less-known qualities, producer Walter E. Parkes adds that, “Much like with Tommy Lee Jones as Agent K in the original MIB films, we wanted to cast actors who could do comedy, as opposed to casting comic actors. Liam is a consummate actor with big comedy chops.”

Hemsworth appreciated what Neeson brought to the dynamic between H and High T. “High T is the father figure H never had, so they have a very close bond. Liam made sure that the father-son relationship and mentorship was clear. It’s at the heart of the film.”

Liam Neeson has appeared in over 70 films, including Schindler’s List, the blockbuster Taken trilogy, Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace, Batman Begins, Love Actually and Gangs of New York. Over the course of his career, Neeson’s films have grossed over $7 billion worldwide.

He is a UNICEF Goodwill Ambassador and a proud father of two sons.

In Philippine cinemas June 12, Men in Black: International is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #MIBInternational

About Men in Black: International

The Men in Black have expanded to cover the globe, but so have the scum of the universe. And to keep us safe, decorated Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and determined rookie M (Tessa Thompson) are partnered – an unlikely pairing that just might work. As they face a new alien threat that can take the form of anyone, including MIB agents, they must join forces on a globetrotting adventure to save the agency and ultimately the world.

Building upon the idea that there are aliens from other worlds living among us, MIB: International introduces new agents, weapons, aliens and locations, while bringing together some of today’s most in-demand and talented actors, including Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson as the titular heroes, Agents H and M, with Emma Thompson reprising her role as the head of MIB, and Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani also taking on key roles.

Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald return as the franchise’s “guardians,” having produced all four films, starting with 1997’s Men in Black, and have brought on board director F. Gary Gray, whose work encompasses epic action and thrills (The Fate of the Furious), raucous comedy (Friday) and galvanizing drama (Straight Outta Compton) to bring scale, laughs and a unique vision to the sequel.  

WATCH: New ‘Men in Black International’ trailer hypes action-packed adventure

The world’s not going to save itself. Watch the brand new trailer of Columbia Pictures’ new action adventure Men in Black International from the director The Fast and the Furious 8 and starring Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Liam Neeson.

The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe.  In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest, most global threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.

Check out the trailer below and watch Men in Black International in Philippine cinemas June 2019.

Directed by F. Gary Gray, Men in Black International is written by Art Marcum & Matt Holloway, based on the Malibu Comic by Lowell Cunningham. Produced by Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald.  The executive producers are Steven Spielberg, E. Bennett Walsh and Barry Sonnenfeld.

The film stars Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Laurent Bourgeois, Larry Bourgeois, with Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson.

Men in Black International is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International. #MIBInternational

Agent M (Tessa Thompson) and Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) riding the Marrakesh Hyperloop in Columbia Pictures’ MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL.

WATCH: ‘Men in Black International’ drops first official trailer

Next year, the universe is expanding.  Watch the full trailer now of Columbia Pictures’ new action adventure Men in Black International from the director The Fast and the Furious 8 and starring Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson and Liam Neeson.

The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe.  In this new adventure, they tackle their biggest, most global threat to date: a mole in the Men in Black organization.

Check out the trailer below and watch Men in Black International in Philippine cinemas June 12, 2019.

Directed by F. Gary Gray, Men in Black International is written by Art Marcum & Matt Holloway, based on the Malibu Comic by Lowell Cunningham. Produced by Walter F. Parkes and Laurie MacDonald.  The executive producers are Steven Spielberg, E. Bennett Walsh and Barry Sonnenfeld.

The film stars Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Laurent Bourgeois, Larry Bourgeois, with Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson.

Men in Black International is distributed by Columbia Pictures, local office of Sony Pictures Releasing International.