Men in Black International
Things have been slowing down a bit here, but I’ve still managed to make it to the theaters once again to catch the latest non-Disney Marvel movie that wasn’t Dark Phoenix. Ok, so technically it’s an extra step removed from being a Marvel movie since it’s the latest sequel in a series of movies that were originally loosely based on a Malibu comic that was purchased by Marvel comics. But this is kind of a rebootquel as it reboots the series with two new leads replacing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but still connects it to the previous three movies with references to Agents J and K as well as Emma Thompson as Agent O. The film was fun enough but it had a difficult time capturing the wonder of the first film while tossing in an undercooked mystery. And as this is a new release, I will be discussing the mystery in full so here’s your spoiler warning.
This time around we do away with Agents J and K and our new fresh faced recruit is Tessa Thompson who plays Molly, eventual Agent M who witnessed her parents being neuralized when she was a child. Although the film does a poor job at specifying why she wasn’t neuralized as well, whether it was the distance or if she happened to close her eyes in time, or if there was some other reason why it didn’t work on her. Instead of chasing down an alien on foot, she spends her entire life trying to find the organization that otherwise doesn’t exist. And when she does, she basically immediately becomes a top agent despite her probationary title. This is problematic as it really does away with most of the wonder and incredulity that Will Smith had and instead replaces it with more of a smug excitement. This is a world that she always knew existed and treats it more with analytical interest as if this was the role she was always meant to play. Or as the film would put it, this is where the Universe always wanted her to be.
And instead of the seasoned pro that treats everything as old hat, we get the egotistical hero who has been resting on his laurels and now takes everything for granted. In theory it could have been an interesting twist on the two roles. Where Agent J had natural talent but no real knowledge of aliens, he bumbled through most of the first movie while K had all the knowledge but just lacked a fresh perspective. As the new recruit, M should have a fresh perspective, but she immediately picks up much of the knowledge and adapts to the situation around her while Chris Hemsworth’s Agent H is the one who bumbles around the situation through his arrogance. He does have some knowledge and contacts here and there, but they’re mostly used for jokes, or he completely blows them off so that they’re made mostly useless. Not only that, but he feels like he’s playing Thor from the first movie, only he’s a Men in Black agent rather than the God of Thunder. And of course since the two of them are attractive members of the opposite sex, there is an underlying romantic subplot. It never quite comes above the surface, but it’s definitely there and is a little painful towards the end of the movie when it’s trying to wrap things up.
With all three Men in Black movies, there’s always an underlying twist and/or mystery going on throughout the film and this one is no different. Here, it’s set up in the beginning that Agent H and Liam Neeson’s High T saved the world from a race known as the Hive. These aliens are somewhat of a cross between Invasion of the Body Snatchers and the Borg. They aggressively assimilate other worlds but they do so intelligently. Kind of. We’re told that H and T defeated the Hive, but we’re not shown how and instead we’re just told. And it’s eventually revealed that they didn’t actually defeat the Hive, instead T became taken over by a member of the Hive in order to find and capture a weapon that could destroy their entire race in one fell swoop. Except that the plan has a lot of holes in it. Like why did it take them a couple years? Why did they only infiltrate T but just neuralized H? And the misdirect by the antagonistic Agent C was both obvious and his turn to be on H’s side was both too abrupt and too extreme. He went from thinking H was a completely inept buffoon to completely trusting him to lead the London branch of MIB over the span of a few hours. There were some decent elements in the mystery, but it fell down way too many cliches, even how H reached out to the inner T despite being controlled by the Hive.
But what Men in Black is really about are the aliens and International suffers a bit on that side of things as well. There are only a few moments where we get to see the supposed wonder of Agent M travelling through the two different MIB headquarters, but none of the aliens really stood out. Even the couple of callbacks with the worms and Frank the pug were too little and too brief. The chessboard aliens were kind of cute but Pawny lacked a certain something to really make him stand out as anything other than a cutesy, toyetic CGI character for the kids. He had a few great moments here and there, especially during the climax but it wasn’t enough to save his character. Rita with her third arm was handled well enough, but that felt like something that’s been done before. The one real stand out was the reality altering twin aliens. They had a great look, a great presence, but were almost too overpowered. Especially when you learn that they were actually working against the Hive rather than with the Hive. Everything else felt like it was there more for the gag rather than to really expand the alien world of MIB. If this movie does get a sequel, the only character that I would expect to make a repeat appearance would be Pawny.
Overall, this film wasn’t awful by any means. Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are both fun in their roles and play off of each other well. The humor was fun, but throughout the film there was always just something lacking. It wasn’t able to capture the wonder of the first movie, but it also wasn’t really able to add anything new to the world of MIB. Despite the fact that it took place in Europe among other places, it didn’t really feel like it expanded the world of MIB in any spectacular fashion. It lacked the joy of discovery that could have been present in a full reboot, but it also lacked the ability to expand the world the way a good sequel would because it had to spend too much time retreading over the same ground. In a way, it failed at being either a good reboot or a good sequel because it was trying to be both at the same time. There are good elements here and there and I enjoyed myself, but there just wasn’t enough meat to the story. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.