While a far better effort than the misguided sequel, Men In Black 3 seemed to put a full stop on the MiB franchise.
There were plans to merge the universe with that of the Jump Street films, a merger that thankfully failed to get off the ground, but it did kickstart plans to reinvigorate the franchise, starting with Men In Black: International.
There’s no Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones this time around though, as we meet Tessa Thompson’s Molly. After having an encounter with an alien when she was younger, her memories have remained, and she sets about tracking down the men in black she saw.
When she infiltrates their headquarters, her resourcefulness sees her hired and renamed Agent M, and she finds herself assigned to the London branch where, working alongside the famous and slightly cocky Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) the pair go on a global journey to uncover a mole in the organisation…
It’s been seven years since the last Men In Black film, one that undid the harm done by the second part but equally didn’t exactly leave fans salivating for more adventures.
Men In Black: International, on the surface, feels like a film that is designed to take advantage of a dormant cinematic property and give it a fresh lick of paint while hopefully trousering a generous box office take while they’re at it.
But, in actuality, this is a film that, while not hitting the heights of the first film, is fresh and vibrant enough to work as a kick starter to a whole new series of films on its own terms, taking the MiBs on a globetrotting adventure that may play out predictably but has a lot of fun doing so.
Shorn of Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as leads, this is a film that leans heavily on the performances, and chemistry, of Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, and fortunately the pair excel. Having shared a winning partnership in Thor: Ragnarok, here the pair essay their roles with aplomb.
Thompson is the newcomer to the world of the Men in Black, keen to impress her new bosses and solve a mystery that, for the audience at least, is painfully obvious to resolve, while Hemsworth is the 007-esque charmer with a self-inflated opinion of himself and his work.
While much of the humour and enjoyment comes from seeing the pair rub each other the wrong way, there’s enough in their individual performances to make their turns hugely satisfying, with the pair more than capable of handling the more dramatic moments when they come around, but taking great delight in hitting the funny bone, Thompson often playing the straight man to Hemsworth’s comic leanings.
Around them are players who bring what is required – Liam Neeson’s head honcho, Rafe Spall’s by-the-book agent, Rebecca Ferguson’s three-armed alien (and former love interest of Hemsworth’s Agent H) and Emma Thompson (the only returning character from the earlier films) – all more than dependable and filling out the cast well.
Director F Gary Gray is on something of a streak at present following the success of Straight Outta Compton and Fast & Furious 8, and here he shows he’s more than adept at handling blockbuster fare, but never tries to make it too showy or ridiculous.
He’s a reliable pair of hands and gives the film an energy that carries it through its running time, and while there’s no jaw-dropping action sequence, there’s plenty to savour and enjoy in a film that feels low-key for a summer blockbuster.
It’s not a perfect film by any stretch – you can’t help but feel some of the character work got lost at some point in the process, while the central mystery of the role becomes fairly obvious incredibly early on – but it still makes for a very enjoyable slice of fun, Men In Black: International a globetrotting delight.
VERDICT – A film that restores some of the glory to a franchise that seemed dormant, Men In Black: International is a solidly entertaining blockbuster, mainly thanks to the wonderful central turns from Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, as well as an enjoyable supporting cast. F. Gary Gray’s direction is dependable and assured, and while the film doesn’t reinvent the wheel, it gives the audience a good time. Enjoyable.
SEE THIS IF YOU LIKED: Men In Black (1997), Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
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