To misquote from The Dark Knight: you either die a hero, or you live long enough to see yourself become a mislead, incompetent and mediocre version of yourself. F Gary Gray’s Men In Black: International releases with hype and expectations. But that is pretty much it to the positives, as it builds on cliches to provide the audience barely any reason to be stunned or even be mildly impressed.
Chris Hemsworth stars as both Agent H and the show bait for the movie, while Tessa Thomson invades into the MIB outfit as Agent M. The two build an uncanny partnership as they aim to discover a mole in their high-profile institution’s ranks. Their chemistry, probably carried on from their Asgard past as Thor and Valkyrie from Thor: Ragnarok and Endgame, was one of the few saving graces in an otherwise sub-powered script. To go on to say that even this didn’t come down to writing or acting prowess but rather from their MCU pasts couldn’t be very wrong.
Another aspect which makes the watch bearable and sometimes, even mildly enjoyable was Kumai Nainjalani’s voice-over act as an alien species — Pawny. The character was quite similar in timing and screen time to the Guardians of the Galaxy famed Rocket (voiced by Bradley Cooper), but even it didn’t feel the need to save an entire franchise. Fair to say that The Big Sick actor owned some moments from the mic, but that comedy was little relief in an otherwise mediocre display of screenwriting.
Men In Black worked in 1997 because of its wit and the swagger of men dressed, quite literally, in black. Twenty-two years later, its writing as well as the charm has declined, and we haven’t even adjusted to inflation. While most series from the comic book giants of Marvel and DC to even Mad Max and Star Wars have grown in all or some of the aspects, MIB: International is a letdown across all platforms. That being said, it is still a decent enough watch. But that raises the question as to whether the expectations from its prequel set us off? An appropriate answer will be that of counter questioning the existence of the audience for International without the first three parts.
While to live in denial of a peak that MIB: International would have had will be life’s one small truth, to think it would have reached it would be out of the ordinary. Despite not having many ‘high’ points, the film couldn’t ever get some momentum on its side, for the stakes never really felt high enough themselves. Despite now being ‘International’ and addressing extra-terrestrial beings like citizens, there was not even a cliched attempt to provide an emotional layer to any of the actions. Everything came together eventually but there wasn’t much to be clustered in the first place. What was visible by the naked eye (with 3-D glasses on, definitely) felt like all that was in question and the answers felt too simple to be curious about. Production value, writing, acting or even intensity, nothing felt enough, well off course, except the series itself till its third part.
This spin-off sequel was supposed to spark interest in a rejuvenated franchise. Whether MIB fans still find enough reasons to appreciate the latest and further be excited about a series based on this own, will probably be the only promising question ahead. But even in the case of cinematically fulfilling and thematically fluent, MIB: International is a disappointing re-beginning of a franchise which now, ironically, needs some saving.