Thursday, 20 June 2019

Men In Black: International (2019)

None of the trailers made me want to see this latest Men In Black movie. The stars didn't do anything for me either. As much as I like both Hemsworth and both Thompsons, they just didn't feel like they could do enough to stop me from missing Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones (or even Josh Brolin). And then I started to hear more and more negative comments from people who had seen it. Yet I ended up at my local cinema to see it, despite all of these marks against it.

And I'm glad. Men In Black: International is another fun sci-fi comedy in the series. I have enjoyed all of these movies, even the oft-maligned second one, and am glad to spend some more time in this world. It's a fun place, often overflowing with imagination and wonderful little touches, and one that consistently works well running parallel to the everyday world around us.

This time around, the MIB are facing a danger from a species known as The Hive, who can take on the identity of other people once they have access to their DNA. There's also an incredibly powerful weapon to be kept in safe hands, all of this while Tessa Thompson (as M) tries to learn on the job during her probationary period with Chris Hemsworth (H). M is a bit of a natural in her new role, H is a top agent who appears to be getting more and more reckless and slapdash on each mission, able to coast along on former glory and the protection of his mentor, Liam Neeson (playing T). You also have Emma Thompson as Agent O, the head of MIB, Rebecca Ferguson as an arms dealer who used to date Hemsworth, Rafe Spall as Agent C, determined to bring down those he sees as playing too fast and loose with the rules, and Kumail Nanjiani as the voice of a small alien named Pawny.

Look, there are other ways I would have liked to see this play out. Other directions for the series that seemed so ridiculous that they also seemed more intriguing (that Jump Street crossover could have been great). The two biggest strikes against MIBI (as none of the cool kids are calling it) are the fact that a) it plays everything a bit too safe and b) it's not Men In Black.

Director F. Gary Gray has a filmography full of solid outings, but very few of them are amazing. He's a dependable pair of hands (in fact, from 2000 onwards you could view him as an African American version of Ron Howard, with the exception of the grim violence in Law Abiding Citizen). He does fine here, once again not really stamping any identity on the proceedings. That's fine though, this film is MIB-branded, and it at least feels consistent with the others in terms of the look, sound, and score.

The biggest problem comes from the script, by Matt Holloway and Art Marcum. Not only do they forget to include enough decent laughs, although there's a lot of fun to be had in the interplay between most of the main characters, but they flag up a couple of major plot developments with the structuring of the movie, starting everything off with a couple of big scenes that you just know are going to become relevant again in the third act. And isn't "pulling a David Ayer" (as I am calling it now, you'll know what I mean when you see it) already a worn out plot beat?

It's a good job that the script is being delivered by a charismatic cast. Hemsworth and Thompson still work well together (although they had a lot more fun with their last main pairing, Thor Ragnarok), Emma Thompson is a treat as the exasperated and wise boss, and Rafe Spall is admirably happy to be the "bad guy" who knows that something is going on, despite being unable to pinpoint exactly what. Neeson doesn't do much, but he does it with his usual stoic manner, and Ferguson makes a great impression with her one main scene, complemented by some interesting VFX work. Nanjiani has the perfect voice for his character, which is very cute and will most definitely please younger viewers.

As a completist, I would have probably picked this up for my own collection at some point anyway. So I'm glad that it's not as bad as some have made it out to be. It's just a shame that there isn't more packed in here, in terms of one-liners and memorable set-pieces. I came out of the cinema with a smile on my face but no great moments to single out as highlights.


You can buy the movie here.
Americans can buy it here.

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