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Blu-ray Review: Men in Black: International

September 24, 2019

By John Corrado

★★ (out of 4)

When Men in Black: International was being released in theatres this summer, I kept forgetting that the movie even existed, and I say that as someone who grew up with the first two films in the series and was pleasantly surprised by the belated 2012 threequel Men in Black 3.

Now, seven years after the trilogy was completed, Sony has decided to continue the franchise with this soft reboot of sorts, which ditches Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith for Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. The result is a thoroughly needless film, a cash grab in the most blatant terms that failed to even grab much cash in a summer of blockbuster disappointments at the box office.

Agent H (Hemsworth) is a cocky but brilliant MIB agent who already saved the world once with his mentor Agent High T (Liam Neeson), when they thwarted an invasion by a parasitic alien race known as the Hive, atop the Eiffel Tower. Molly (Thompson) is a young woman who has been obsessed with finding and joining the Men in Black ever since an encounter that she had with an alien creature as a child, a memory that she retains because she avoided being neuralyzed.

When Molly follows several agents and sneaks into their headquarters in New York, she gets recruited by Agent O (Emma Thompson) on a probationary basis, and given the name Agent M. She is dispatched to the London branch, and it’s here that she teams up with the arrogant Agent H, who no longer thinks he needs a partner. Their mission involves keeping a powerful space weapon from ending up in the hands of alien arms dealer Riza (Rebecca Ferguson), while also dealing with the possibility of there being a mole within their organization. They are joined by a little green alien named Pawny (Kumail Nanjiani) that they encounter along the way, who takes Molly as his new queen.

While the idea of watching Thor: Ragnarok co-stars Hemsworth and Thompson team up again for a different kind of sci-fi adventure is inherently appealing, and they do have solid chemistry together, their charisma is dampened by a tired and thoroughly predictable script. Gone is the element of surprise or the sense of edginess of the earlier films, and what we are left with is a paint-by-numbers franchise entry that never rises above a mediocre, ho-hum level. The action set-pieces are nothing special, despite any number of shiny new gadgets, and F. Gary Gray’s direction is unobtrusive but uninspired.

This is especially disappointing after the surprisingly great Men in Black 3, which used its clever time travel story to bring emotional depth to the series. The practical makeup and puppet effects of the late Rick Baker, who worked on all three previous films before passing away in 2017 and won an Oscar for the first one, are also greatly missed in this flashy, CG-heavy film. While Men in Black: International uses makeup as well to bring its alien supporting cast to life, there are also several fully CGI characters here, including Vungus (Kayvan Novak), the member of an alien royal family, that were created through motion capture and appear somewhat fake, falling into the uncanny valley.

In the pantheon of sequels, remakes and reboots being currently put out by Hollywood, Men in Black: International is one of the blandest and most stale examples, a completely unnecessary continuation of a series that already wrapped up quite nicely. It’s a film that is mostly forgettable, and one that doesn’t really have any reason to exist in the first place. Maybe it sounds like I’m being too hard on an innocuous piece of popcorn entertainment – and innocuous is a good word to describe this anodyne film, which has a sort of amiable quality that keeps it at the very least watchable – but there is also a strong sense of “been there, done that” which keeps it from ever achieving proper liftoff.

The Blu-ray also includes a gag reel, a tab labelled Alien Shopping Network! which includes the two joke ads and The Neuralyzer: Like It Never Happened, a selection of nine deleted scenes, and five “making of” featurettes. They are New Recruits, Classic SuitsLet’s Do This! Inside the Action and StuntsLook Right Here: Gadgets, Weapons, & RidesExpanding the Universe of MIB; and Les Twins Leave It on the Floor.

This is followed by Frank & Pawny’s Peanut Gallery, which features silhouettes of the characters Pawny and Frank – the talking pug from the original films who is relegated to a cameo role here – commenting on certain scenes; In Case You’ve Been Neuralyzed: MIB Recap, which offers a brief overview of the series; and The MIB Meet the NBA, a short piece that sees Agent H and Agent M finding out which basketball players are aliens.

Men in Black: International is a Sony Pictures Home Entertainment release. It’s 115 minutes and rated PG.

Street Date: September 3rd, 2019

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