The ‘Men in Black’ franchise gets a spinoff with two stars fresh off ‘Avengers: Endgame,’ Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, and it seems that the film leans too heavily on both stars’ magnetic charisma and talent that it seems the writers forgot to give them something they could actually chew on. After all, both actors are amazing with the right material. But ‘Men in Black: International’ seemed more intent on showing off the various aliens and technology than crafting compelling characters.
The premise is good: Tessa Thompson witnessed her parents deal with Men in Black agents as a child and saw them getting their minds wiped clean, and has been interested in joining the ranks of the MiB ever since. When she finally has a lead, she sneaks her way into the headquarters of the Men in Black in the United States and convinces Agent O (Emma Thompson) to take her in. Now called Agent M, she is then sent on her first mission to London where she meets Chris Hemsworth’s Agent H, an arrogant and reckless operative, and the London branch’s golden boy, favored by Agent T (Liam Neeson). When a routine mission goes sideways, the two must work together to stop an alien race from destroying the universe and find a mole in the MiB agency.
It’s all standard fare, really, so the film has to rely on the relationship between Agent H and Agent M, but this is where the film suffers in its first act. Agent M is plucky, eager, and also suspicious of Agent H’s reckless bravado. Whereas Agent H is prone to improvising and not taking things seriously. As written, these characteristics are predictable and we’ve seen this before so it comes off as stale and unexciting.
I think it was most telling when there were obvious banter and comedic moments written in between the two leads that elicited not a reaction from the full theater when I was watching. For a good half of the movie, not a single laugh with all the comedic touches that the film tries to put together. And this cannot be due to a lack of chemistry between Hemsworth and Thompson because we know they have it with films like ‘Avengers: Endgame’ and ‘Thor: Ragnarok.’ It’s how the characters were written and the writing in itself that failed to land that exposition.
The film is plot-heavy, filling the narrative with multiple locations and lots of fight scenes to keep the film energetic and “fun,” but it doesn’t get there until the halfway point when the film manages to slow down for one moment so that Agent H and Agent M can have a serious conversation and share a real, actual dynamic.
It’s only at this point the film starts to get funny because the characters of Agent M and Agent H have finally become clear to us. I think it’s unfortunate that the characters are stereotypical and lack anything that feels fresh and new. The characters lack any other internal motivation other than to save the world, which makes them functional to the plot but not compelling as characters.
But if there’s anything, Thompson and Hemsworth are so likable that you really would want to see more of them and ‘Men in Black: International’ is a good enough foundation to continue the franchise with these two at the helm. The chemistry is there and all we need now is to get to know these characters more so that we can see them truly shine.
‘Men in Black: International’ has all the trappings of a big budget special effects-heavy movie. It goes through the narrative beats that while it holds very little surprises, it would still be a fun watch, if only so that you could enjoy the eventual sequel.
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