Men In Blech

Someone Neuralyze Us All So We Can Forget This Movie

Something that always bothered me about the Men in Black movies: If MiBs’ new secret identities are Agent (Insert Letter of the Alphabet Here), there should only be 27 Men (and Women!) in Black. This presumably includes upper management like Rip Torn’s Agent Z and Emma Thompson’s Agent O. Come to think of it, if the agency promoted them and they aren’t doing fieldwork like Will Smith’s Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones’ Agent K, who backfills their positions? Yes, K retired, so a new Agent K could just take his place. Come to think of it, why do the Men (and Women!) in Black need secret identities at all when they carry Neuralizers that erase the memories of anyone who encounters them?

Directed by: F. Gary Gray
Written by: Matt Holloway, Art Marcum
Starring: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Emma Thompson
Running time: 114 min

Men in Black: International sort of explains the letter-naming conundrum, and not in a good way. Liam Neeson’s veteran MiB London Agent is named “High T”. (Get it? Because Liam Neeson is…well, Irish, not English, but you get the idea.) The Men In Black movies don’t make a whole lot of sense, which should have been apparent when a 12 foot-tall Space Cockroach makes a skinsuit out of the husk of Vincent D’Onofrio (6’4”, according to the internet), and the skinsuit is baggy.

It’s Men In Black: International’s new pal Pawny.

This is not to say that the first three movies are bad; quite the contrary. The MiB-Verse is essentially the American version of Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to The Galaxy books. The galaxy’s a big, weird, hard-to-wrap-your-head-around place, but quite a bit of fun. Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones were perfectly suited to play a pair of peacekeepers with a perfect blend of jadedness and wide-eyed wonder.

Into those suits step Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. On paper, this was a good idea. Hemsworth is an Action Man who is also a Funny Man, often in the same role. Tessa Thompson elevates anything she’s in; I’d watch her explain how to assemble Ikea furniture. Thor: Ragnarok launched a thousand TessaChris (or ThompsWorth) dream-cast demands. A Men in Black movie seemed like the perfect fit. And they do their best, they really do. But DAMN, as Agent K might say. Men in Black: International fails them.

Because some of you will go see the movie, I’ll keep this review spoiler-free. But I could tell you the entire overstuffed plot, including the twists, and you’d still walk out of the theater wondering what you just watched. Thompson’s Agent M and Hemsworth’s Agent H (a designation that’s indicative of the film’s overall level of effort) go to various Exotic Locales and try to stop the bad aliens from doing bad things. A small alien sidekick, formerly employed as a pawn in a game of Living Alien Chess, is named (wait for it) “Pawny”. Kumail Nanjiani, who occasionally delivers funny lines, voices him. Rebecca Ferguson also shows up.

F. Gary Gray, the putative director, puts together a bunch of scenes that aren’t so much a movie as they are the result of what might happen if an alien race intercepted a broadcast of the three original Men in Black movies, assumed that it was an attempt by humans to communicate, and tried to send a replication back as some sort of response. Which is a best-case scenario, by the way. The aliens could easily watch Men in Black: International, understandably take it as an insult, and send a fleet of spaceships to destroy us. Frankly, I’m not sure we wouldn’t deserve it.

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Jason Avant

Jason Avant is a writer and editor based in Carlsbad, California. He’s written for and edited a bunch of websites that no longer exist, and occasionally contributes to one that does: Roads and Kingdoms.

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