In the year of Dumbo, Hellboy, Dark Phoenix et al, Men in Black International emerges as yet another mystifyingly pointless franchise expansion that squanders a rather exciting and presumably very expensive cast. Reuniting Thor Ragnarok stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson for a platonically friendly and quip-filled adventure, MIB desperately wants a slice of that oh-so-lucrative MCU fanbase, all the while forgetting that behind the one-liners, Marvel movies make you care about their characters and stakes. It’s a mainly inoffensive sci-fi caper, but one with a plot so uninteresting and forgettable that it’s nigh-on impossible to stay engaged.
Hemsworth and Thompson step into the Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith roles of the original MIB trilogy as the veteran agent and new recruit, respectively. Hemsworth’s Agent H is a loose cannon who gets results, while Thompson’s Agent M does her homework and also gets results. Their chemistry from Ragnarok carries over to International to an extent, but the far weaker script from Matt Holloway and Art Marcum mutes the fun of the interplay, even as it lifts some of Ragnarok’s jokes wholesale. Hemsworth’s natural goofy charm does a lot of heavy lifting and he does drum up a couple of laughs, but nothing that will stick with you for very long after the credits roll.
International’s story is very poorly put together. Things just happen without a compelling throughline, and the rare climactic emotional beats are so unearned that the film itself gets bored of most of them about halfway through. New franchise director F Gary Gray does conduct a couple of entertaining set-pieces – a pair of identical twin breakdancers are well-used as creepy alien baddies – but there’s a weightlessness to most of the action that severely dulls its impact. The mostly-CG aliens here also manage to mainly look worse than the often-practical creatures in the 1997 original, with only the tiny chess-themed alien Pawny (Kumail Nanjiani) having any real personality.
Blandness ends up being International’s go-to mode, whether that’s in its predictable twists or ‘this’ll do’ dialogue. While there have certainly been worse blockbusters this year – Hellboy and Glass in particular – I don’t know that any have been less memorable. It will fade from your mind as you’re watching it, making you wish that you’d just stayed home and put Ragnarok on instead.