Director: F. Gary Gray
Another one of the many reboots, sequels, or re-imagining of a blockbuster franchise that the film industry has lazily pushed on us, Men in Black International, is just that: Lazy. The latest installment in the series attempts to move away from the original leads (Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones) and give us some fresh but familiar faces for the new installment. We follow hot shot MIB legend Agent H and newcomer Agent M, played by Avengers: Endgame stars Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson.
After a wild-boy, party-hard, high-ranking alien is assassinated by two shape-shifting aliens, it is clear that there is a mole inside the MIB organization. The high-ranking alien gives Agent M (Tessa Thompson) the most powerful weapon in the universe during his final moments. Much like the piece of jewelry on the cat’s collar in the original film, this serves as the McGuffin aka that thing that we have that the bad guys are trying to get but we can’t let them because they’ll destroy the world if they do. Now it’s up to Agents H and M to keep this weapon out of the hands of evil aliens, identify the mole, and kill the two shape-shifting assassins. Pretty straight forward.
The film’s tone is consistent with the previous MIB versions, light-hearted action-adventure with some comedy sprinkled in from both humans and aliens. About halfway in, we’re introduced to Kumail Nanjiani’s (The Big Sick) character Pawny, who provides some much-needed comedic relief. Nanjiani is without question the highlight of the film, which is really saying something, considering he doesn’t actually appear on screen, as he voices a tiny alien disguised as a pawn, “the worst chess piece on the board.” They really got creative with his name.
Going with two proven superstars from the one of the biggest films ever seems like it should have been a safe bet for the newest MIB. But Thompson and Hemsworth never have the chemistry to make International entertaining — the kind of chemistry that the franchise so heavily relied on with Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith.
Admittedly, those are big shoes to fill, but neither is able to match Smith’s humor or Jones’ charm, making for a bland two hours between two stars who should have been more dynamic together considering their work history.
Men in Black: International is just one of many recent sequels to not only be a disappointment critically but also at the box office. In its opening weekend it brought in a disappointing $28.5 million which is the lowest in franchise history. With an estimated budget of $110 million it’s not only missing expectations it’s a complete failure. With other reboots and sequels such as Shaft, Dark Phoenix, and Godzilla falling short of expectations, using a familiar story isn’t such a sure thing as it once was. Audiences are hungry for original stories not poorly written reboots that use nostalgia as a crutch.