'Men in Black: International' Is About As Fun As Watching The Original On TBS Again
An overwhelming sense of déjà vu looms over me like an eclipsed spacecraft providing a sense of exhaustion in yet another sequel this summer that serves no narrative reason nor popular demand for its existence. Who asked for another "Men in Black" film? What is it beyond greed that would make the studios green light this sequel? If it is believed that Hollywood is creatively bankrupt, these last two weeks is no exception of such proof. Whether it be "Dark Phoenix" which ends Fox's legal stranglehold on a franchise in desperate need of a revival or "Shaft" the sequel/reboot of well, "Shaft." We have "Men in Black: International" the bottom layer of bread in the unwanted sequel sandwich. The mark of "Avengers: Endgame" brought forth the finality many have hoped for to a ten-year twenty-two movie long saga. After "Endgame" every sequel from anyone else looks as half thought out like an old piece of microwaved pizza from the morning after a long night of heavy drinking.
Watching "Men in Black: International" is about as exciting as watching a rerun of the original film on TBS for the millionth time. We all know the beats "MIB" plays to the point of exhaustion. In an age where sequels are superior to their predecessors, "Men in Black" failed to break that mold like its compadres. It's not a universe builder as severely as its investors may want it to be. The reason being is because like most films from a golden era of blockbusters that I like to call the 80's and 90's many sequels were usually an afterthought, not an automatic three movie deal which seemed to end post "Harry Potter" and "Lord of The Rings." The charm of the first "Men in Black" was the introduction of its world, which was deep enough for only one film. For its time, "Men in Black" was a hybrid of "The X-Files" and "Lethal Weapon." The humor stemmed from the government's coy awareness of aliens leading to a world that could exist within our own.
We were introduced to an NYPD cop played by Will Smith, who takes in our world as we don't know it filled with extraterrestrials that are as quirky as the inhabitants of Mos Eisley's Cantina. If the slogan of "The X-Files" was "the truth is out there" then "Men in Black's" was a satirical "we know the truth, it's not that big a deal." The relationship between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones was genuine because they were extreme opposites not only on screen but in real life as well. All of these elements made for one hilariously original comedy that shared a seat with "Ghostbusters" mixing sci-fi action with a down to earth realism being fully aware that it's just a silly movie. That charm was never meant to be shared with other films because there's nowhere really to go after the first one. "Men in Black II" gave us the exact film as one could predict. Number three gave a Hail Mary time traveling mechanic that was cute, but nothing spectacular; this picture like the second gives us the same movie but with far less chemistry from its two leads.
As charming as its leads are in other films they can't save a tired script from its ineptitude for imagination. Some of the stakes are reversed, making us even less engaged. Instead of running into a strange anomaly while on the beat, our hero (Tessa Thompson) always has been casual friends with an alien since childhood. The only thing that drives her is trying to figure out why the government is withholding the truth of other's existence so her friends can believe her knowledge of aliens is genuine. Since she already knows the truth, her introduction to this cinematic universe is the same as my reintroduction to every alien gag told since 1997. There's nothing Thompson can do but deliver her lines. Chris Hemsworth is coasting off of his comedic logic from "Thor" and "Ghostbusters" 2016. Smiling at the camera and looking handsome while being charming is what Chris does best. Unfortunately, no character was written beyond those devilishly good looks. Where opposites attracted with Smith and Jones, good looks and popularity was the only driving force within the casting department of this shallow reboot. A sense of wokeness is addressed in "MEN in Black: International," which is cheeky but nothing that is rammed down the audience's throat like "Ghostbusters" 2016 was. In fact, it was the only thing that worked in the picture.
Living in an age where men still control the government but with an overwhelming majority of woman being elected to the House of Representatives with more hopefully on the rise, Emma Thompson's little adage regarding the name of the agency she's involved with is delightfully poignant yet never intrusive to the narrative. Where Hemsworth is a bumbling idiot Thompson is always the one who is taking charge making the woman, not the man the most effective of the two. If only those elements were more intricately explored, I could have been further invested in these character's relations that seems to only stem from goofy one-liners. "Men in Black: International" is the equivalent to a straight to video sequel with its overdrawn concept, flat characters, and far outdated CGI. Can someone please put this agency to rest already?