Film Review: Men in Black International (2019)


Promotional Poster for the 2019 film “Men in Black International”

The other day, my wife suggested that “the guys” should go see a movie together, so a few hours ago, my two sons, my grandson, and I saw Men in Black International (2019). I’m a huge fan of the 1997 original starring Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, though I’ve shied away from the sequels. I probably wouldn’t have seen “International,” at least in the theater, but that was my grandson Landon’s choice, and it was nice for we “guys” to get together the day before Father’s Day.

In a word, the movie was “okay”. It was a decent way to kill a couple of hours (running time is 1 hour, 38 minutes, but there were a ton of trailers beforehand) but nothing spectacular. In fact, I had a tough time getting into the film in spite of action, shooting, explosions, and aliens.

This is a story that starts with a little girl named Molly (Fandeiya Flory) whose parents encounter an alien and are “neuralized” by two MIB agents when she’s about eight. Molly, whose memory remains intact, helps a cute little alien escape, which turns out to be important later in the story. She spends the next twenty years trying to find out about the mysterious agency the men came from so she can join.

It’s also the story of a mentor (Agent High T – I kid you not – played by Liam Neeson) and an up and coming counterpart (Agent H played by Chris Hemsworth) whose close bond is somehow damaged after a particularly dangerous assignment against the alien Hive in Paris three years prior.

Eventually, adult Molly (Tessa Thompson), who becomes a probationary Agent M, is transferred from New York to London and works her way into a partnership with H, whose reputation as a top agent has been tarnished by an inexplicable personality change.

Through one misadventure after another, M learns that there is a mole inside MIB, but she doesn’t know who. Only that an alien named Vungus, who came to Earth to party with H, is murdered by what seems to be twin Hive operatives (literally played by identical twins Laurent and Larry Bourgeois). Right before he dies, Vungus, who can get a sense of someone’s personality by touching them, gives M a small object to hide, knowing he can trust her but not H.

M and H eventually are discovered to have the object, and an ambitious Agent C (Rafe Spall) goes over High T’s head and orders an op against them. Even after High T finds out, he allows the op to continue, and our heroes, who don’t like each other at this point, along with an alien chess piece nicknamed “Pawny” (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani), go on the lam, redeeming themselves only after defeating an alien arms dealer and former lover of H, Riza (Rebecca Ferguson).

In the movie’s climax, the true mole is revealed, much emotional angst is experienced, and ultimately, a happy, though tarnished ending is achieved.

Look at the list of stars. You’d kind of expect this to be at least a pretty good film if not wildly entertaining, but I didn’t think it was all that much. Given a choice between the two, I prefer the 1997 original, although it was fun to watch Hemsworth playing a James Bond knock off.

I looked, and Rotten Tomatoes only gives it a 24%, although the audience score is 67%. I should mention that the movie Dark Phoenix also scored 24%, and that film has been recognized as a box office bomb, so that bodes ill for MIB-I.

I liked seeing Hemsworth and Thompson together but in different roles, since they played opposite of each other in the last two “Avengers” movies, just to gauge the range of their acting. However, I kind of feel like this is a film they did, got paid for, and then moved on from (or should have). Of course, there will probably be sequels, because who doesn’t like being part of a franchise, but I wonder if they’ll be worth the effort?

If you’ve got a few extra bucks lying around and a couple of hours to waste, go for it. Otherwise, watch the original again.

Oh yes, the “Men” in Black naming was addressed more than once, but “Men and Woman in Black” (MAWIB) doesn’t sound quite as smooth. How about “People in Black” (PIB)? “Humans in Black” (HIB)?

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