Men in Black: International is directed by F. Gary Gray and stars Tessa Thompson, Chris Hemsworth, Emma Thompson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rebecca Ferguson, and Liam Neeson.
Based on the hit worldwide franchise of the same name, this film is a generational revitalization for the Men in Black: a covert government agency dedicated to protecting the world from alien and extraterrestrial threats. The story follows Agent M (Thompson), a new recruit with an undying curiosity and a desire to prove herself. When a potential breach in the MIB organization unleashes an ancient power threatening the safety of humanity, M must team up with the veteran Agent H (Hemsworth) to uncover the traitor in their ranks and save the world.
Not too long off the heels of the original MIB trilogy, Sony has now decided to give one of their more popular franchises a facelift for a new generation of moviegoers, led by arguably one of the most talented duos in Hollywood at the moment. Looking to jumpstart one of their most well-known properties in lieu of a canceled Jump Street crossover, Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray steps behind the camera in an attempt to breathe new life into the famous MIB universe. Is this newest sci-fi adventure the proper introduction for a new generation, or will audiences be begging for a Neuralyzer as soon as the credits roll?
You know, I always try to be relatively sophisticated in everything I write, but wow…this movie sucks. Big time.
This film is officially my biggest surprise so far this year, but in all the worst ways. I’m actually quite taken aback by what a complete and utter trainwreck this film is. Men in Black: International is a terribly written, poorly made excuse for a sci-fi action film with little to no focus, direction, or purpose in anything it sets out to accomplish.
To say that this film has terrible pacing would imply that even the slightest of efforts were made to try and give this flick a constant tempo. This film never once tries to center itself and constantly fluctuates between the two extremes throughout. Moments that seem to be of narrative importance are often brushed aside or skipped over altogether in servitude of the plot’s messy progression, and often left me feeling frustrated, confused, or both. This film also feels like it was edited by someone suffering from short-term memory loss, carrying no consistency or longevity whatsoever.
The performances are truly nothing noteworthy, which is nothing short of a crime considering the talent that rounds out this film’s cast. An actor has to place a lot of faith in their respective writers and script, and if I haven’t made this clear yet, that faith goes quite unrewarded in the case of this flick. It’s actually quite saddening to see great actors and actresses such as Emma Thompson and Rebecca Ferguson suffer under all the wildly frustrating sins that this film commits. I’d knock the various performances that this film has to offer, but the actors weren’t working with much to begin with, resulting in some mega-talents giving criminally unremarkable performances.
One of this film’s most notable transgressions is found within a make-or-break element of any good sci-fi adventure: the visuals. This film boasts some of the most shameful visual effects I’ve seen in quite a long time, and never once seems repentant for its immeasurable number of offenses. The film also relies quite a bit on its improper CGI, which makes for jarringly bizarre action sequences, criminally uncreative monster/creature design, and ultimately more often than not pulls the audience directly out of the experience.
One of the most prominent superlatives I would award this film is that it wields the most revolting script I’ve seen in quite a while. At no point during any of the messy three acts did I find any adherence to the basic principles of continuity, character development, structure, or anything else of the sort. This film’s script feels as though it was written all throughout principal photography (which it very well might’ve been, more on that in a moment) and winds in every direction without any warning or indication as to where it’s going or why it’s going there. Gaps, plot holes, and unbelievably ridiculous conveniences are riddled all over this monster. Moreover, they somehow manage to become more unfathomable than the next every single time, like the writers were intentionally trying to one-up themselves every chance they got.
The film’s story also relies on a number of reveals and twists, especially toward the end, but each moment and reveal continuously suffer because of improper setup and no real sense of structure as the film progresses. In addition, these reveals are hurt by the bizarrely improper withholding of information at the worst times. Relevant and important information that these moments are dependent upon either go without proper emphasis or are simply not given when needed, leaving the audience trapped in a two-hour guessing game as to why certain things are happening and why certain decisions are being made. It’s one of the most frustratingly bizarre experiences I think I’ve ever had at the movies.
The character writing is nothing short of absolutely horrid and repeatedly fails to implement essential components for establishing and developing arcs over the course of the runtime. Character and story beats are dropped and ignored just as quickly as they’re introduced, and are given no more consideration than throwaway gags or dreadfully boring exposition. The dialogue is somehow even worse and is overstuffed with undeserved character moments, unintentionally hilarious clichés, nonsensical contradictions of the “narrative,” and comedic relief/gags that fall flat 110% of the time. Whoever is truly responsible for this film’s script should be utterly ashamed of themselves.
Which, come to find out, could very well be Sony.
While I could very easily blame Director Gray and his writers for this film’s many, many failures, the obvious choice doesn’t quite seem like the right one just yet. I’ve read a number of reports in the past few days that heavy studio interference resulting in a number of creative battles made this film’s production an absolute nightmare. This interference is apparently what also led to the horrendous script, which was allegedly being written and rewritten on the fly throughout production. I can’t say that this surprises me much, as Sony is pretty notorious for this kind of thing, and it saddens me quite a bit that a talent such as Gray’s and the potential for a compelling script were most likely suppressed and ignored by a studio merely trying to maximize profit. In fact, it’s kind of remarkable how much this entire film feels like a product, like men in suits constantly trying to sell me something every second. (And I’m not talking about the kind of men in suits that hunt aliens.) I won’t break down the semantics, but for those looking to know more, I’ll put a great piece written by The Hollywood Reporter right here. It’s a hell of a read.
While I feel an overwhelming desire to keep this review a wholesale slaughter, I wouldn’t be doing my job if I didn’t say that there are some things this movie has going for it. This film, to its credit, has a fragment of a backbone within Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth. It’s profoundly clear that the leading pair were the only ones putting forth any effort on set, as the two flex their worthy acting chops just enough to not be bogged down by the remainder of the cast. The two also have great chemistry onscreen (even if it pales in comparison to their synergy in Thor: Ragnarok) and are ultimately what saves this dumpster fire from being truly irredeemable. Speaking to the Sony thing from earlier, I’ve also read reports that Thompson and Hemsworth literally hired their own personal writers to rework their dialogue whilst the film was being shot, which is just unbelievable in every sense of the word.
And despite the fact that this film is largely confusing, boring, and joyless, there are two particular moments that, for nothing else, made me smile. The first of which is a blink-and-you-miss-it reference to Agents J and K (Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones) which got something of a reaction out of a few audience members. The second is the most perfectly timed line delivery from Rebecca Ferguson’s character toward the end of the second act. I can’t really give any context to the line without spoilers (like anyone cares), but just know that it’s the perfect line for a hellaciously stupid moment. Ferguson damn near breaks the fourth wall. It’s incredible.
That’s pretty much all the praise I can give this thing.
When all is said and done, Men in Black: International serves as a painfully unbearable reminder that some franchises are best left untouched. It’s somewhat evident that a fair amount of talent was trapped in the film’s hellish production, but said glimpses of hope aren’t nearly enough to save a cheap, unfocused, and poorly made two-hour disaster. Men in Black: International is the worst movie I’ve seen so far this year, and absolutely gets an F.
This review and its content were edited by Kayla Randolph, Chief Editor at Reel Thoughts.