If I was trying to pick an emoji to sum up my feelings about Men In Black International, it would be that little red-faced angry one. Not because the movie made me mad, but just because it was so frustrating watching yet another franchise that already had a great ending get resuscitated only to wheeze a couple of gasping coughs and flatline.
Jurassic World, arguably The Hobbit and Fantastic Beasts, even the Star Wars prequels (and postquels?) are all spin offs that tried to build on a franchise that ended and, to varying degrees they all succeeded but none ever surpassed the quality or magic of the original. Sure some made more money, but show me one person who thinks The Last Jedi is better than The Empire Strikes Back and I’ll show you someone who does that Brian Griffin contrarian thing. There are always exceptions. Obviously the Battle Star Galactica reboot is unspeakably better than the original, and (I know people will fight me over this, but…) in my personal opinion “Star Trek: The Next Generation” eclipsed The Original Series in almost every way (the exceptions being the fact that the TOS had George Takei and Nichelle Nichols). Still, these rare exceptions only happened when the successor was decades after the original and completely re-imagined for a new audience.
The problem with MIB is that it’s either too recent or too memorable (I’m not sure which) to need a reboot and a sequel just doesn’t work without Will Smith. Not even the God of Thunder could not match his spark as the cocky agent in the black suit.
The movie was fine, even if the premise nonsensical (I mean, if there’s a whole international community of bad-ass alien cops where were they when the Earth was seconds from being obliterated in all the prior movies). I might even go so far as to say it’s enjoyable, but the problem is it will be equally enjoyable on HBO six months from now. It’s exactly what you think it’s going to be. The story unfolds exactly like you expect. The characters develop exactly the way you think they would. The twists all turn out exactly like you predict. It all makes for an ambivalent experience: never boring, but never exciting. Safe, but sterile. I never thought I’d use this word to describe anything involving Chris Hemsworth, but I’d go so far as to even say “impotent.” The best thing about it might be the alien sidekick Pawny, but the alien sidekick is always the best part of the MIB movie so still no surprise there. I don’t know…maybe the movie works better if you haven’t seen any of the prior installments. Who can say?
I did midway through whisper, “I bet the light on the top of the Eiffel Tower is a neuralizer.” The only unexpected thing about the movie was that I was wrong. But was that a surprise, or a missed opportunity?
I loved Tessa Thompson and the MIB team, but no matter how much I worship Chris Hemsworth he just did not work in this role. His character wears colorful socks to represent his nonconformity, but by the end he sheds the iconic (and crucial) black suit entirely; a regrettable decision that only subconsciously reinforces the audience’s notion that he’s not so much a misfit, as a poor fit.
If this soft reboot is going to work as a new franchise, then they’ve got to center it on Tessa Thompson’s character and find a new partner for her (or just let her and Pawny do their thing). You simply can’t replace Will Smith in this franchise, so they’d be better off not to try. And for the record, Liam Neeson is a poor substitute for Tommy Lee Jones, as well.
If you have a subscription service like AMC A-List or Movie Pass (is that still a thing?), MIB International is definitely worth a free visit to the theater but still bring money for snacks so at least there’ll be something satisfying about the experience.