For a generation that grew up on the classical Men in Black movies on either side of the millennium, and then went on to obsess over the animated series on Cartoon Network, Men in Black: International was a release that we eagerly anticipated. We had questions and needed answers. Questions like: Can Chris Helmsworth in the reprisal be as good as Will Smith, in the original? Could agents H and M (absolutely no relation to the clothing brand — although Helmsworth does look stud-worthy in black suits and linen shirts, alike) match up to agents J and K in the original? How much more outlandish will the franchise’s aliens become, in an era of new and improved CGI?
As a fan of the franchise and a film geek in general, I can’t help but feel it’s my sworn duty to prepare you for disappointment.
Men in Black: International is especially disappointing if you watch the film with expectations. The problem is easily recognizable: the legacy left behind by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones in the original is irreplaceable. One might argue that neither Helmsworth (who plays the role of Agent H) nor Tessa Thompson (Molly: alias Agent M) are even attempting to pit themselves up against the actors in the original. The fact, however, remains, that these actors end up being a pale shadow of the original lead cast.
The film’s plot is admittedly well thought-out. Men in Black: International does a quick flashback to New York City in 1996 where a young Molly (Tessa Thompson) has her first run-in with extraterrestrial life. She, however, escapes being neuralized (an advanced camera flash that wipes out your memory of an alien encounter) by Men in Black agents, only to decide that she wants to join the elite secret service that fights evil aliens, and protects the world. Once in, Molly becomes agent M, hyper-loops her way to the UK, to embark on a mission with the agency’s London office. Together with Agent H (Helmsworth), the duo then tries to vanquish an evil alien force called The Hive, which aims to change the world as we know it.
While the film is but a shadow of the original, it does have some pretty strong elements going it's way. For instance, the plotline shepherds a transition that sees the franchise go international — from New York, to London, to Paris. Some of the most iconic scenes take place at the Eiffel Tower (its builder, Gustave Eiffel apparently knew about aliens — beat that). The fact that the film is mostly shot from newbie Agent M’s point of view is a nice touch too, since you can’t help but relate to her as someone who grew up wanting to know about alien life. Each of us in the audience is Agent M; we grew up watching the Men in Black, and we’re getting front-row seats now, to more action in 2019.
The film disappoints on account of failing to wow you with the CGI (shape-shifting aliens notwithstanding), underwhelming chemistry between principal cast, and a predictable plot-twist. More stunningly, the reprisal literally has zero slime, and the MIB fan in me was left gasping in shock as my mind raced back to those signature scenes that involved either Jones or Smith being covered in slime, in the original films. What can I say? I’m a sucker for sentiment.Watch Men in Black: International with zero expectations. If you’re a fan of the franchise, you’ll probably end up only mildly disappointed. If you have zero context, chances are you’ll kill two hours of your weekend, and forget all about it in a week from now.