By Jason Delgado
When Will Smith proclaimed, “I make this look good!,” all the way back in 1997, in the original Men in Black, he wasn’t just talking about his dapper black suit and ray-ban sunglasses. Smith was letting everyone know that he was a star and was here to stay, boasting to the world like Muhammad Ali often did, who Will Smith would go on to later play in a different film. Tessa Thompson, who plays Agent M in Men in Black: International, isn’t as braggadocious as the Fresh Prince, yet her star power has never burned brighter.
Tessa Thompson first broke out with her magnetic turn as the hearing-impaired love interest in Creed. She followed that up as the intelligent and calculating Charlotte Hale in Westworld, as well as the fierce and fun Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame. In MIB: International, Thompson takes us on a wide-eyed journey of the strange alien world hidden amongst us. The first third of the film is enjoyable, as it follows Agent M as she explores the still-fascinating Men in Black world, and displays her dogged determination to become one of the MIB’s secret agents, after an encounter with the agency as a child. Unfortunately, the rest of the movie is bogged down by a lame plot and mostly uninteresting characters, and if it weren’t for Tessa Thompson, this movie would be largely unwatchable. She brings a certain star quality energy and attention to detail to every scene. Her previous roles mentioned above were all supporting ones, but in MIB: International, Thompson proves that she can carry a movie, it’s just unfortunate that it had to be this one.
Chris Hemsworth, aka Thor, is the co-star of the film, and possibly the main draw for many who see this movie. His character in MIB of Agent H is one-note for the most part, egotistical to a fault, and always hamming it up. It’s as if they asked him to play a more cartoonish version of Thor, minus much of the charm of that character. There’s a slow motion sequence where an alien female character and Agent M fawn over the beauty of Hemsworth, and then it’s rewound and played back. That ‘eye candy’ scene is a good indication of the depth of the character, or lack thereof, and of MIB: International in general.
Liam Neeson is another actor whose talents are wasted in this film by also giving him a weak character. Why even have talented actors like this in the movie if they’re not going to used correctly? I guess they were included for name recognition alone, but it’s demeaning to both the actor and the audience, because fans know that these performers are capable of so much more. Emma Thompson does have a fun, yet truncated, returning role as Agent O, and comedian Kumail Nanjiani has a funny part as the voice of the tiny alien Pawny, so it’s not all bad.
Another issue that I had with the script was MIB: International using a form of the “Martha” moment from Batman vs. Superman. For me, one of the biggest eye roll moments in cinematic history was when Batman and Superman are fighting till the death, until they make up and become friends when they find out that their moms have the same name. It was meant to be emotional, but it was just lame in my opinion. The moment in MIB: International does make a little more sense because of an earlier scene, but it’s still a head scratcher as a key plot device nonetheless.
Ed Solomon, who co-wrote the classic Bill & Ted movies, also wrote the first Men in Black film. Picking a proven writer is a part of why the first film was imaginative, interesting, and funny, along with Will Smith being at the peak of his star power, and opposite the versatile Tommy Lee Jones. It would’ve been great if Sony had brought back Solomon to write this new film, but according to his Twitter account, it appears they have some differences over the first movie.
MIB: International was directed by the talented F. Gary Gray of Straight Outta Compton directing fame. The look of the film and special effects took the style of the original Men In Black movie, and updated them to be more modern, as visual effects have certainly advanced since 1997. I think that F. Gary Gray did a fine job, considering what he had to work with, other than maybe neglecting to have Hemsworth tone it done a notch.