Men in Black: International (aka Men in Black 4) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
Similar to Ghostbusters, Sony has confused itself that the standout element to revive a franchise is to focus on the artificial rather than the personal. Men in Black: International continues this tradition by keeping its focus more on the world of aliens and futuristic tech than any of the comradery that made the 1997 original such a brilliant buddy cop picture. But you need a little more than cute aliens, nasty creatures, and a doomsday gun to make a fun adventure film.
Consider how much the film tip-toes around doing anything demeaning with Tessa Thompson. Her character starts out as an astute science-loving prodigy, clever enough to not only study up on alien existence, but also narrowly avoid the Men in Black as a kid and maintain her memories to remember an alien encounter. She’s perfect material for the Men in Black. Almost too perfect.
She’s teamed up for a London assignment with Chris Hemsworth playing a hotshot agent. Boasting his claim to fame, he once tackled an alien menace known as The Hive, earning him enough noteriety to be worthy of a painting in the hall of fame. He’s cocky, but always seems to have an easy out and is sure enough that he can either shoot or sleep his way out of any situation. He’s the perfect James Bond type for the Men in Black. Almost too perfect.
These two are just so perfect they have so little chemistry. In the film’s motivation to mark a more feminist friendly appeal, Thompson is first seen getting the hots for Hemsworth and then never again because if she did she’d be falling into an old trope of a man/woman partnership leading to love. But if they’re not an item, considering Thompson spends most of the film looking down on the dumb muscle, what’s the point of her initial window-shopping gazing in the introduction? And so the film proceeds to spend more time carefully stepping around any romance in lew of giving the two some genuine personality and chemistry.
The mission they’re sent on is such an uninspired one of a secret invasion and a mole within the agency; standard MIB situation. Haven’t we been down this road before? Located in the offices of a senior agent (Liam Neeson) is a painting depicting the events of the first film with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Just next to it is a painting of Hemsworth and Neeson stopping another alien threat in Paris. Have we not learned anything from history? At least enough to mock the familiar?
The only bit of mocking we’ll get out of the film, and personality for that matter, is from a miniature alien soldier voiced by Kumail Nanjiani. And, sadly, he too stays within his lane by mocking but never mocking too much. There’s such a distance from any and all character chemistry that the agents spend far more time talking about MacGuffins and invading aliens than anything about themselves. Why is it so hard for Sony to learn it’s not the THINGS that matter in the sci-fi adventure but the characters wielding those space-age weapons and talking to CGI creatures?
MIB: International is such a lifeless and bland picture you don’t even have to bother with the neuralyzer for trying to forget.