Neuralyzer, anyone? No need, 2019’s Men In Black: International, the reboot spin-off of the iconic Men In Black franchise, virtually neuralyzes itself mere hours after closing credits by virtue of its forgettable and jumbled plot, lukewarm action, and two-dimensional characters. Seeming to manifest randomly out of the celestial ether, this film attempted to electrify a new generation of action sci-fi fans and seduce older fans of Barry Sonnenfeld’s initial trilogy. Despite a strong cast and competent digital art, Men In Black: International lazily lifted material from its sources in an uninspired way and its original offerings were contrived and insipid.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, MIB: International follows the story of Molly Wright (Tessa Thompson), twenty-plus years after she encountered a strange alien and witnessed her parents’ neuralyzation (?), who somehow tracks an alien landing and stumbles into the Men in Black New York headquarters. After impressing Agent O (Emma Thompson), Molly becomes ‘Agent M’ and is whisked away to London to work with hotshot Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) under the supervision of High T (Liam Neeson). Together, the unlikely pair embark on a mission and travel across the globe in order to save the world from a devastating alien invasion. We have seen this before. Honestly, the ‘save the world’ narrative archetype is growing exponentially boring.
What Agents M and H should have been more worried were writers Art Marcum and Matthew Hollaway who sank this film with their vapid and nauseating script. The basic plot is blandly reminiscent of the original MIB film – two incompatible agents become involved in an alien-invasion plot revolving around a celestial object (or maguffin for you film buffs) which ultimately provides the key to defeating the bad guys. Marcum and Hollaway’s story is not only unoriginal; it feels lifeless and directionless. The characters traipse from New York to London to Italy to Marrakesh to Paris in a tedious tornado where sudden new action explodes onto the screen, the heroes fight their way out, and then haphazardly jet off to the next location. It felt more like a travel agency advert than an addition to a beloved franchise. This film was literally all over the place. The action sequences could hardly redeem this recycled plot structure as they were so contrived that it never felt the characters were ever in real danger. This completely dulls any tension and urgency, making the action feel hollow and cheap. Plot points from earlier in the film awkwardly and ham-handedly ex-machina their way into later plot points, notably in Naples when Agents M and H battle Riza Stavros (Rebecca Ferguson) who is unnecessarily Agent H’s ex-girlfriend. The villains of the film were boring, and the twist climax was predictable and yawn-inducing. On top of this, the film was largely unfunny because its dialogue was riddled with tired jokes and gags which fell flat most of the time.
The Straight Out Of Compton (2015) and Italian Job (2003) director F. Gary Gray’s filmography is usually characterised by an upbeat and smooth energy, fuelled by action and humour, which makes his films enjoyable to watch. You care about the characters and want them to succeed, and the film provides you with enough energy to fuel your emotional investment. MIB: International is a glaring anomaly as Gray was unable to bring his infectious energy to the project. It’s not that the characters are unlikeable – rather, their situations and arcs feel forced and plastic. And that is because of the overstuffed and scatter-brained plot which tremendously bogged Gray down.
Despite being devoid of any interesting character development, Thompson and Hemsworth’s slick character portrayals and wonderful on-screen chemistry were easily the highlight of the film. Their rapport made a stale plot somewhat watchable. Emma Thompson’s Agent O and Kumail Nanjiani’s “Pawny” were also welcomed additions to the film providing some workable humour. The film was somewhat over-reliant on digital art and CGI for the aliens and action sequences, but when used, they proved to be visually interesting and creative. It was enjoyable to see many different aliens throughout the film and observe how they moved, spoke and interacted with humans and other aliens. This is a feature I’ve always appreciated about the franchise.
Despite a strong cast, passable digital art and stunning locations, a confused and vapid plot, which seemed to make itself up as the film progressed, crippled MIB: International and proved yet again that remakes and reboots sometimes end up squandering instead of enriching their inspirations. This film’s poor performance at the global box office and its near unanimous rejection from critics and filmgoers are persuasive signs that maybe the Men In Black film franchise has run its course. But Hollywood loves sequels, remakes and reboots because it’s so easy to cash in on someone’s nostalgia and warm memories for a classic film. I believe it’s time for us to start generating new stories instead. Who knows if we will get another MIB film again? But, it’d probably be best to keep your neuralyzer handy.
What did you think of the new MIB film? Should the franchise continue or is it time to put it to rest? What do you think about reboots, sequels, and remakes? Let me know by dropping a comment below.