Men in Black: International
This review may contain spoilers
I don’t even feel like doing this. Look. Men In Black: International was far from the worst film I’ve ever seen, but this is one of those instances where a film — whether it was decent or terrible — feels completely unnecessary. We start off with the slightest glimpses of promise that are immediately squashed. Molly witnesses an alien event when she is a child. Her parents are neuralyzed (the process of having your latest memories erased, so you don’t recall any alien encounters), however she is unscathed as she witnesses all of this from her bedroom. Many years later, her hunt to join the Men in Black continues, and we have caught up to her actual success. The idea to put the drive in a dreamer’s heart was there, but the execution is so half-assed, that you honestly feel like anyone could have been in that position (and not in a good, self reflection kind of way). We get the idea as to why Molly wants to be here, but we don’t get the passion.
You can place this lifelessness in any moment of the film. Any minuscule means of heart come from Tessa Thompson’s wit and Liam Hemsworth’s suaveness. Otherwise, Men in Black: International feels like that experience you have when you watch someone else watch a movie with their headphones on during a flight. You are curious as to what is going on, but you have zero actual connection. That’s this film, but this is the impact when you are fully engaged with it. The biggest offender is the way the story is told. The narrative itself is decent, I suppose. You have a believer trying to prove her worth during a probationary period in the agency, and a top tier agent that gets by with his own rules. Neither of these paths ever get fully explored. We barely see Molly experience any sort of threat with her new title, and we don’t see Agent H fall from grace.
This flopping-fish plot extends to so many other befuddling decisions. Why does that alien in hiding only show up hours later when the dust has settled? That was one of those moments where you’re so far into the film, and yet you cannot believe how insulting such a pivot point can be. It’s as if Darth Vader didn’t reveal his connection to Luke Skywalker when it mattered, but by barging in during Skywalker’s eighth birthday party, unannounced, screaming “Happy birthday! By the way, I’m your dad! Bye!” and leaving. Next up we have the twist that people who haven’t seen the movie saw coming. It happens so late into the film, that we feel like we have wasted time, and there is no real cause for anything after the film. The twist happens when there is roughly ten minutes left in the film. So much is squashed together to try and make something meaningful of the “climax”. We have the “you were always a son to me” talk, with that very same point being countered mid fight minutes later (we just had this talk, guys. We just had this talk.). What good is a twist when the film ends on almost the exact same note it would have right before the twist? Worth was proven by Agent M (Molly) and Agent H? We never had the feeling it wasn’t being proven. There was no danger here, whatsoever. Men in Black: International exists because the original films did. There was supposed to be a crossover between this series and the 21 Jump Street films. That didn’t happen, but this film had to continue. So, we are left with a film that feels more like a Rick & Morty adventure without being even remotely as good.
To top it all off, the moments the film tries to be profound, it ends up being a slap to the face instead. Let’s be real. How in the bloody hell did Molly come across the exact same alien she knew as a kid decades later? This is a series that deals with never ending possibilities. She wasn’t looking for the alien. They stumbled across each other’s paths. I know the film is limited to Earth, and I know the alien’s species sticks out to Molly because of her early meeting with it, but this is absolutely insane. Don’t give me that “the universe decides when something is meant to be when these coincidences happen” crap that the film was trying to teach, because it isn’t like Slumdog Millionaire in the way that the latter film lives through serendipity. Molly searched for the Men in Black headquarters. The rest of the work was done through actual effort. Stumbling across the one alien you briefly met as a kid later on during a near-fatal moment is a deus ex machina that insists the audience is stupid enough to gobble this explanation up. You’re smarter than that, folks.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.