‘Men in Black International’ Review: Here Come the Men in Blech
Someday they will write poems about Chris Hemsworth’s Men in Black hair. Long, florid poems.
Hemsworth’s hair in Men in Black International is magnificent, with bangs that are somehow messy and meticulous all at once. They never move, even when Hemsworth races through Morocco on an alien motorbike. He wakes up in bed after a long night on a case, and every single follicle remains delicately in place. It defies gravity. It defies logic. It appears immune to the natural laws of time and space. Sony probably spent $150 million on this movie and the most impressive thing onscreen is Chris Hairsworth. (It’s possible they spent a sizable portion of the $150 million on inventing new bang technology. If they did, it was worth the investment. By the way, what do you think he’s using to get that look? Is it a pomade? Do you blow dry it? Is there an iron involved? How’s it work?)
I spent a lot of time thinking about Chris Hemsworth’s mane in Men in Black International, because quite frankly the movie offered very little else to think about. A mediocrity in every conceivable sense, it is the latest doomed attempt to restart the stagnant sci-fi comedy series about the enigmatic group that polices earth’s hidden alien population in dark suits and sunglasses. Previously anchored by Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, International introduces a new team of agents, H and M, played by Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, respectively.
Thompson loosely assumes the Smith role, the newbie who serves as the audience’s surrogate as director F. Gary Gray takes viewers into the quirky Men in Black organization. M (short for Molly) had an alien encounter as a child, and then spent her entire life from that point forward trying to earn a spot in the Men in Black. Finally, she finds a way into their secret base and convinces the woman in charge, Agent O (Emma Thompson, the only returning cast member), to give her a job. O places her on probation and does what responsible organizational leaders do with all their probationary employee: Sends them on the most dangerous and risky assignment imaginable, in this case to MIB’s London office to root out a potential traitor.
That’s where M meets Hemsworth’s H, supposedly the greatest of all the branch’s field agents, along with his benevolent boss High T (Liam Neeson), and a bunch of potential suspects for the Men in Black mole. It takes about 30 minutes — and scenes set in Paris, Brooklyn, London, and Marrakech — before even the hint of a villain emerges. It’s even longer than that before we learn what the bad guys want and why. Until then the whole thing just limply coasts along on Hemsworth and Thompson’s charisma, which is ample but not nearly as supported by solid material as it was in the far superior Thor: Ragnarok.
While H and M exchange banter and knowing smirks, the screenplay by Art Marcum and Matt Holloway is almost completely bereft of actual jokes. It also paints a very confusing picture of the H character. Throughout the entire film, people talk about how he has changed; how he’s not the same hero he was before fended off a mysterious alien invasion a few years earlier. But H still leaps into battle with E.T.s at a moment’s notice. He seems exactly like the H we see in brief glimpses of his life before this incident that supposedly changed him forever. He also acts exactly like Thor, minus the beard and hammer. In other words, he’s a classic action hero. So what’s the problem?
At least H kind of has a personality. The various aliens — who were so key to the first film’s success, back when they were mostly practical creature effects by the great Rick Baker — leave no impression whatsoever. People still talk about Baker’s Men in Black makeup, like Vincent D’Onofrio’s giant bug in human clothing; no one will remember any of the critters in MIB International with the possible exception of Pawny, a little green guy given a bit of an identity (and the only actual jokes in the entire movie) by voice actor Kumail Nanjiani.
The combination of Hemsworth and Thompson, who have proven on-screen action comedy chemistry, in a franchise that everyone loves should have been a slam dunk. Instead, Men in Black International is like an airball thrown from right in front of the rim. The degree to which Men in Black International wastes Hemsworth and Thompson’s talents — and in the process almost makes them seem like bland, uninteresting actors, despite all the previous evidence to the contrary — is almost an accomplishment in and of itself, and the rest of the film is equally pointless (not to mention long, at just under 120 minutes). Hemsworth’s glorious coiffure gets a 10/10. The rest deserves a...
-There are a couple brief homages to the original Men in Black, if you’re into that sort of thing.
-The climactic action scene is very underwhelming as the finale of a movie, but it does make a pretty solid commercial for Lexus — complete with loving close-ups of the interior details — so I’m sure the ad executives who helped make that deal happen will be pleased.
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