It took 7 years after the third installment of Men in Black for a sequel, which is more of a spin-off, to finally spawn—marking its 20th anniversary with Men in Black: International. No longer featuring legendary Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and Agent J (Will Smith), the new chapter, helmed by Straight Outta Compton and The Fate of the Furious director, F. Gary Gray, reunites Thor: Ragnarok duo, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson as the intergalactic secret agents. The tongue-to-cheek conspiracy theory and high-profile cameo is less surprising; the chemistry between the leads is no longer hardboiled, and yet, International presents a warm welcome back to the franchise.
In International, Hemsworth is Agent H, a high-profile agent whose reputation is actually at the same level as K and J. Thanks to his mentor, High T (Liam Neeson), the head of MIB London. Thompson (Tessa, not Emma) is Molly, a prodigy whose actual non-neutralized encounter with MIB as a child leads him to enlist as an MIB agent code-named M. H, taking M under his mantle, is assigned to escort an alien royal family member when the mission goes south. When the alien passing M an obscure object, both agents suddenly get all the spotlights and they are bound to find out what actually happened with them and with the organization.
As simple as it sounds, the Macguffin is the only device that keeps the story moving—leading H and M from one alien lair to another. International never intentionally introduces new elements to the franchise and, at the same time, follows the buddy-cop tropes in which the predecessors are known for. The plot is barely intriguing, but it’s exhilarating enough to keep audiences entertained. Even with the thin plot, the spin-off does not even bother to put efforts in making dynamic connections between the lead. Bottom line: H and M’s collective bond is never the story’s main focus. It’s good that given such term, both Hemsworth and Thompson could still deliver enticing performance. Hemsworth has finally proven the allegation that he’s not the heartthrob we used to suspect; instead, he keeps sharpening his comedic charm (which he surprisingly carries along since Paul Feig’s Ghostbusters and Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok).
All Men in Black: International cares about is having fun; and that’s not necessarily bad. The comedic elements are pumped up with double power, even when some of the comedic moments might not be relevant enough. While the comedy is less slapstick than the predecessors, it could’ve been more varied given its focus on it. One best addition to this is Kumail Nanjiani’s alien character, Pawny, whose quips and banters are top-notch. If anything, this show-stealer is the real MVP, whose presence is way more meaningful in the movie compared to Neeson’s High T or Rebecca Ferguson’s alien crime-lord alien.
Men in Black: International is in a more similar tone to the second Men in Black. It might not a necessarily excellent entry to the franchise, but it’s undoubtedly a warm welcome back and, possibly, a fair introduction to the new generation of fans. Hemsworth and Thompson might still get a chance to expand the franchise to a more compelling direction in the future.