Does Men In Black: International break new ground? No, not really. Does it need to? Would have been nice; but no, not really. It’s good enough to serve as an amusing diversion at the start of the summer movie season, and sustain the sci-fi adventure comedy franchise that kicked off with Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones back in 1997. It’s a popcorn movie. Over-think it, and you may be disappointed. Embrace it for what it is, and you’ll have a good time watching a new crop of super-secret agents tasked with protecting Earth from the scum of the universe. The plot is a tad superficial and the globe-trotting a bit excessive and unnecessary (except for lending credence to the subtitle), but a solid cast helps keep it afloat.
MIB: International pairs Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson, who’ve already established an easy rapport in their interactions as Thor and Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok and Avengers: Endgame. Here, they play Agents “H” and “M” respectively. He oozes charm, cockiness and swagger as a legendary member of the agency who earned his stripes defeating an alien threat “with just his wits and [MIB signature weapon] series-7 de-atomizer.” She exudes determination and moxie as a rookie agent who spent years looking for the MIB in their NYC hideaway because she once had a friendly encounter with an alien – and looks good in black.
M convinces the head of MIB (Emma Thompson, reprising her role from MIB3) to hire her, and she ends up joining Agent H on a mission that ultimately involves a highly-destructive stolen weapon, a pair of alien assassins (played by dancer/choreographer YouTube phenoms Laurent and Larry Bourgeois, aka ‘Les Twins’), a crazy alien ex-girlfriend (Rebecca Ferguson), and a possible mole within MIB.
The supporting cast also includes: Liam Neeson as the head of MIB’s London office and paternal mentor to Agent H; Rafe Spall as pouty MIB Agent C; and Kumail Nanjiani as the absolute scene-stealer, voicing a diminutive CGI character nicknamed Pawny. He’s the lone survivor of an alien race that disguised themselves as chess pieces. Pawny provides constant comic relief as a snarky and sarcastic alien sidekick who pledges to serve and protect the woman he’s anointed his new queen: Agent M.
MIB: International doesn’t deliver the level of sharp banter and tight narrative that established Agents J and K (Smith and Jones) as instant icons in the MIB universe. But it is significantly better than 2012’s Men in Black 3, a sequel that probably should have neuralyzed viewers at the end to wipe their collective memory.
MIB: International marks a new start for the Men – and Women – in Black. It’s not a perfect reboot (or sequel or whatever you want to call it), but it’s an entertaining ride with two very likable leads, and there’s definitely room for growth – especially if Pawny remains in the picture.