The best line in Men in Black: International (a.k.a. MIB: IV, I guess) comes from the one funny character, a tiny alien with the voice of Kumail Nanjiani, the body of a chess pawn, the soul of a knight and the wit of a king. “What is this, the sequel to The Notebook?” It drips irony, because no, this isn’t the sequel to The Notebook. We should be so lucky.
In between the various underwhelming aspects of the movie – sub-standard special effects; Liam Neeson sleepwalking through his role as the head of MIB London; endless character-establishing scenes; pointless geographical deviations that suggest someone had a travel budget to use up; and that scene where Chris Hemsworth appears to have stolen Don Johnson’s wardrobe from Miami Vice – it gradually becomes apparent that this isn’t really a sequel to anything. It’s barely a film at all.
The plot, half-cooked and parboiled, concerns a little girl named Molly who meets an alien in her bedroom and sees her parents’ memory of the event wiped by the Men in Black. Pity they didn’t shoehorn the original film’s Agents J and K into a cameo in this flashback, but that’s just one more wasted opportunity for this regret-filled outing.
Anyway, Molly grows up to become Tessa Thompson, determined to find and join the Men (and Women) in Black. When Molly crashes the group’s New York headquarters, Agent O (Emma Thompson) is impressed enough to hire her and send her to London, where things aren’t quite right.
I’d explain more of the plot at this point – you can’t really spoil a movie that already smells like egg salad that’s been left out in the sun – but it doesn’t make a lot of sense. Basically, Molly (now Agent M) stumbles on an alien weapon that looks like a 37-sided die; picture the world’s lamest D&D accessory. She and Hemsworth’s Agent H try to keep it out of the wrong hands.
And somehow, despite the excellent work they did together in Thor: Ragnarok, the two actors look downright awkward in their many scenes together. Strange as it may sound, they seem to have used up all their chemistry in that earlier movie.
Waiting in vain for this one to begin (it never really does), I found my mind wandering to tangential matters. For instance, I know it’s unfair to expect decent science from screenwriters who penned Transformers: The Last Knight and are now at work on a He-Man movie, but you can’t really claim that someone is “from the Draco constellation,” since it’s a widely dispersed group of stars that only look close together from Earth.
On a more prosaic level, how does Agent nomenclature work in the Men in Black universe? The four films to date have given us Agents H, M, C, O, T, J, K, X, R, B and Z. That leaves only 14 unused Agent names; 15 if you count part-timer Sometimes Agent Y.
But perhaps that means the franchise will have to give up trying to recreate the magic that was the first movie from 1997. (MIB 3 was barely watchable, mostly for the pleasure of Josh Brolin’s killer Tommy Lee Jones impression.) The second best line in this movie is Hemsworth’s oft-repeated boast that he once saved the world with nothing more than a series 7 de-atomizer and his wits. Men in Black: International is lacking something, and it’s not series 7 de-atomizers.