Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Review: "Men In Black: International" is four times too many

Men In Black: International
Before we begin, I need to get something out of the way. I LOVE the first "Men In Black." It was a movie I watched quite a bit as a kid. I remember having an Agent K and a Edgar action figure. It was one of my favorite movies of the 1990's, one that I really go nostalgic for. The two were just that, they were sequels. They were fun, but they were disposable fun. They tried different things, but they just didn't hit the high I felt the first film did. Still, I will always have fond memories of the franchise as a whole.

The Hollywood landscape has changed drastically since 1997 though. One of the first things I wrote on my website here was how the idea of selling an idea using one or two A-List stars is dead now. You need a recognizable brand in order to build a franchise these days, and just because something was hot in the late 1990's and the early 2000's, does not mean there would be an audience today. The last "Men In Black" was only 2012, so perhaps there was still enough juice to make another go, even though the fourth film didn't feature the original two leads.

There was plenty of fighting between the director, the producers and the studio heads on "Men In Black: International," the new fourth film recently released. I can tell there were disagreements on this movie, it shows. "Men In Black: International" is mostly a mess. A forgettable chapter in this franchise that nobody asked to continue. Its a cobbled together Frankenstein Monster that feels like its three hours long. In short, nope doesn't work.

If you need more, I'd be happy to indulge. So let's jump in, shall we? First of all, like I said, even though the second and third films of this franchise were uneven, they at least tried something different. They at least expanded upon the universe in interesting ways. "MiB: International" is pretty much the same movie as the first. Tessa Thompson is a person who happens onto the MiB pretty much by chance, a la Will Smith. The movie vaguely ties into the past of another agent, a la Tommy Lee Jones. There is a royal alien in danger. You can tell they used the first film as a guide and built a movie that feels like it was made from a kit. Don't even get me started on all the callbacks to the first film either. Each and every one a stupid distraction. Oh, there's the pug that can talk! Oh, there's the noisy cricket! Oh, the cars are so fast! 

The thing is, old fans of this franchise aren't going to want to see the first film redone. New fans won't get half the callbacks to the old film. "Men In Black" was hit in 1997, but lots of kids who have the summer off don't remember that year, perhaps they weren't even born yet. This film suffers from the same problem "Independence Day: Resurgence" did. In 2019, I don't know if there is a strong enough audience for this. You have to think outside the box if you are really going to get it work and this is a film that played everything safe.

Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are solid leads, and they play their parts well. Hemsworth will be a movie star for quite awhile, and Thompson is right behind. There is no doubt that they had a blast making this. There are actors like Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, and Kumail Nanjiani, all of whom give it their all. There is really no fault in the performances, I just wish what this cast would have done with a better script. The visuals have that cartoonish, exaggerated animation to them, which became kind of a hallmark after the first film. I liked seeing those.

For an hour and forty-five minute movie, it feels overly-long. There seems to be one main villain, but then there is another, and then another. The film feels like a climax that doesn't end once it rolls to the end. There are also times when the it doesn't even feel like a "Men In Black" movie. I want to see cool guns and gadgets in a "Men In Black" movie, clumsy fighting scenes I can do without.

I know Sony fought hard to make another one, but sometimes its better to leave something alone. How many great fourth movies can you name?

FINAL GRADE: C-  

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