Men In Black (MIB) is a sci-fi action comedy movie series which, when it came out in the 90’s, was clever and funny, spoofing the serious notion of FBI agents and secret organisations investigating aliens. The original, as is often (but not always) the case, was certainly a fantastic film, which invariably spawned an unfortunate sequel and a suitably concluding third film to make it a trilogy. Men In Black: International is the fourth in the movie series, and the first to appear without the iconic Will Smith, and it does not try to replace him (thankfully). Instead, we get a fast-paced sci-fi action film which, despite being quite safe, makes for an enjoyable watch.
One thing that was handled well(ish) was the diversity of the cast. Although the MIB organisation was predominantly white men, there were a few women and several people of colour making an appearance. What made this excellent however was that it simply was not an issue in the film at all – there were no racial gags played for laughs or snide sexist commentary. Whilst Hemsworth was obviously meant to be a playboy-type, he still was written in a way that was neither horrifically sexist nor overly offensive – writers for this style of character should take note. And while there probably could be more scope in these films for social issues, they nevertheless kept everything clean and light – perhaps not family film light, but certainly in that general area.
Sadly, the weakest part of the film is the plot. Following the stories of Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and Agent M (Tessa Thompson), the story moves around rapidly at the start to set up backstories, but settles into a healthy pace not long after that. Sadly, it was predictable and safe as stories go – some interesting plot ideas were obviously played with, but were evidently decided to stay within tried and tested formulas. Furthermore, there were a couple of plot points that were never fully fleshed out in the film, so they felt a little bit hollow – although those did tend to be fridge moments.
In contrast to the rather pedestrian plot, the world and characters were fairly robust and engaging. There were not an abundance of 2D cut-out characters or strawmen to lampoon, and the MIB universe was shown a little bit more (we finally get to know what the MIB organisation is like outside of the US – which is essentially the same). Although there were a few little homages to the earlier films, generally it was not relying too much on nostalgia to get legitimacy – the world was its own, and stood on its own as such. This is a good thing – although obviously part of an existing franchise, it clearly wanted to help become part of the 2020’s film landscape, rather than be mired in a continuously backward-looking direction (something which many blockbuster films seem to rely on these days – note Disney remakes).
Overall, an enjoyable film that will probably not deserve any negative storm that will invariably be whipped up about it. Despite a rather safe and predictable plot, the film helped expand the MIB universe and has taken a step away from the MIB films whilst still staying in the style and universe. Definitely a promising start to a potential reboot for the film franchise.