MEN IN BLACK….err WOMEN IN BLACK? WOMEN AND MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL

It is a week late and MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL did release last Thursday 19th in Australia but all the Kernels were busy little bees and Kernel Claire could only review it this past weekend. So this coming weekend after you see TOY STORY 4, the TOY MURDER movie in CHILD’S PLAY and then you see JOHN WICK 3 for the 7th time you HAVE TO SEE MIB4.

MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL is out now from Sony Pictures Australia rated M and runs for 115mins. Enjoy Lady Claire’s fine review on this unnecessarily continuing science fiction franchise.

BY CLAIRE SMITH

Men in Black: International Synopsis – the same franchise without the 90’s charm:

The Men in Black are the first, last and only line of defence against the scum of the universe. But what if the scum is originating from within the organisation itself? MiB has a mole within it’s ranks and it’s up to new recruit Agent M, and seasoned rookie Agent H to find the snitch before the entire organisation collapses. 

Men In Black: International Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth
Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth

Performances: – it’s all about Thor and Valkyrie:

The original MiB film is a 90’s classic. The reluctant hero character of Will Smith’s Agent Jay being inducted into the MiB ranks by the reluctant mentor character of Tommy Lee Jones‘ Agent Kay was pure comedic brilliance. 

Although this franchise followup wasn’t exactly something that audiences were asking for, it’s a fun nod to the original feel of the late 90’s staple of Sunday Night TV movies.

The well-worn dynamic of the seasoned grump and the keen newbie is somewhat revived in MiBi with the introduction of the premise that both the main characters are doing their best to outperform each other. 

Agent M – played by Tessa Thompson – (Marvel Universe’s Valkyrie) is a keen little bean. Ambitious and hungry for taking her place in the defence line of earth. M heard of MiB after she encountered a cute fluffy alien in her bedroom as a child and evaded being neuralyzed by feigning sleep when the Men in Black came a knockin’. She grows up to be career focused and smashes her way through all the entry tests to finally be placed within her dream job at MiB.

Once placed into the academy by the gruff-stuff, no nonsense Agent O (Emma Thompson – LOVE ACTUALLY, SAVING MR BANKS) M is paired with Agent H – played by the dreamy, steamy Chris Hemsworth (Marvel Universe’s Thor).

Men In Black: International Emma Thompson
Emma Thompson

Although the dialogue and the storyline are regrettably dry and predictable, Hemsworth and Thompson have a vibrant onscreen chemistry. It’s evident they formed a great working relationship after playing Marvel’s Valkyrie and Thor together – their onscreen presence is engaging and fun. Even if the scripting lets them down in some areas – their performance together is lighthearted, cheesy and honest – just what you want from an MiB franchised film. 

Also worth mentioning is the excellent voice-over work from Kumail Nanjiani (THE BIG SICK, CENTRAL INTELLIGENCE) as the rock-em-sock-em little sidekick Pawny. He’s tough, he’s tiny – he takes his (self appointed) job of protecting Agent M very seriously. Kids will love this little side character. He’s great comic relief to the otherwise starchy dialogue.

Without putting too much on the table (but really you’ll pick it as soon as the film starts) Liam Neeson (THE GREY, TAKEN) plays the dark and brooding mentor figure and head of the organisation, Agent High T. Picture Liam Neeson in sunglasses and a suit and that’s really all I need to mention about this performance. Except that he’s the only character to pronounce Agent H as Agent Haitch – everyone else calls him Agent Aitch. Bit of a strange anomaly to let slide – especially seeing as the “Haitch” pronunciation of the letter is a uniquely Australian gaffe – but neither the character, nor Neeson are Aussie. Editor’s Note: “Haitch” marks you as some mixture of proletarian, Irish and Catholic-educated. All of which is Neeson haha

Men In Black: International Tessa Thompson
Tessa Thompson

Costumes, Sets and Gadgetry – How does it look?

For a film largely based around bland suits, ties and sunglasses, the costume department sure managed to cram a lot of colour and vibrancy into this film. Agent M and agent O had some great female renditions of the quintessential plain black suit. There’s some wonderful skirt suits and ruffled collars on crisp business shirts for the ladies and boy oh boy can Hemsworth rock those black slacks. 

Hair and makeup is outstanding in MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL. The use of color and style really add flair to side characters and Alien hair-do’s. Keep an eye out for the horizontally striped wig  on a secondary character in the third act, and some most excellent Emma Thompson silver-fox white cropped hairstyles. 

In terms of sets and locations, the Agents aren’t just confined to New York in MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL. We’re taken to Morocco, London and the aptly named by Pawny “fortress of for sure death” offshore villainous lair. It makes for a refreshing view, as we’re not seeing the same wet-look concrete and bridge overpass shots over and over. We’re treated to vast, sweeping sand-scapes for weapons test scenes, and bustling Moroccan marketplaces to discover new plot intel. It makes for excellent cinematic escapism and really helps the pacing. 

The tech gadgetry, guns, gizmos and toys are reminiscent of the old bond films – which is exactly what you want from a film like this. Hover-bikes, gigantic collapsible guns, flashy neuralyzers – the use of new tech is surprising, inventive and a lot of fun. 

Men In Black: International Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson
Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson

VFX and the not so little green men:

One of the most enticing elements to the MiB franchise is all the new and surprising alien lifeforms we can be introduced to onscreen. They’re scattered throughout the film like they’re a normal part of  everyday life for the agents, and we’re just thrown in to this world. The skin textures are really well rendered. Sweat, pores and fuzzy hairs all move realistically and seamlessly on their computer generated hosts. The character designs are inventive and innovative – definitely not like anything we’ve seen before. Another thing this franchise does well is mix alien language with English – it’s a really simple but effective world-building technique that gives the characters instant credibility in a really tangible way. 

Men In Black: International Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth
Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth

Conclusion – Is it worth your $20?

I’ve seen some really harsh reviews online and I just don’t think this film deserves them. Granted it’s not a film that’s going to change the world, and it’s not really something that audiences will be urgently rushing to the box office for, but you know what? It’s just a bit of light sci-fi fantasy fun. If you just want to relax and throw back a cubic meter of popcorn and six litres of fizzy drink, just escape to the alternate universe in this film. It’s snappy, its colourful, its entertaining. Lighten up and enjoy yourself.

Yes, it’s super predictable. Yes, the storyline is really simple. And Yes, it’s a bit of a cop out having the two leads become their own love interest. 

But you know what? Whatever – who cares? It’s just a bit of fun. Don’t take it too seriously – and take the kids with you while you’re at it – they’ll get a kick out of it. Worst case scenario, you can just neuralyze yourself once it’s done.

YOUR REVIEWER:

Kernel Claire retired from the Salty Popcorn cob in 2014 with full honors, but was lured back to the shine of the silver screen and the Salt of the Popcorn a mere four years later. When not hand-modelling for Kernel Jason’s food-reviews, Claire can be found scootering through Sydney at a reasonable, defensive driving speed; or fussing far too much over her little black rescue cat Baxter.

Claire has worked in the Australian Cinema Industry for over 13yrs and loves it the most when she can report “sometimes I get paid to watch movies”. She’ll pretty much attend any event that includes a lanyard.