28th Aug2019

‘Men in Black: International’ Blu-ray Review

by Jak-Luke Sharp

Stars: Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Laurent Bourgeois, Larry Bourgeois | Written by Matt Holloway, Art Marcum | Directed by F. Gary Gray


Men in Black: International is the fourth entry into the rebooted Men in Black series. Released seven years after the last Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones instalment with Men in Black 3. Franchise director Barry Sonnenfeld is absent this time around, as are leads Smith and Jones. Taking their respective places are Fast and Furious 8 and Straight Outta Compton director, F. Gary Gray in the director’s chair, with Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in the lead roles, after their much-applauded collaboration in Taikia Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok.

F. Gary Gray’s film follows Tessa Thompson’s Molly. Molly is caught up in the intergalactic protection of the earth by the Men in Black. Assimilating into the Brooklyn branch as a probation officer with potential, Thompson is given the rank of Agent M and joins forces with the London branch, partnering with the delinquency of Chris Hemsworth’s Agent H. Both are soon embroiled in an internal conflict within the Men in Black organisation in a possible mole that threatens the very existence and safety of the galaxy.

Men in Black: International is a basic mediocre entry that crafts a predictable, generic action-adventure. It suffices on entertainment value with sizeable sequences that are surface-level fun. Convicting on the promise within the title of the film by attempting to dazzle the viewer with a globe-trotting adventure; Brooklyn, London, Paris, Marrakesh and Naples are a few of the locations involved.

The locations are eye-catching and presented distinctly by cinematographer Stuart Dryburgh. The film is more focused on providing an espionage tone that verges on James Bond territory, rather than the science fiction indulgence of the previous instalments. The James Bond comparisons do not end there. Not only is F. Gary Gray’s film trying to dazzle the audience with the notable locations utilised but also attempts to evoke the same conviction with the crafting of Chris Hemsworth’s Agent H character, who is a lite version of Bond himself.

Hemsworth nails the suave physical presence of such a character comparable to Bond. The problems arise when he begins to speak — providing his usual comedic schtick that we have seen beforehand in Paul Feig’s 2016 Ghostbusters remake. If his portrayal of Chevalier negligence suffices for you, then you’re in luck. Everybody else who wants to see more range or prowess is somewhat underwhelmed. Hemsworth cannot take such a character any further, and there is only so far looks can travel before it becomes an exhausting experience for all.

Tessa Thompson impresses as Agent M. She is the only character who has any sense of a thread or organic arc. Even then it is cut short and never realised due to the screenplay by Matt Holloway and Art Marcum not having a clear direction. Once touted as a 21 Jump Street crossover, it is clear that this is an amalgamation of differencing stories that have gelled together. There are sequences involving Hemsworth that are unequivocally redundant and unnecessary.

These small threads build up and take the place of a much-needed sequence of character development to create a more engaging experience. The chemistry between the two leads is lethargic and fictitious throughout. It is hard to believe that the coupling of these performers who have even worked beforehand. There is not a deeper enough connection between the two, specifically the humour which is nothing short of dire.

In the case of all the latest big-budget monstrosities, the scale of CGI is at an all-time high. Men in Black: International does not fall short on that promise with a horrendous usage of computer-generated imagery. Barry Sonnenfeld’s original trilogy has a terrific embodiment of physicality and reality. Even when it evokes cheesy 1960’s cinema in the likes of Plan 9 from Outer Space and generic conventional tropes, it made for a more pleasing and self-referential experience.

F. Gary Gray’s film is inundated with CGI that not only overwhelms but is implemented with weak realisation. The production design for a 2019 feature is horrifically crafted. Comparable to that of George Lucas’ outlandish usage of a green screen in his Star Wars Prequels. Everything is cleaned to the point of sickly intent. Feeling more plastic and artificial than anything that has come before it. A distinctive but disastrous element.

Men in Black: International is released on DVD, Blu-ray and 4K Ultra HD – in the US – on September 3rd. The UK release is currently scheduled for October 21st 2019.


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