by Rob DiCristino
Mild spoilers ahead for Men in Black: International.
Men in Black: International is another in a long line of studio re-quels that seem to follow an identical formula: Make a list of the tangible details that audiences recognize from the original films (dinosaurs, proton packs, neuralyzers), crank each one up to eleven, throw in a few easter eggs and mythology gags to keep the die-hards happy (maybe a cameo or two from franchise legends), and hand things over to a sexy new cast who can keep the property viable for the foreseeable future. Sometimes, this works. Sometimes, you get Casino Royale, Mad Max: Fury Road, or even Alien: Covenant. Other times, you get Jurassic World, Terminator: Genisys, or Ghostbusters (2016). No matter the result, your goal is to build a galaxy out of a single star — to bottle that lightning for mass production.
It’s a fine enough premise, and if Men in Black: International had just gotten out of Thompson and Hemsworth’s way for ten seconds, it might have worked as a movie. Instead, the pair (who sparkled in Thor: Ragnarok) are forced to sneak their performances in between set piece after boring, repetitive set piece, never really able to find rhythm enough to dance. Molly’s rushed assimilation with the MiB (a training sequence literally comprised of Emma Thompson pressing a button) robs her of any real characterization; we know she’s an intuitive and creative nerd who wants to understand “how it all works.” Great! What’s preventing that? How will she get there? What song inside her needs to be sung? We’re never shown, so there’s no depth to Thompson’s nuanced and human performance. Hemsworth’s Agent H is even thinner; we’re constantly told that he was a great agent once, that he’s “changed.” But the reason behind that change — intriguing as it is — ends up having zero tangible effect on his character. Hemsworth’s left doing late-phase Thor (yes, there’s even a reference), a jokey persona that gets tiresome very, very quickly.