Quick question: did anyone out there actually ask for this? I mean, did someone out in the world watch MIB 2 & 3 back to back and once the films ended, nodded to themself and openly stated to the universe “Yeah, I could watch another one of those…”.
Well congratulations, pal, because the universe listened and this one is on you.
Lest we forget – before we start launching cheap rabbit punches at the kidneys of the risable sequels – the first Men In Black is actually grade-A, 90’s blockbuster genius. A film that, once you get past the accompanying Will Smith rap video (I think it was a legal requirement back then), contained a huge laugh quota, a galaxy full of heart and a legitimately inspired comedy duo of Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as his impressively unflappable straight man.
Well, no Smith and Jones here, as they’ve long jettisoned a franchise that at one point was actually going to cross over with the 21 Jump Street films (Look… it’s Sony. Try not to think too hard about it) and instead they’ve flown in the leads of another high concept, visually insane, sci-fi comedy: Thor: Ragnarok, to resuscitate the franchise.
On paper it’s a smart move, both Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are not only both extremely charismatic performers but, thanks to their previous work together, already have their couple act schtick already locked down and to give them their due, are the best thing about the movie. It’s just a shame that the film literally has nothing new for them to do and they are abandoned by the script to ad-lib and riff until the next scene starts up.
The plot is the typical MIB scenario – ticking clock, hidden mysterious alien dohicky that needs to be discovered, weird characters crammed in everywhere – but fused with the kind of lighthearted, pond skipping, global espionage that a Roger Moore era Bond would have gone on. In fact if the film had leaned more into adding some Men In Black colour to the spy genre the way the first movie riffed on classic cop movie scenarios then it would have added some more personality to such a cookie cutter movie. In fact a lot of what made the first movie so great has been stripped away. The aliens, once a fantastic two-hander between CGI and Rick Baker’s physical animatronic creations, are now virtually all computer generated and lack the charm that came with it although the diminutive sidekick Pawny (voiced by The Big Sick’s Kumail Nanjiani) is far more entertaining than most other little wisecrackers these kinds of movies usually chuck out. Oh, and by the way. I’m assuming that MIB’s London headquarters has superlative reception because how strongly Liam Neeson phones in his performance, thank God for a returning Emma Thompson, then, turning in good value comedy smug despite only being there to be connective tissue to the previous trilogy.
MIB: I isn’t strictly what you’d call “bad”, it’s at least as sporadically decent as the third installment and far better than the second and a scene involving a cameoing Rebecca Ferguson as a three armed arms dealer hints at the fun that could have been, but we are currently in a year of blockbusters that are either the quality of Avengers: Endgame or John Wick 3 or are middle-of-the-road, divisive critical and commercial flops like Dark Phoenix and Godzilla. You can’t expect people to go to the cinema and pay money for something so ordinary as this movie and not expect them to just simply stream it solely based on franchise recognition and the casting of two actors you enjoyed seeing together in another movie.
A sporadically fun (if a little pointless) way to spend 2 hours, yes. But ultimately more forgettable than getting flashed with a dozen neuralizers.
You were never here….