Just as Will Smith was critiqued for stepping into Robin Williams’ shoes in Aladdin, now Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson are being critiqued for their take on the 90s mega-hit, Men in Black.
MIB: International is the fourth instalment in the long-running franchise, and the first one that Will Smith doesn’t appear in (unless he’s an alien, wouldn’t that be a coup!). Agent M (Thompson) is a determined new recruit who gets paired with the decorated yet nonchalant Agent H (Hemsworth). The two not only have to save the world from an alien known as ‘The Hive’, but also from a potential mole within the MIB organisation.
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The mission takes them to MIB’s European headquarters, where we realise the scope of the alien invasion, and the catalogue of deadly toys available to the team.
For an audience who loved the original, it’s hard for MIB: International to compete with the ‘90s cool’ and nostalgia that comes with MIB. The theme song alone can never be outdone, and thankfully, it gets left right alone in this release.
Once the comparisons are laid to rest though, essentially MIB: International is a movie about truth. Since Agent M was young, she’s known aliens existed, and ever since, has sought to find out how the world really works, and what else remains unseen by the majority. M reflects our awareness that there’s life beyond what we can taste, touch, and see.
A Nod to The Gender Bias
Being a movie in 2019, MIB: International also addresses the gender bias inherent in its title. Not that it was needed necessarily, but the writers acknowledge its presence with Agent M sarcastically quipping, “Men in Black” during her entry interview. To which Agent C (Emma Thompson) replies, “Don’t start, I’ve had the conversation…”. They get a couple of laughs for being contextually on=point, and then the audience steps over it to get to the rest of the story.
Which, all things being equal, is fairly safe. There’s nothing particularly offensive or confronting as the agents attempt to take down The Hive. Chris Hemsworth, of course, shows the muscles he’s worked so hard on, and although adults in the room may see the plot twists from a mile away, they’ll still enjoy the ride.
Honourable mentions also go to Emma Thompson (Agent C) who trains Agent M for battle and brings some British gravitas to the flick, and Liam Neeson (Agent High T) who’s sufficiently curmudgeony to keep Agent H in line.
The stand-out character however, is a small alien named ‘Pawny’. Voiced by Kumall Nanjiani (The Big Sick, Lego Ninjago), Pawny accompanies M and H in the field, and gets all the best lines judging the pair’s effectiveness as a team. If he has merch, you’ll want it.
MIB: International is in cinemas now.