If nothing else, Men in Black: International solidifies that I would follow Tessa Thompson to the ends of the earth. Over the last five or so years, her star has been slowly but steadily on the rise, giving memorable supporting performances in Creed, Annihilation, Thor: Ragnarok, and Sorry to Bother You. She is a very talented and capable actress and MIB proves she can elevate anything, even a meandering plot.
When the film opens, Thompson’s Molly has been searching for the Men in Black for the last 20 years, having witnessed them wipe her memories as a child. When she finally finds them, her determination and intelligence convince Agent O (Emma Thompson) to let Molly join their ranks for a trial period. Now known as Agent “M”, she is sent to London where she soon finds herself caught up in a possible end-of-the-world situation involving shape-shifting twin aliens and a superweapon powered by a star. Her partner for this adventure is cocky veteran Agent “H” (Chris Hemsworth).
That the plot is cookie-cutter is not the problem. It is not what happens in a movie but how, and frankly the how is rather poorly paced. The script by Matt Holloway and Art Marcum just takes too long to get where it needs to go, and the villains of the film are underwritten to the point that I could never get any sense of danger or tension from the idea that they might end the world. Director F. Gary Gray shoots with a sleekness but not a swiftness, and the film suffers as a result.
It would also would have been improved if Tessa Thompson had a better scene partner. Chris Hemsworth has always struck me as an actor who possesses charm but not a lot of range, and he has the “charming arrogance” schtick on overdrive here in a way that ends up being quite annoying, especially paired with Thompson’s more subtle charisma. We are constantly being told that he is “different” from the talented agent he used to be but we never actually see what he used to be like, leaving him without any redeeming qualities.
There are some things to appreciate. Gray does fit in multiple creative shots and the creature effects and CGI are incredibly well done – special mention goes to the shape-shifting twin aliens, who in their true form appear almost like miniature galaxies. Kumail Nanjiani is a gem in the voice role of Pawny, who becomes M’s sidekick. The ending action scene isn’t overlong or overstuffed.
MIB: International is not a complete disaster of a film, just a rather slow and forgettable one. The main selling point once again is Thompson, confident and engaging all the way through. Here is to hoping she gets a star vehicle actually worthy of her.