Sunday, June 16, 2019

Men in Black: International (2019)

I was so excited for a new Men in Black movie.  It didn’t have Will Smith or Tommy Lee Jones in it.  Ok.  Fine.  That’s not the end of the world.  Emma Thompson’s there, offering some bit of continuity.  Frank the Pug has a cameo, as do The Worms, so there’s that.  Even thought it’s a mostly new cast, this could still work out.

The Men in Black are facing two threats.  One is from the Hive, an insidious organism that absorbs races rather than kill them.  The other is from an apparent mole in the organization.  When Agent M and Agent H are tasked with protecting an alien dignitary, said dignitary is killed under their watch.  Agent M is understandable, as she’s the probationary agent.  H is more experienced, although it doesn’t really show.

So, the two go off on a planet-wide adventure to figure out what’s going on and to protect the Earth from aliens that might do it harm.  Not everything is what it seems, though.  Friends might be enemies.  Enemies might be ordinary people just trying to protect themselves.

While the movie was fun, it didn’t quite capture the magic of the first three movies.  K was a straight man to J’s comedic personality.  The first three movies seemed to flow naturally as almost a single story.  This seems to be a case of trying one too many times.  Yes, it hits a lot of the marks, like fast action sequences and interesting aliens, but it’s just not the same.

Part of it might be that the first three movies had a clear enemy.  (Edgar the Bug, Serleena and Boris The Animal, respectively.)  The Hive is a little too amorphous and hidden to be taken seriously.  I get that having your own people pose a threat is something in itself, but the movie focused too much on the chase scenes and not enough on any real sense of urgency.  Agents M and H get to spend the night in the desert repairing an alien motorbike.

I also get that the stories for J and K had an arc and that arc came to an end, but it seems kind of sudden to simply replace them as lead characters.  It might have worked better to replace one or the other first.  Having cameos by other characters isn’t enough.  It’s too much of a clean break to really carry the momentum.

The London branch seems like a pale comparison of the New York branch.  How, exactly, did H become an agent, anyway?  He seems too laid back to be taken seriously.  I get that he does have skills, but the first time we see him, he’s “meditating” on the job.

While we’re at it, it’s evident that there are more than 26 agents.  New York didn’t seem to have that many agents and could have done with letters for names.  London has a lot of people.  Do they reuse letters?  MIB 3 had an agent AA, if I recall, but all of the characters shown on screen have a single letter: Z, J, K, O, M, H or C, for instance.  It’s also possible that people just use their first initial.  James D. Edwards became Agent J.  Molly Wright became Agent M.  Dealing with two agents with the same letter might be like dealing with two agents with the same name.  It also might explain why Liam Neeson’s character is called High T.

There are a few other issues that I have with the movie, some of which can’t be asked without spoiling the ending.  While it was a fun movie to watch, I was a little let down.  It’s just not the same.  I suppose another installment might do better, but this could very well be a case of a franchise going one movie too far.  It might have been better to leave well enough alone.

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