Sunday, 16 June 2019

Men In Black International

Women’s MIB

Men In Black International
USA 2019 Directed by F. Gary Gray
UK cinema release print.

Well now, Men In Black International is a surprisingly better sequel than anyone had a right to expect from this franchise, I think.

The Men In Black films, based loosely on the comic book mini series by Lowell Cunningham, are usually not great films but neither are they ever in any way terrible. They’re fun, entertaining pieces which usually just about manage to rise above the level of mediocrity, truth be told and they do so with a certain amount of style... even if they don’t always make perfect sense or maintain their own continuity.

And this new spin off/continuation of the franchise pretty much falls under that same category, it has to be said. Well... except it makes a little more sense now than the first one (in light of the events of the third film) at any rate. Also, instead of going ahead with the two leads of the previous movie, this one gives us a new partnership and, it’s a pretty shrewdly cast one too. Both Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson have been imported over from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, hot from their on-screen partnership as Thor and Valkyrie as seen in Thor: Ragnarok (reviewed here) and Avengers: End Game (reviewed here).

Once again, the two prove to have good chemistry, with Hemsworth basically importing over the version of Thor from the later MCU films and Thompson playing it slightly differently but, again, making the perfect straight man... err... straight gal for Hemsworth’s charmingly imbecilic shenanigans and, more often than not, coming to the rescue when he gets himself in trouble. Which he frequently does.

Actually, it’s a very positive role for Thompson because, right from the start, she’s not only playing a strong woman but also a very smart one and, frankly, her character is a good example of a lady in a genre movie working her way to the top honestly with a nice combination of brains and tenacity. Although, with Emma Thompson reprising her role as the new head of the MIB organisation, we also have to suffer the inevitable and mostly necessary questioning of the gender bias of the film’s title but, you know, after a few references and even a ‘me too’ reference if I’m remembering things correctly, it doesn’t push the whole gender agenda in your face and manages to keep an equal balance exploring these issues without turning the film into some kind of catalyst for a preachy subtext so, yeah, all for it.

So this is a totally different Men In Black here... the London branch, in fact, with Liam Neeson in charge of the UK side of things and some nice little ideas thrown into the mix. It’s also a little more globe hopping than the previous films and this gives Danny Elfman and his co-composer Chris Bacon some more scope for different orchestrations on the scoring front. I’m not sure how much of Elfman is in this score (aside from the obvious use of his main Men In Black theme) but I seem to remember in an interview around the time of the second movie that he was kinda implying that he was just doing it by the numbers and so I suspect there’s a lot more of the always excellent Chris Bacon in here than I might at first have suspected. I think this one is getting a CD release at some point soon so hopefully I’ll be able to give it a listen away from the film.

It’s nicely put together and there’s some real good comedy moments from the leads and supporting cast... including a surprisingly interesting character played by Rafe Spall, who actually gets a chance to progress considerably in the story, considering his short amount of screen time scattered throughout the film. The film is not without one problem however...

Although the story is a lot simpler maybe than the previous films, which is not necessarily a bad thing, it does make the ability to surprise the audience a lot harder for the writers. Indeed, there’s a so called twist towards the end... two twists technically... which are only surprising in that the movie makers obviously thought we were supposed to not know this stuff already when, honestly, most people are going to figure out both these things about two of the characters within the first half an hour for sure. If you are going to go down that route... especially given the way the film is structured in the way it reveals and hides certain information... then maybe the story should be a little more convoluted to distract the audience from the obvious conclusions.

So, yeah, you’re not going to be surprised by anything in this movie but at least it’s fairly entertaining and that, pretty much, means it’s at least ‘on brand’. I certainly wouldn’t mind seeing a sequel to this one with these same characters at some point but I don’t know how likely that is having seen some of the word of mouth on the film via Twitter. We shall see, I guess. After all, they’re making a sequel to the recent Tomb Raider film (reviewed here) and nobody I know liked that one other than me.

At the end of the day, Men In Black International is not the greatest film out there but it does rise to the occasion and give us something which is humourous and never boring. It’s possibly a little longer than it needs to be (some of the motor bike sequence, for example, could have been pruned down a bit) but it upholds the standards set by the previous movies and if you are a fan of those outside of just being hung up on whoever the main leads are, then this film should be right up your street. Definitely worth giving a look at if there’s nothing else you want to see at the cinema this week.

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