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Men in Black: International First Reviews: Tessa Thompson Shines in a Mostly Bland Retread

Critics so far say it benefits from a couple of standout performances, but doesn't do enough to justify its existence.

by | June 12, 2019 | Comments

Here come the Men in Black again. More than 20 years after the MIB franchise began with the 1997 comic book adaptation starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones and and seven years since the release of the previous installment, Men in Black: International arrives with new leads, Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, and new locations. Will the reboot sequel kick off a new series of movies? Should it? Early reviews ahead of its release indicate the MIB should have stuck with just the original trilogy. It might not be as bad as Men in Black II (or is it?), but there’s apparently just no good reason for it to exist.

Here’s what critics are saying about Men in Black International:


Is this a worthy resurrection?

In a sense, it kind of feels like the perfect sequel to the original Men in Black. It’s an entertaining movie made better by the people in it.
– Beth Elderkin, io9

[It’s] as much fun as a MIB movie should be but with an international spin and some updated swagger.
– Sherin Nicole, idobi.com

Men in Black International aims to erase any memory that you’ve seen all this before… the last time was a whole lot better.
– Eric Kohn, IndieWire

There’s little here that justifies prolonging a series that should probably have been Neuralyzed a couple of movies ago.
– Neil Smith, Total Film

There’s just no reason why Men in Black needed to be revived here other than it exists in an era of eternal intellectual property revival.
– David Crow, Den of Geek

Nothing in the film felt like a vital piece of the Men in Black puzzle.
– Anne Cohen, Refinery29

[Continues] the trend of reviving known properties past their expiration date… finding comfort in the familiar rather than creating a bold new vision.
– Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews


Columbia Pictures
(Photo by Columbia Pictures)

So it’s just more of the same?

More of the same just done with flashier effects.
Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews

A bland variation on the same MiB routine…[a] baffling cash grab.
Eric Kohn, IndieWire

There are enough new ideas in International to set it apart from previous films in the Men in Black franchise.
Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

It doesn’t go down the remake route… instead of retreads of scenes from the first movie, there are just nods to the franchise’s tropes.
– Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy


But it doesn’t repeat what actually works in the earlier movies?

International manages to fundamentally misunderstand practically everything that made the original film so endearing, and so enduring.
Joe Skrebels, IGN Movies

The Men in Black equivalent of a latter-day Die Hard sequel, a movie that succeeds its predecessors in name only and fundamentally misunderstands what made the original appealing.
Todd Gilchrist, Nerdist


Is it memorable on its own?

Instantly forgettable. Audiences may feel as if they’ve been instantly ‘neuralysed’ after watching it, but the experience is fun while it lasts.
Geoffrey Macnab, Independent

You can sit through it without much complaint, but you won’t need neuralysing to forget the whole thing an hour or two later.
Tim Robey, Daily Telegraph

It’s an improvement over Men in Black II and Men in Black 3, sequels that even its makers may have forgotten.
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune


Columbia Pictures
(Photo by Columbia Pictures)

How is the chemistry between Thompson and Hemsworth?

The film lives and dies through Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson’s chemistry… these two must have had a lot of fun on set.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

It helps that [they] already established a kind of playfully combative dynamic in Thor: Ragnarok upon which it’s a pleasure to watch them build here.
Peter Debruge, Variety

The easy rapport is still there… [but] because it’s a more by-the-book setup, it’s slightly less interesting than the dynamic the actors had as Thor and Valkyrie.
Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

Hemsworth and Thompson mine some easy chemistry, though never nearing the perfect alchemy of Smith and Jones before them.
Dan Mecca, The Film Stage


Does Tessa Thompson stand out?

The best thing about the revamped Men in Black series is actually a woman… this is a fine and unexpected showcase for Thompson, whose poise and composure are notable.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

The most satisfying thing about this outlandish extension of the MIB series comes from watching her step up to the challenge of co-headlining a blockbuster.
Peter Debruge, Variety

She’s simply interesting and funny and real, while also floating slightly above each new outsized absurdity… she lightens the load and keeps everything moving efficiently.
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune


Columbia Pictures
(Photo by Columbia Pictures)

What about Chris Hemsworth?

As he proved in 2016’s Ghostbusters reboot, Hemsworth has a natural comic talent that’s been under-exploited in most of his work.
Peter Debruge, Variety

Here’s hoping he continues to play funny.
Dan Mecca, The Film Stage

Hemsworth has a little fun in the part, but he’s going at half-speed, like everything else.
Roger Moore, Movie Nation

Agent H is basically Thor in a penguin suit.
Eric Kohn, IndieWire


How are the villains?

I was in awe every time [Les Twins] were onscreen, and their abilities were used to their fullest potential to make an incredibly vivid visual.
Beth Elderkin, io9

Instead of being horrified by the nasty new alien adversaries H and M are fighting, we’re left perplexed as to why there have now been three movies this year that feature shapeshifting visitors from imperiled planets.
David Crow, Den of Geek

Rebecca Ferguson’s fun cameo makes you wish that her alien arms dealer Riza was the main villain.
Ian Sandwell, Digital Spy

Of the assorted supporting players, Ferguson does the most, and has the most fun with limited screen time.
Todd McCarthy, Hollywood Reporter

Rebecca Ferguson [is] incredible in this tiny role.
Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews


Columbia Pictures
(Photo by Columbia Pictures)

Is there another standout performance in the movie?

The true standout is Kumail Nanjiani, putting in memorable voice work as sidekick Pawny…nearly every joke lands when delivered by the saucy little alien.
Dan Mecca, The Film Stage

Nanjiani’s Pawny is a fun addition.
Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

His one liners and matter-of-fact delivery are quotable and will keep you giggling.
Sherin Nicole, idobi.com

I liken his role to that of Frank in MIB 2 with the exception being that this is a much better film.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

Pawny’s the funniest creation in a movie that often doesn’t go far enough with its outlandish parade of bug-eyed creations.
Eric Kohn, IndieWire

Nanjiani’s tiny alien friend is cute comic relief, even if he feels like a deus ex-machina in the final act.
Anne Cohen, Refinery29


Is the movie funny?

It’s telling the biggest laugh in the film is a direct reference to Hemsworth’s work as an Avenger.
Joe Skrebels, IGN Movies

What works is what’s funny.
Michael Phillips, Chicago Tribune

The jokes land right where they should.
Sherin Nicole, idobi.com


Columbia Pictures
(Photo by Columbia Pictures)

How are the action and special effects?

The fight choreography and action sequences are solid… the alien designs in this movie are fantastic.
Beth Elderkin, io9

Any set pieces here work best when introducing multitudes of fun creatures as well as showing off top-notch set and prop design.
Dan Mecca, The Film Stage

The action set pieces are largely forgettable, with the exception of the design and powers of the alien adversaries.
Molly Freeman, ScreenRant

[F. Gary] Gray doesn’t share Barry Sonnenfeld’s skill for juggling live-action and visual effects… in terms of basic execution, Men in Black: International is a mess.
Peter Debruge, Variety


Will we look forward to another installment?

I’m already anticipating the next film in the series!… Men in Black: International brings a solid foundation for a new trilogy.
Danielle Solzman, Solzy at the Movies

Nothing demonstrates such constraints more than the film’s ending, which confusingly features an open-ended scene meant to bridge to another installment.
Robert Daniels, 812filmreviews


Men in Black: International opens in theaters June 14, 2019. 

#1
Adjusted Score: 34.833%
Critics Consensus: Amiable yet forgettable, MiB International grinds its stars' substantial chemistry through the gears of a franchise running low on reasons to continue.
Synopsis: The Men in Black have always protected the Earth from the scum of the universe. In this new adventure, they... [More]
Directed By: F. Gary Gray

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