Every studio in Hollywood right now is borderline desperate to get a leg up in the franchise game. Sony isn’t on the same level as say Disney or Warner Bros. They have the Spider-Man movies, as well as a spin-off universe going with titles like Venom and Morbius, but they don’t have a massive stable of franchises to pull from. What they have are some secret agents in black suits tasked with keeping the Earth safe from alien threats. With Men In Black: International, the franchise makes its return in rebooted form and, thanks to the charisma of Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, as well as the sensibilities of director F. Gary Gray, it ends up being a fun ride.
Men In Black: International centers on a woman named Molly (Tessa Thompson), who has an unusual experience in her youth that leads her on a lifelong journey to discover the secret organization known as the Men In Black. She eventually finds what she’s looking for and manages to talk her way into a trial run with the agency. Things get interesting quick when she’s put on a seemingly straightforward case with hot-shot agent H (Chris Hemsworth). But things take a bad turn that puts the Earth in peril. What’s more, there may be a mole in the Men in Black. It’s up to the new duo of M and H, who are (mostly) on their own, to get to the bottom of this mystery before a deadly alien threat can wipe out our planet.
Men in Black was released more than 20 years ago and the last time we saw agents J and K was back in 2012 in MIB 3. While this movie is still firmly rooted in that same universe, with a few select characters and reminders to help anchor it to its predecessors, this is very much a new jumping off point. We’re following new agents and the scope of the operation has expanded significantly. Men In Black: International, as the name implies, is very much a globe-trotting adventure. At times, that makes it feel a bit jumbled. Though, the various locations and set pieces help this feel like less of a rehash of what came before. It’s less contained. It also serves as a potentially solid jumping on point for younger viewers who perhaps aren’t familiar with what Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones brought to the table.
F. Gary Gray is a director who seems to understand what it takes to make something that is highly watchable and entertaining, with The Fate of the Furious and The Italian Job being prime examples. He’s also a man who knows how to make something a little more grounded, like Straight Outta Compton. This is firmly in the former category. Gray does bring something of an attitude and a viewpoint to the series that differs from that of Barry Sonnenfeld, who helmed the previous entries. Is it inherently better? Not necessarily. But, again, with a reboot/sequel that is trying to relaunch a series that has been going for more than two decades, different is good.
Really, this movie hinges on its leads. Much like the original Men In Black, which worked so well because of the chemistry between Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth prove to be a highly effective duo. Anyone who saw Thor: Ragnarok would surely know as much, but they continue the hot streak here. This isn’t a bulletproof, pitch-perfect summer flick, not by any stretch. But these two sell it well. A lot can be overlooked with leads who are this damn likable. They also get a lot of help from a solid supporting cast, with Kumail Nanjiani, who portrays a friendly alien character, being the highlight. As per usual, Nanjiani is hilarious and is a credit to the project.
Here’s the thing. It’s summer. It’s popcorn movie season. This is a fun popcorn flick that delivers laughs and spectacle in equal measure. It’s not going to win any awards. It’s not coming at this franchise with a mind-bendingly inventive take that shatters the mold. It’s merely enjoyable. And sometimes, that’s more than enough. I think this is one of those cases. To that point, if it were announced tomorrow that we were getting a sequel with the same cast, I’d be on board. It’s oddly nice to think that we’re simply at a good starting point and that things could get a lot better from here. Men In Black: International hits theaters on June 14 from Sony Pictures.
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