Men in Black: International (2019)

Men in Black: International (2019) Review

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While Men in Black have always protected the Earth from all kinds of alien scums in this new adventure they face their greatest enemy to date. An impostor that threatens the integrity of the whole organization.

Plot

*Be aware of spoilers*

In the year 2016 Agents H and High T travel to Paris in order to stop the invasion of the Hive. 20 years earlier in 1996 Brooklyn Molly helps an alien escape and see her parents being neuralysed by Men in Black agents. 23 years after in 2019 Molly, after being rejected from all government agencies like FBI and CIA, tracks down an alien landing which results in her following the MIB agents to the their New York City headquarters. After being caught and explaining why she wants to be an MIB agent she is given probationary agent status as “Agent M” and assigned to the organisation’s London branch.

There she meets High T and Agent H. Agents M and H are assigned to meet Vungus the Ugly, an alien royalty. During the meeting they face two unknown aliens that manifest as pure energy. These aliens manage to fatally injure Vungus who gives M a strange crystal before he dies and says to her that H cannot be trusted. With only a few people knowing of the meeting High T assigned Agents C and M to investigate while H is demoted to desk duty.

M decides to follow H to Marrakesh to recover “Pawny” the last survivor of a small alien race that was attacked by the mysterious aliens. After being hunted by MIB agents they manage to escape and find out that the mysterious crystal was in fact a powerful weapon. After it is stolen they travel to Naples to get it from H’s ex-girlfriend Riza Stavros where M meats Luca, the alien she helped escape when small. Luca returns the favor by letting them take the weapon and leave. The twin aliens confront them but they are killed by High T and a group of MIB agents that arrive to help.

After analyzing the evidence they find that High T was the mole inside the MIB organization and C sends H and M to find him in Paris where they confront him in the Eiffel Tower, acquire the weapon and destroy him before the Hive can reach the Earth through the wormhole. Agent O arrives at the scene and grants M full agent status while appoints H probationary head of MiB’s London branch.

Directed by

F. Gary Gray

Produced by

Walter F. Parkes
Laurie MacDonald

Screenplay by

Art Marcum
Matt Holloway

Based on The Men in Black by

Lowell Cunningham
Sandy Carruthers

Production Company

Columbia Pictures
Amblin Entertainment
Parkes + Macdonald
Image Nation
Tencent Pictures

Distributed by

Sony Pictures Releasing

Starring

Chris Hemsworth
Tessa Thompson
Rebecca Ferguson
Kumail Nanjiani
Rafe Spall
Laurent Bourgeois
Larry Bourgeois
Emma Thompson
Liam Neeson

Running time

115 minutes

Author’s review

When the first Men in Black came to the big screen in 1997 it was something of a revelation. It was fresh, it was funny and it had the effects at a time that CGI effects were still at their early days but most important it had the perfect chemistry between the two leading roles that elevated the film far beyond what it could have been otherwise. Will Smith and Tomy Lee Jones felt like the perfect mix between the always serious and grumpy agent K and the more goofy Agent J and they really became the highlight of the trilogy that came to be.

But even though the success of the first film spawned another two sequels with less than stellar success that never managed to reach the high status of the first one the two heroes remained at their prime to the last moment and kept the whole trilogy coherent and very enjoyable. But instead of pushing for a fourth film Sony decided to create what they called a spin-off based on the same franchise which means that we would get new characters and settings but without neglecting the previous entries entirely.

Men in Black: International (2019) Review

And so we reached 2019 where Men in Black: International released with Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson as Agents H and M taking center stage. Looking at the main cast we find a couple more big names like Liam Neeson as Agent High T, Rebecca Ferguson as Riza Stavros and Emma Thompson as Agent O which is very impressive and at first glance looks very promising. But the film is counting mostly on the chemistry that Chris and Tessa would have as there were bound to be comparisons between them and the previous cast of Tomy Lee Jones and Will Smith.

While we have heard a lot of people praising the new main actors and how they manage to show their interaction we believe this also to be the main pitfall of the film. During viewing it felt like it was far too obvious how much the producers of the new film tried to copy the chemistry that Smith and Jones had and ultimately fail to reach the same level as it shows more like a cheap copy than anything else. Chris Hemsworth is obviously Will Smith as the more light and goofy character while Tessa Thompson is the more serious and logic of the two as Tomy Lee Jones was.

Men in Black: International (2019) Review

What made the original cast look so good is that this interaction they had never felt manipulated or fake. It always felt that these is who they were and the result was really bombastic by itself without the need to set specific directions to it. Here is the exact opposite as what we get feels so much fabricated, due to the comparisons we can make, that looses all it’s magic even if it shows really good at first glance.

The rest of the cast manages to offer solid performances as you would expect from such high caliber actors but they never manage to offer anything more or to excite more than what you would expect. Liam Neeson is the usual Liam and if you like him in general you will know what to get here. The same applies for the rest and in all honesty when it comes to acting everything is overshadowed by the fact that everyone’s focus is on how the main duo will do and not without reason. The stakes are two high and the two main actors had very big shoes to fill in.

Men in Black: International (2019) Review

And while the two main characters and their interaction would be the one key element that would make or brake this film the other would definitely be the story. There was something in the first Men in Black that made the story feel so compelling and interesting. Not so much here and although we cannot exactly point the finger where the problem lies I can tell you that if I had to choose between re-watching the first film or this one I would definitely choose the first one and not because of the longer time I haven’t watched it but because I still have a very fond memory of how the story evolves and everything moves forward. With the new MIB film when I think of the story I feel a bit bored.

An this is what happens when a movie has an engaging story, it makes you want to see it again. With an uninspiring story you just forget it and move one. There is not something particularly bad about the script of Men in Black: International. It’s just the typical story that involves aliens, plenty of action, secret agendas and a world that is invisible to the public eye and maybe it gets lost in this overwhelming mediocrity. Not that the original Men in Black had a story for the golden awards but it certainly kept our interest more energized.

Men in Black: International (2019) Review

Another major problem we find here is that what seems to be the main villain of the story, the alien twins, have no character at all. Although they made them look very powerful they feel disconnected from the audience as their character development is almost non-existent and thus making them just another type of bad guys that tend to be cannon fodder till the moment the credits start to roll. There is a nice twist happening here that we cannot talk much about without risking of spoilers but even as such with so little development of the alien twins one should be expecting it.

One thing that the film really nails is that the world feels exactly the same as the one we saw in the previous entries. A world that aliens and humans coexist but never show in the open as the MIB agency makes sure of that. Although we get to see some new designs like the London MIB headquarters the DNA remains the same. As always with a new film we get the chance for new aliens species and designs and here we are not disappointed either as there are some pretty funny ones.

Men in Black: International (2019) Review

Special mention has to be given to Pawny, the few-inch-tall alien that at some point accompanies our main heroes and certainly becomes the center piece of the film. With some good humor and quick wit the miniature alien tries to breathe some life exactly when the film is starting to get flat and gives a much desired boost to the evolving story. When you find yourself having the desire to see more of this little guy instead of everything else that is going on in the film it must mean something, and not so good I would say. But even Pawny is not enough to save the plot as in the end he gets much less time that what we would like which feels like a wasted opportunity.

Being a Men in Black film means that special effects are a key element and in this regard you will get a fare share of them. Although the action may not seem breathtaking or something we hadn’t seen before, there is plenty across the whole running time in order to keep things at a fast pace when it is needed.

Closing our review we need admit a few things. First of all trying to surpass the dynamics and excellence of the Will Smith/ Tomy Lee Jones acting seemed liked an impossible thing. Trying to do so was bound to be a double-edged sword because if it worked it would create something really amazing but if it wouldn’t, which in all honesty had the highest possibility, it would make it appear as a cheap copy which is not fare as both Hemsworth and Thompson give their best to make it work.

Men in Black: International (2019) Review

Secondly the story feels weak and uninspiring making you feel boring and uncaring for what will happen next. And things are not getting better by having a villain that is doing nothing more than to keep our main heroes busy. When the whole truth is revealed it is a bit too little too late to hold the film as we have already dangerously approached the ending and the audience probably already lost any interest.

But the film is not so bad that will make you regret the time spend. It has it’s moments even if not so many as we would like. Pawny is certainly a character we found pleasure watching every single second, the effects and action is solid and the design follows the same touches we have got used from the franchise. If you are a big fan of the previous films you will certainly find this one interesting but if you want to spend a couple of hours without thinking a lot of what you see then Men in Black: International is not bad, but certainly it could be a far better one.

Men in Black: International lands into the 4K UHD format with a nice 2160p resolution, HEVC / H.265 encode handled by Sony Pictures. The 4K version comes with an aspect ratio of 2.00:1, is accompanied by a Dolby Atmos audio track but no Dolby Vision so the basic HDR10 will have to make do.

The film seems to originate from a 2K Digital Intermediate so what we get here is basically a 4K upscale. And while we have seen many upscales to offer significant boosts in practically all aspects of the picture we cannot say the same happens here. There are obvious improvements to be said but they are not as big as we would hope especially since a film like this would benefit greatly from the new format.

Men in Black: International (2019) Review

The increased resolution give more breathing space to the image in order to give a more clear, defined result. As such many details seem to become a bit more pronounced and detailed although you will have to pay a lot of attention to understand it. Textures composition seem to have gained some clarity while surface details are easier to distinguish. Colors also seem to get a slight boost as they feel more intense than in the 1080p version. A film like this uses a lot of color variation as it is a key characteristic of the franchise and as such even a slight boost feels very welcome.

Similarly to colors HDR helps things a bit more even if we don’t get the better Dolby Vision one. There are many special effects like energy aliens, laser fire, explosions, spaceships as well as scenery like the inside of the MIB headquarters that get a boost due to HDR even if we were expecting a bit more. Don’t get us wrong. The image looks great. It’s just that with a film like this it could look spectacular but unfortunately it doesn’t.

On the sound front the Dolby Atmos track that comes in this 4K version is every bit as good as we were expecting it to be. There is a lot of depth here both behind and above us. Surround effects are very well defined and pushed the sound stage well behind us while there were many moments that the overhead layer felt very active and alive putting us right in the middle of the immersion bubble.

Men in Black: International (2019) Review

Obviously with the film’s many action scenes there are plenty of opportunities for the soundtrack to flex it’s muscles and bass is never shy either as it will rock your house more than a few times. And although shaking is plenty it never feels like it dominates the scene. On the contrary we felt like there was great balance between all the frequencies which is quite remarkable when you consider we are talking about an effects heavy film. As a result the center channel also provides very clear and distinguishable dialogue that was well separated from the rest of the effects even in heavy action scenes.

In total the UHD version offers a very welcome boost in both visuals and audio but without managing to give us the kind of quality that we know the format is capable of. Comparing the Blu-ray and UHD versions will reveal differences but we would describe them as subtle rather than major improvements. In the audio department things fare better as the Dolby Atmos track is as good as it gets offering a truly excellent sonic experience. In the end if you are looking for the best possible version of the film the UHD is the one to get even if it never manages to reach reference quality.

Movie Rating :

4K UHD Rating :


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14 thoughts on “Men in Black: International (2019)

  1. I am a Men in Black fan (The old ones) so I could not wait to see this new film Men in Black that is played by different actors as to the first Men in Black films.

    I have an Amazon prime and will be looking for this film the soonest. For sure it will be good family entertainment and we are looking forward to it. Thanks for the spoilers though!:) 

    1. If you like Men in Black in general then you will at least enjoy this one. It could be better but it could also be much worse.

  2. To be honest, I felt a bit lost with the new men in black. Felt like they should’ve renamed it all together to women in black. I am not a sexist but it looked like the movie was purely feminist. There’s were male characters that we all wanted to see but the story felt a bit off too. It’s interesting though that they could bring in the alient thing and show that the Gillian’s weren’t really the real villains and they only needed help. Nice insight here. I agree with your position on the movie. I hope that in the future,they can come up with something more intriguing.

    1. I think comparisons with the original would be unavoidable and that’s the reason they shouldn’t try to copy it so much. Instead they should go for something different in order to try and distinguish it from the others as much as possible. It would have a better chance that way.

  3. Hi Stratos

    I really enjoyed reading that review of the Men in Black: International and it is a film that is on my list to see, as I like science fiction movies very much. I have seen Men in Black 1 and 2 and hope they have kept to the special effects and humour found in those films. I always find it strange when the original star of the movies are no longer present but they use different stars to launch the spin-off.

     Sometimes it is successful, and other time you wished you never saw the movie. I always appreciate other peiople’s opinion, as this often influences me to watch the movie or not.  Your review makes me what to watch it right now.

    Thanks

    Antonio

    1. The film is not bad Antonio. I just tries to follow the original a bit too much and in the end it fails making it look more bad than what it really is.

  4. Out of all the Men In Black movies, this is the one that I enjoyed as much as the first one. I loved that one of the Men in Black was a woman this time and it was a great change seeing this. I could see though that you had a different opinion in this article.

    It would have been nice however to see some of the old characters back again like Will Smith, but I guess even he has to move on.

  5. Oh, i must have missed out in so much. Seeing that there is a new men in black movie out there is really great because over time, i have been a very big fan of the movie. Its sad though that this one didn’t meet up with many others that might have been out over the cause of time. I will still like to watch this one though. Thank you for sharing your insight on the movie although you let out some spoilers. 

    1. You are welcome John. It’s a nice new entry to the franchise although it could have been so much better.

  6. Hi Stratos,

    I am a big fan of Men In Black movie series. I watched all three parts and men in black first part (1997) is my favorite. To be honest, since Will Smith is not in the lead role I didn’t watch the Men in Black International.

    Another reason why I didn’t watch the Men in Black International is because of the 5.6 ratings by the IMDB site. Compared to all the other 3 I believe this movie has the lowest rating.

    Thanks a lot for the thorough and comprehensive review. I got helpful insights and I believe I made the right decision. I loved the way you present your review.

    1. With different main leads this was bound to be the weakest in the series. But it is worth a viewing even if it is not so good as the first.

  7. Hi Stratos,

    As a total movie addict I am a little embarrassed to say I haven’t seen the movie yet, and as a huge fan of the first movie I think it’s time to give it a shot. I am quite skeptical to sequels because they rarely meet the high status and expectations of the first movie. So many disappointments..

    Even though you pointed out some shortcomings, it’s nice to know that the characters really tried to fill the shoes of Will Smith and Tomy Lee Jones. Knowing what to expect, now I am much more interested to see the new spin-off version. Although it sounds a little sad that Pawny is the highlight of the movie, haha! As long as I get a few laughs and some nostalgia it will be worth the watch.

    Loved the honest and detailed review! Keep them coming 😀

    Best,

    Erika

    1. It definitely has it’s moments Erika. Pawny is a lovely little fella that you will like for sure. I for one was hoping to see more of him because all conversations he had were really funny.

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