The Men in Black are back, and they are flashier and significantly drowsier than they have ever been before.

Men in Black: International is what remains when the charisma of Will Smith is flushed out of Men in Black. Of course, by Men in Black 3 the series had well overstayed its welcome.

The spin-off to the Men in Black trilogy follows a duo in a plot similar to the one Smith and Tommy Lee Jones would have had. It is not entirely clear why this was not merely Men in Black 4 if some few plotlines are changed, but I have a feeling that it has to do with milking the series for all that it is worth. Indeed, a fourth Men in Black movie is in consideration.

Molly (Tessa Thompson) is a young, intelligent loner searching for a secret organisation she has always known existed, the MiB. After years of searching, she infiltrates the organisation, which impresses the head of the MiB so much that she is made an agent.

The MiB is an international secret organisation established to protect the earth from illegal alien activity. It also seems to give the service of alien resettlement and regulation. Its mandate is not entirely clear. To keep its existence clandestine, its agents work in complete secrecy, always carrying with them Neuralyzers to wipe the memory of any citizen that inadvertently comes into contact with them.

After joining the organisation, Molly, or Agent M as she later comes to be known, teams up with the cool and calm Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) to bring down a powerful alien species known as The Twins. As their efforts continue to be thwarted, the duo suspect that the MiB may have a mole.

Men in Black: International is a far cry from the 1997 movie that began the series. It was funny, new, hip and starred Smith at the height of his charm. Then a sequel came out in 2002, which was the same movie but with a different villain and significantly less funny. Men in Black 3 was a return to form, including a refreshing new plotline to the scenario that had become dreary ages ago.

And then comes this movie. It fails at everything it tries to accomplish. The plot twist was mortifyingly predictable. The Twins are the most one-dimensional characters a script-writer could have created, and even the attempt at gender politics falls flat. Why pick on the fictional organisation in the movie for the “men” in its title, when the film’s title itself is gender specific? I guess the “Men and Women in Black” does not have the same ring to it.

The film is directed by F. Gary Gray who has made movies such as the 1995 cult classic Friday and Straight Outta Compton. Most of his career though is crowded with terrible movies like The Fate of the Furious, A Man Apart and Law Abiding Citizen. Men in Black: International is an addition to his trove of unwatchable movies he seems to enjoy accumulating despite the talent to direct perfectly passable movies. Gray is a Tyler Perry by choice.

Fortunately, Gray had an actor like Thompson to bring a character to life. Hemsworth is as buffoonish as he is most comfortable being in most movies, but Thompson proves she is the fresh breath of air Hollywood has been waiting on for some time. She is hip, funny when she wants to be, dramatic when she chooses to be and mesmerising to look at. She is like a female Will Smith. All she needs to do after this point on is choose her scripts more carefully lest she finds herself in a film such as this that is neither worth our or her time.

PUBLISHED ON Jul 06,2019 [ VOL 20 , NO 1001]

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