After seeing Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth pop off the screen in and , the prospect of them pairing up to protect the Earth from the scum of the universe is exciting. Unfortunately, this Men in Black spinoff from and Straight Outta Compton director F. Gary Gray doesn’t live up to its potential due to shallow characters and a weak script.
The film opens Thursday, June 13 in Australia and comes to the US and UK on Friday, June 14.
Things kick off promisingly enough, with alien policing MiB Agents H (Hemsworth) and High T (Liam Neeson) engaging in an energetic mission on the Eiffel Tower, and Neeson bringing his usual growling gravitas. This opening scene ends on a cliff-hanger, setting up an element of uncertainty around these two.
We jump several years into the future and are reintroduced to the MiB’s supersecret world via Thompson’s Molly, who seeks out the organization after encountering an alien as a kid.
She essentially fills the same role Will Smith did in the fondly remembered 1997 original, quickly getting recruited as Agent M. There’s plenty of spark in her conversation with Emma Thompson‘s O, but that doesn’t continue when she’s partnered with the roguish H at the agency’s London office.
From here, we’re introduced to the shape-shifting alien bad guys. played by French dance duo Les Twins. Their physical contortions make them visually striking, but they don’t have much depth and remain absent for too long to feel like a real threat.
They’re also outclassed in the villainy stakes by many-armed alien arms dealer Riza, played with charisma by an underused Rebecca Ferguson. Her battle with M is one of the movie’s best action scenes, and her design is a highlight in a movie full of cool-looking aliens.
Unfortunately, the 115-minute flick is hampered by a listless script from Matt Holloway and Art Marcum. The jokes come thick and fast, but aside from a few good lines most of them fall flat (surprising given the cast’s general comedic talent).
This weak humor makes it even harder to get emotionally invested in the characters, whose inner lives remain unclear for much of the adventure — we get hints of High T’s history with H, but the movie waits too long to capitalize on this. Similarly, a conversation between H, M and minuscule alien Pawney (Kumail Nanjiani) about halfway through gives us a sense of what’s motivating them, but you’ll be past caring at that stage.
At least the globetrotting element sees us whisked to locations as diverse as Marrakech and Naples, so there’s plenty of variety in action sequences, and the series’ signature gadgetry adds to the visual distinctiveness — this movie is at its best when it leans into the CGI sci-fi silliness, and the climactic battle looks great.
Men in Black: International is slick and has plenty of swagger, but its self-confidence feels unearned. Moviegoers will soon forget their encounter with this middle-of-the-road spinoff.
Originally published June 12, 9:45 a.m. PT.