Men In Black: International film review: can new stars revive the franchise?

Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson suit up to save the world in Men In Black: International

In 1997 sci-fi hit Men In Black, Will Smith‘s energetic, wise-cracking rookie was the perfect foil for Tommy Lee Jones’ wearied, straight-talking veteran. In Men In Black: International, Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth’s characters are both glorified goofballs, making it hard for them to match the predecessor’s dynamic.

Having infiltrated the organisation’s New York branch, Agent M (Thompson) – who’s been obsessed with the MIB since she saw an extra-terrestrial and two suited-and-booted men wipe her parents’ memories when she was little –  persuades big boss Agent O (Emma Thompson) to take a chance on her and is assigned to a case in London. There, she teams up with Agent H (Hemsworth), a cocky-yet-celebrated operative who’s become unreliable and reckless since he saved the world from an identity-stealing alien race, with his superior High T (Liam Neeson), back in 2016.

What follows is a frustratingly by-the-books caper, as M and H stumble across a mysterious object, learn there might be a mole inside the MIB and jet off around the world looking for answers, encountering a plethora of dud jokes, a criminally-underused Rebecca Ferguson and pint-sized, scene-stealer Pawny (Kumail Nunjiani) who saves the film as often as he does Agent M.’

Director F. Gary Gray effectively utilises what he learned helming The Fate Of the Furious in the movie’s action sequences, injecting well-paced, much-needed thrills as both Thompson and Hemsworth get their fair share of fight scenes. But the film can’t keep up with their momentum, as it’s constantly undermined with cringey one-liners – (telling someone you knew that they were sleeping because they were snoring is not a gag!) – and awkward improv.

On more than one occasion, a character in Men In Black: International states that “the universe has a way of leading you to where you’re supposed to be, at the moment you’re supposed to be there.” The line’s relevance to the goings-on in the movie is suspect, but perhaps it has more to do with how the buddy comedy, starring the universally loved Marvel pals, is supposedly a perfectly timed tonic for today’s troubled world? Unfortunately, though, the latest outing in the franchise doesn’t so much brim with fun as it does fall flat.