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11° & CLOUDY ON WEDNESDAY 17 JULY IN MELBOURNE
By Tom Glasson
June 13, 2019
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Men In Black: International

Don't worry about the neuralisers, folks. You'll forget about this one all on your own.
By Tom Glasson
June 13, 2019
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No need for the neuralisers, folks. This is one you'll forget about all on your own. In what's proving a particularly rough patch for blockbuster franchises (thanks chiefly to the hugely disappointing Godzilla II and X-Men: Dark Phoenix), Men In Black: International represents the latest casualty, offering a dull, generic and largely pointless extension of the popular sci-fi series.

With the departure of original stars Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith, it falls to franchise newcomers Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson to keep the ball rolling. Sadly, whatever chemistry they had in Thor: Ragnarok is noticeably absent. The dialogue is stilted and the tension forced, while the acerbic sparring that defined the Jones/Smith relationship plays here like a clumsy copy-and-paste job.

Hemsworth's comedic touch is well established, but it's best served in small doses, either via bit-parts as per Ghostbusters, or as flourishes in otherwise serious roles, as seen in all but the last Avengers. When comedy becomes his character's main task, the result is less satisfying. His portly, traumatised Thor in Avengers: Endgame robbed both him and audiences of everything that made his character so appealing, and here again in Men in Black the role plays to few of his strengths. Hemsworth constantly flicks back and forth between hammy clowning on the one hand, and pouting like he's in a Hugo Boss commercial on the other. Only the latter works for him.

Thompson fares a little better. Her character's motivation is neatly established via a cute intro sequence that defines her as a driven, intelligent and highly capable individual. In a refreshing twist, she essentially recruits herself into MiB, having pursued the mysterious agency ever since a chance encounter with its agents and a furry little alien back when she was just a child. Once inside the agency, though, her reactions feel far too indifferent for someone only hours into life behind the proverbial curtain. Just because you believe in aliens doesn't mean you wouldn't balk, stop and stare at each and every new encounter of the weird and wonderful, but Thompson's Agent M takes it all in her stride. It's as if she's sharing in the audience's experience of yeah yeah yeah, we've seen all this before.

Where Men In Black: International works best is in its secondary characters. The villains this time round are a pair of intergalactic assassins played by French brothers Laurent and Larry Nicolas Bourgeois, otherwise known as Les Twins. The shape-shifting, time-jumping killers are delightfully menacing and beautifully imagined on the special effects front. Reminscent of the Twins from the second Matrix movie, this duo pulls focus in every scene, especially when they're dancing so extraordinarily you're convinced it has to be computer-generated (it's not).

Equally appealing is the arms dealer Riza, played by Rebecca Ferguson. Ferguson's recent turns in the last two Mission: Impossible films were amongst their best features, and here again she delivers a sumptuous blend of sensual and sinister. Then there's comedian Kumail Nanjiani, whose tiny chessboard alien Pawny serves up almost every good laugh in the film. If the producers are scratching their heads as to what to do with this franchise in the wake of such a poor initial reception, they could do worse than giving Pawny his own spin-off.

If nothing else, at least Men In Black: International has a fitting title. It's a film that feels purposefully generic and inoffensive so as to appeal to the broadest possible market. As a result, it ends up being nothing much to anyone.

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