[REVIEW] MIB: INTERNATIONAL Is Far Worse Than DARK PHOENIX
Whereas PHEONIX ironically sought to end a twenty-year old franchise, MIB seeks to revamp one - and ends up worse for it.
After decades of a worsening trend, how are studios still managing to force films like DARK PHOENIX and MIB INTERNATIONAL onto their directors - and more importantly - why are we still paying to see them?
X-cellent characters, X-epmlary cast, X-cellent posters... X-tremely underwhelming film.
Generally, I try to follow the southern mantra and not say anything at all if none of it's nice, and as such never posted a review for Dark Phoenix, because - well - the trailers speak for themselves. If you're still wondering the answer is yes - it is a sad, strangely pedestrian film to end a twenty-year franchise on - but we're here to talk about another 'latest entry in a twenty-year-old franchise': MIB INTERNATIONAL.
You will be making these exact faces if you submit yourself to the "why incarnate" that is INTERNATIONAL.
So why bring up Dark Phoenix? Simply to note that not once during Fox's X-finale did I feel like exiting the theater, nor did I completely check out of the experience to the extent of physical discomfort. It was a huge letdown, yes, but still entertaining enough to warrant viewing by other lifelong mutant-lovers like myself (if for nothing other than some sad form of closure). In such spirit, I decided to write nor post anything to deter others from seeking the same.
MIB, however, elicits the opposite - to the extent that I realized I may have to finally tell my inner southern-boy to shut up and post a fully negative review for once.
Lazy, jumbled, and completely substance-less tentpoles like INTERNATIONAL will continue to get made at the current alarming pace if audiences continue to fork over their hard-earned cash for such less-than-mediocre fare. And that makes me very, very sad.
This fourth film in a franchise that hasn't been truly great since the original (much like its contemporary, Jurassic Park/World) stinks of studio execs cobbling together a hodgepodge of half-baked ideas around the duo of Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth simply to try and capitalize on their chemistry from THOR: RAGNAROK - and the end result speaks volumes as to why such a plan is a horrible way to go about making - well - anything at all.
Despite having the dream-cast for a modern MIB film (see Liam Neeson and the wonderfully charming Tessa Thompson above, aided by the painfully under-utilized Emma Thompson and... whatever Hemsworth decided to do with this role), INTERNATIONAL offers nothing more than this single sentiment. The good ideas stop with the casting - and the end result is so chock-full of half-baked ones that the experience turns grueling twenty minutes in.
Whereas Dark Phoenix had the benefit of decades-long character establishment to help excuse its lack of their development within - INTL. does not, as we meet all of these MIB characters for the first time and proceed to learn almost nothing about them.
The exception to this is Tessa Thompson's M - or Molly - whose promising lead gives us a surprisingly great first twenty minutes of fun, MIB-esque quirky exposition that only makes it that much more painful to watch the character become crippled by a script that has absolutely no clue who this woman actually is.
We meet M's parents in the (second) epilogue, only to hear her tell MIB she has no one and loves no one seconds later as an adult. No explanation granted. Which is fine, sure; perhaps said parents met an untimely death and it left her alone, focused, cat-less (her words) and unloving - but also upbeat, curious, fiery, and outgoing despite said crippling loss. Again, sure - the betters of us absolutely can turn loss into motivation. But what we "learn" of Molly past this is that she must be the absolute best of us - like - ever - because she turns out to be an expert on absolutely everything depending on the scene she's in, not limited to:
- Hacking (into both NASA and MIB)
- Astronomy & Physics
- Alien life-forms; their biology, technology, and transportation
- MIB tech & protocol
- Thermo-nuclear mechanics
- And of course, Martial arts
All of this would be... okay... too, if she wasn't haphazardly partnered to Chris Hemsworth's Agent H, who we are constantly told is the "best to ever wear the suit" only to watch him prove (over and over) that he absolutely isn't. Rest easy, Will Smith.
Enter Chris Hemsworth: who literally plays this entire experience exactly as he did Thor in RAGNAROK, only with zero of the context or reasoning. The actor's machismo is on uber-drive in INTL., and it does not work. At all. He swaggers and brags and dismisses his way through the entire runtime, giving us and his partner M absolutely nothing to latch on to.
The same can be said of the aliens inhabiting this mess, too, as every single one is of a cartoonish CGI. Not a trace of the original MIB's penchant for practical effects made it into this latest phoned-in effort - and all of this, again, is simply due to a painfully-obvious laziness on Sony's part.
Perhaps if the characters were defined in any sort of way, this movie easily could've landed in the same category as Dark Phoenix: underwhelming yet inoffensive. But it does not. Where Phoenix flounders for being too understated and monotone, INTL. flops about in comparison with every single thing plus an alien's kitchen sink thrown in on the hope that something - anything would stick with audiences. None of it does.
Hey wait - how'd that guy get in there!?
In fact, the "mole within MIB" plotline (that all other moving parts are in no way connected to) ends up so painfully obvious within the first act of the film that you'll become sure that another twist awaits within the remaining acts.
"Surely MIB INTERNATIONAL isn't this clueless and irrelevant - is it?"
It is. No surprises follow, and we're left with a grueling second and third act of mismatched scenes that do absolutely nothing to build on what came before - in this entry or the series prior - despite the ironic tagline that promises an expanding universe.
Now please, someone [insert over-used neutralizer joke here because seriously, it's been a long, long time since I've felt this way watching a movie and wanted those TWO HOURS back].
And to think of the potential a F. Gary Gray-helmed MIB film held. All one has to do, though, is look at the list of all the big-name production companies involved (below) to see why we were never going to get Mr. Gray's MIB. INTERNATIONAL is instead, to its very core, a studio Frankenstein.
What a bummer.
MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL opens nationwide June 14th.