Men in Black: International is now in theaters, but the review embargo dropped earlier this week to reveal a less than glowing critical response. The fourth entry in Sony’s Men in Black franchise also signals the first movie in the series to not feature Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones. Instead, Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson take over star duties and take the action worldwide as they play the latest agents tasked with saving the planet from a new series of alien attacks.
Thor: Ragnarok stars Thompson and Hemsworth reunite to play Agents M and H, two of MIB’s top agents. joining them in the ensemble are Liam Neeson, Rebecca Ferguson (Mission: Impossible – Fallout), Emma Thompson (Late Night), and Rafe Spall (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom).
Directorial duties fall to F. Gary Gray, following his critical resurgence with 2015’s Straight Outta Compton and the biggest financial success of his career, 2017’s The Fate of the Furious, which is currently the 17th highest grossing film of all time.
Sony is clearly hoping that this film will be successful enough to revive the franchise beyond its original trilogy and give it another blockbuster property to help to compete with the Marvel and Star Wars franchises. As of the writing of this post, Men in Black: International is projected to gross around $28 million domestically, which is barely over half of the $50 million mark cleared by every other film in the franchise.
One contributing factor to Men in Black: International’s low projections could be its very poor early reviews. As of the writing of this post, the movie has a tepid 31% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and a 41 on Metacritic. The general consensus is that the film is amiable but not especially memorable, working mostly because of the chemistry of its leads but doing little to freshen up the familiar tropes of this franchise.
If this film hoped to inspire a whole new era of Men in Black movies, it seems that critics are not convinced. In a Summer full of sequels that wider audiences have lost interest in, from Godzilla: King of the Monsters to X-Men: Dark Phoenix, the newest MIB film feels like the latest addition to this pattern. Here’s a sampling of some of the reviewers’ complaints.
“It may be worth a watch for those interested in the latest Men in Black movie or in Hemsworth and Thompson’s continuing partnership. The CGI of the aliens in the film is impressive, but it doesn’t require an IMAX viewing. While viewers may find some things to like in Men in Black: International, it’s by no means a must-see summer movie.”
IndieWire (Eric Kohn):
“This misconceived attempt to inject a tired franchise with new life ends up as little more than an empty vessel […]Fans of the series know that the sunglasses only go on when the neutralizer’s about to zap some poor sap’s recollection of past events. “Men in Black: International” aims to erase any memory that you’ve seen all this before, but only leaves you with the hazy sense of deja vu, and the lingering conviction that the last time was a whole lot better.”
Guardian (Peter Bradshaw):
“All the sprightliness that Hemsworth showed in the Avengers movies and in the Ghostbusters remake is nowhere to be found: both script and direction mean that the spark isn’t there, and Thompson has no real chance to shine. It’s time to wave the neuralyzer in the face of every executive involved and murmur softly: forget about this franchise.”
Variety (Peter Debruge):
“In terms of basic execution, “Men in Black: International” is a mess, and if the film were being graded purely in terms of technique, it barely passes muster (inserts, flashbacks and loose ends belie last-minute accommodations to baffled test-screening audiences).”
Daily Telegraph (Tim Robey):
“Men in Black: International doesn’t much care about being a Men in Black movie, but did they ever? […] You can sit through it without much complaint, but you won’t need neuralysing to forget the whole thing an hour or two later.”
Slashfilm (Josh Spiegel):
“Director F. Gary Gray neither detracts from or adds to the experience of watching the film. The comedy throughout is largely unsuccessful, in part because it misses the ultra-dry timing brought to the previous films by Barry Sonnenfeld. Partly, though, the humor here just ain’t funny.”
Vulture (Bilge Ebiri):
“It’s not that this new movie has forgotten the fleet-footed charm of the original MIB films; it’s just that it doesn’t quite know how to conjure it again, so it confuses levity with listlessness […] The end result is, oddly, a forced levity that is downright smothering. You don’t really laugh at MIB: International so much as feel guilty for not laughing at it.”
It’s not all doom and gloom. Even the most damning reviews take time to note how strong the chemistry between Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth is. The pair have begun building an on-screen partnership that endures across multiple movies and might be reason enough to see Men in Black: International. Some critics were warmer on the film overall too. Here are some of the more positive write-ups:
TheWrap (William Bibbiani):
“You could cast “Thompsworth” in an educational film about sawdust, and they’d still find a way to make it fabulous. Put them in a film with slick production design, fun action and a highly conventional screenplay, and you’ve got a truly enjoyable, albeit superficial, summertime treat.”
io9.com (Beth Elderkin):
“Men in Black: International will not be the best movie you see this year. There are plot issues, character arcs go unfinished, and the ending felt rushed. But it’s still a campy, cool sci-fi spy thriller—one that coasts on the natural charisma of Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, who may be one of this generation’s best comedic duos. In a sense, it kind of feels like the perfect sequel to the original Men in Black. It’s an entertaining movie made better by the people in it.”
Empire Magazine (James Dyer):
“Part soft reboot, part extended gag reel, this never takes off as a sci-fi mystery, but thanks to another powerfully appealing central combo, there’s more than enough goofy fun to save you reaching for the neuralyzer.”
The Film Stage (Dan Mecca):
“That said, [screenwriters] Holloway & Marcum utilize the rules of the franchise well, incorporating a couple of twists that feel fresh if not altogether unexpected. The camera clearly loves Tessa Thompson, continuing to promise a bright future for the young actress. As for Hemsworth, here’s hoping he continues to play funny. This is breezy stuff, a welcome respite in the hot summer months.”
What do you think of the reviews for Men in Black: International? Do they encourage you to see the film or decide to sit this one out? Let us know in the comments!