Review – Thor and Valkyrie aren’t MARVELous (“MIB: International”)

Hey, what happens when you want to do yet another Men In Black movie, but your two leads (Will Smith & Tommy Lee Jones) won’t sign on? Easy! Re-imagine the sucker with all new leads! Well, that’s exactly what happened here with the MIB franchise moving from the Big Apple across the pond to jolly ol’ England.

Remember the fun and superior MIB films by Barry Sonnenfeld? They were good, weren’t they? Well, say hello to this movie. Moving across the pond to England, we see the other MIB HQ run by High T (Liam Neeson) and his trusty agent H (Chris Hemsworth), who are busy putting out alien fires around Europe, like attacking the Hive, some intergalactic baddies atop the Eiffel Tower. But before we get to their story, let’s go back to NYC for a while and take a look at really smart Molly Wright, a child who witnesses her parents getting mind-zapped by some MIB agents. Molly (Tessa Thompson) grows up, hell-bent on becoming a MIB agent anyway she can, even hacking into computers to find visiting aliens.

This gung-ho attitude impresses O (Emma Thompson in a small, under-appreciated cameo), MIB’s head of operations here in the U.S. and Molly (or ‘M’ as she’s called) is made an agent. Her assignment? Go to London to help them out with their case load. Naturally, once this newbie is there, she’s smitten with the hunky H and wants to work with him, which she does by coercion. But H’s reckless and everything’s-a-joke behavior nearly gets them killed as they botch their assignment: find and get info from alien playboy Vungus (Kayvan Novak voiced). But two alien hunter twins (Laurent & Larry Bourgeois) are after what Vungus has and will stop at nothing to get it!

But what is it this mysterious crystal object that Vungus passed on to M? Why, it’s actually a WMD that can destroy a planet! Not only do these two aliens want it, but so does Riza Stavros (Rebecca Ferguson), a cruel alien arms dealer and H’s ex-girlfriend. There’s a side plot dealing with a possible mole in MIB’s HQ; could it be brown-nosing Agent C (Rafe Spall) or no mole at all? Anyway, with all the running around and chases, H & M acquire a side-kick: a small CGI chessboard soldier/pawn that goes by Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) that is just there to give advice and annoy them (remember Frank the Pug dog from the other movies?).

If you’re thinking this movie sounds alot like the first MIB movie in plot, you’re right. The screenwriting team of Art Marcum & Matt Holloway (Punisher: War Zone, Transformers: The Last Knight), who I guess like writing dull, boring, witless sequels, certainly didn’t disappoint here. This “spin-off” has all the earmarks of the previous superior films, but none of the heart or flavor. Oh sure, there are bits here and there (the weaponry, the ‘worm guys’, the music) but the story is convoluted, contrived, and just plain bad. Aside from all the gigantic plot holes and numerous deus ex machinas, you must to rely on the chemistry of your two leads, which this didn’t have.

Hemsworth & Thompson, who had such an incredible spark together in Thor: Ragnarok, are woefully distant in this. Hemsworth is overly playful and goofy and Thompson is way too nurturing and enabling. As bad as MIB 3 was, it makes THIS movie look fantastic! Director F. Gary Gray (Fate of the Furious, Straight Outta Compton) does a nice job here, but is lost in that lousy script. Clearly there was potential, as many facets of the screenplay had some nice points but were either rushed, forced,  or not fully explored to make the movie interesting or engaging. And seriously, since when did the inclusion of a quirky little CGI alien that spouts silly dialoge become SO necessary? PLEASE tell me that Smith & Jones will come back!! PLEASE!!

Men in Black, that super-secret clandestine organization that monitors all alien activity on Earth while you can sleep safely at night, all thanks to them. Based loosely on the comic book, Columbia Pictures and quirky Addams Family director Barry Sonnenfeld gambled on bringing this odd little duck to the screen. With a screenplay by Ed Soloman (the Bill & Ted movies) and the star power of Smith & Jones, this movie spawned three sequels, a billion-dollar franchise, and even an animated Saturday morning kiddies TV series. Let’s take a look back at this fun-filled and eventual shark-jumping saga.

Men In Black (1997)

The one that started it all. A seemingly innocent and routine stop in New Mexico for a vehicle carrying illegal aliens has two Men in Black agents, K & D (Jones and Richard Hamilton) arresting an alien. . .I mean, a REAL alien (like from outer space). But after a botched arrest, K has to retire his old partner, D and look for a new one. This is where we meet cocky NYPD officer James Edwards (Smith) who runs after an incredibly fast and agile suspect, but later finds out it was an extraterrestrial. Agent K, thinking this brass young man could be his new partner, has him undergo a series of tests, for which James finds unusual solutions.

Accepted into the MIB organization, James become Agent J and the two are told by their leader, Zed (Rip Torn) of a crashed ship containing a “bug”. The creature assumes a human form called Edgar (Vincent D’onofrio) and goes after an Arquillian alien named Rosenberg (Mike Nussbaum) and his cat’s necklace containing an entire universe! While pretty medical examiner, Dr. Laurel Weaver (Linda Florentino) is trying to figure out WHY there’s a tiny little alien inside a dead guys head, a Arquillian battle cruiser is ready to destroy Earth if that necklace isn’t found.

We also meet a bunch of obnoxious little ‘worm guys’ and a talking pug dog named Frank (Tim Blaney) that steals the film. Besides the wicked cool SPFX and many practical make-up effects (care of Academy Award winning Rick Baker), this movie was hilarious, fun, and loaded with sci-fi goodies. And you couldn’t argue the obvious chemistry between Smith & Jones who played off each other like an old married couple. Sonnenfeld played it fast & loose, letting Smith do his thing in ad-libbing much of his lines, adding to his loose-cannon character. It not only made a fortune at the box office, but won a slew of awards. Can you say “sequel”?

Men In Black II (2002)

You know how sequels suck? Well, meet that rare gem in the stack of films that TRY to be as good as the original. With Sonnenfeld back as director, and two new screenwriters (Robert Gordon, Barry Fanaro), this second outing was just as funny as the first, with Will Smith doing what he says he hates doing… sequels!

It’s been five years and alot has happened. Agent J, after “retiring” his pal, Agent K to the dull life of a rural postmaster, is now MIB cock-of-the-walk. But after his own partner botches a job, he needs his old buddy back. . .especially after Agent K is somehow connected to a shape-shifting Kylothian alien called Serleena and who now looks like a lingerie model (Lara Flynn Boyle). Apparently she, and her goofy two-headed henchman (Johnny Knoxville), are after something called The Light of Zartha and a lonely waitress at a pizza parlor named Laura Vazquez (Rosario Dawson) is the key.

The only way to figure out what to do is to ‘reboot’ K’s mind to his old MIB memories, and J gets sleazy alien Jack Jeebs (Tony Shaloub) to do that.  Once Agent K is back on the job, they must follow a bunch of clues to find out what (or who) the Light of Zartha is and keep it from Serleena before she can get her grubby little alien-tentacle fingers on it. Frank the pug dog is back, along with the ‘worm guys’, and a gigantic subway-dwelling creature named Jeff. Also, look for make-up master, Rick Baker, in a quick cameo as guy putting a wig on an alien, and the King of Pop himself, Michael Jackson, as a wannabe agent.

The script was funny, fast, and although not quite as vivacious as the first one, was still entertaining and loaded with surprises. With all the joking and silliness going on, you could see in the corner that this movie wasn’t quite there and that maybe a third film wasn’t necessary, but guess again! It made beaucoup bucks and a threepeat was scheduled. *sigh*

Men In Black III  (2012)

It’s said that, if you’re gonna do a third movie in a franchise, one of the tropes has to involve time-travel. Well, guess what? Yup, screenwriter Etan Cohen (Tropic Thunder) did just that with an incoherent and implausible plot that smacked of desperation. Though still directed by Sonnenfeld, the magic from the first two movies was gone and even Will Smith looked annoyed that he had to do another MIB film.

In a boring, recycled plot you’ve seen before, an alien criminal named Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) escapes from a maximum-security prison on the Moon and arrives on Earth, hell-bent on taking revenge on Agent K, who shot off his left arm and captured him back in 1969. So Boris travels back in time and kills the younger Agent K (Josh Brolin) and alters history, BUT somehow (huge plot hole!) Agent J’s (Smith)  memory is somehow unaffected in the present, and no one from the MIB Agency understands why J keeps asking about K, even the new director, Agent O (Emma Thompson).

With K dead, the ArcNet protecting Earth back in 1969 was never deployed by K, and there is nothing to protect the present-day Earth from a Boglodite invasion, so J must travel back in time to stop Boris and save K. You can see where this going, right? Using a weird time-travel device, J goes back to 1969 and tries to A: find Agent K, B: stop Boris from killing K, and C: make sure that K gets that ArcNet deployed correctly. But, dang-it, Boris has a time-travel doohicky of his own and manages to screw things for J and they both keep popping up in different places and meeting people like Andy Warhol (Bill Hader).

While Tommy Lee Jones only appears at the end of the film, ya gotta give credit to Josh Brolin for giving a dead-on impersonation of Jones, right down to his voice and facial tics. In fact, it was HIS performance that made this film watchable and of any value. Sony Pictures wanted to do a fourth MIB film, but all attempts failed at producing a viable script. Believe it or not, both Jones and Smith said they would be “happy to return” and make another MIB picture. WTH?