By: Felix Felicis (Six Pack) –
Ever had too much to drink? Just kidding. That’s a rhetorical question because you’re reading this review on a website for alcohol enthusiasts so let’s check a big old ‘YES’ off that box of wine, shall we? The Men In Black franchise is kind of like a party in your twenties where you start the night out with stellar sangria aka MIB (except it’s not actually sangria; it’s straight vodka in a bowl of fruit – it kicks going down the hatch like a donkey on meth and your night IS A GO FOR TOWER FLY-BY, MAVERICK, THE PATTERN IS NOT, IN FACT, “FULL”).
The second drink (MIIB) is a White Russian… except this one *probably* won’t interfere in the 2020 election and keep an oddly-shaped, aggressively petulant, massively ignorant yam baked too long in a racist easy-bake oven in a position of global power for four more years. Probably. Probably? Oh god. THROW OUT ALL YOUR YAMS EVERYBODY, THIS IS NOT A DRILL, PEOPLE, IF YOU HAVE ANY KIND OF ORANGE ROOT VEGETABLE LYING AROUND LOOKING SHIFTY G’HEAD AND LIGHT THAT MU’FFUCKER ON FIRE THIS INSTANT AND RUN. But I digress. The second drink goes down smooth (and it’s pretty tasty) but you’re still riding the donkey kick from drink one so pretty much anything tastes good right now.
You should probably stop here. You’ve got a strong buzz going on right now and everything is *just* blurry enough to make most of your life choices up until this moment seem like solid decision-making (but we both know denim skorts don’t just put themselves on, Andrea, it takes two to tango with the fashion devil). This is where you make a bad call. Worse than the time you dated a guy named Björn for two weeks until you realized he wouldn’t tell you where he lived (and you were 98% certain there was a murder basement out there getting personalized, monogrammed shackles installed) so you noped the fuck outta that situation REAL HARD. But back over at Casa de Party Metaphor, someone offers you a six-pack of Zima – which (barely) equals one drink – (MIIIB) and you say “yes”. There’s a reason this drink died a swift death in 2008 but two-drink-you is *wildly* overconfident that a third type of (carbonized) alcohol, plus time travel, would be a super addition to your bloodstream.
Three drinks in and you’re bonelessly draped upside-down over the arm of a saggy, questionably-scented couch, hoping someone will walk by and drop anything resembling food in your mouth, but they don’t, so you roll off and stagger-pounce over to a tray of unattended Jello Cubes like a narcoleptic cheetah, unhinging your jaw Snakes On A Plane python-style, finishing the entire tray *just* in time to hear fucken Steven ask where the moonshine shooters went.
Let’s be generous and count that tray of moonshine cubes (MIIIIB) as a single, “fourth” drink rather than the gelatinous buffet of disappointment and regret that it really was. You wake up the next day on a mystery futon totally not drunk (you are *absolutely* still drunk) and Steven talks you into heading over to McDonald’s for some “healing grease” to “coat your stomach” but you don’t need any hangover cures, you’re one hundred percent sober (you are still batshit drunk). You have a few fries and decide to swing by Bed, Bath & Beyond to buy some sheets – because this makes perfect sense – and on the way back home you make a brief detour at a Savings & Loan parking lot to *very* discreetly puke on some poor, unfortunate passerby’s leather wingtips… and you’re beginning to wonder if mayyybe you’re still drunk?
That story is eighty percent true. Fine. Eighty-five percent. Okay final tally: ninety percent. I told you that to tell you this: LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES, KIDLETS. Orange is not the new pink (and whoever said that is *seriously* deranged), Up is *not* Down (except in the Upside Down) and, unlike the Fast franchise, there is no *way* this toxic mess of a reunion tour is the beginning of a Men-In-Black-aissance unless this reality is actually The Bad Place and they’ve just given up on trying to hide it anymore.
Auntie Drinks-A-Lot has walked into the teeth of about every shitnado life has to offer and come out the other side ready to Mr. Miyagi you all, and, from my lofty perch of hard-won early-thirties wisdom, I am telling you that MIIIIB – much like the almost exclusively (and objectively) terrible life choices that led to that series of (ninety-five percent) true events – is best left alone, forgotten, and absolutely abandoned without any further hope of rescue (exactly like some leather wingtips were in a Savings & Loan parking lot, circa 2008).
Men In Black: International follows whomever Agent M (Tessa Thompson) was before she had a childhood encounter of the E.T. variety and tracked down (later, as an adult) an untraceable, super-secret, globally connected network of governmental-ish agents hall monitoring all extraterrestrial life interacting on, around, or in, the Earth. M is instantly hired by Director O (The Boss of all Boss Bitches, Emma Thompson) after proudly declaring that nothing and no one, on PLANET EARTH, will miss her (plus she found them so, like, they have to I guess?- it’s in the bylaws).
Agent M is then immediately sent to go play nice with MIB London and put under the supervision of Director High T (Liam Neeson) who then wastes no time passing the *buck (*newly minted Agent M) off to a weirdly lackadaisical Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and the pair are off on globetrotting mission to stop Cthulhu’s ugly cousin from eating the Earth faster than you can say Taco Tuesday. Maybe send more than two people, idk, I hear The Avengers have freed up.
M is also secretly tasked with ferreting out a mole already devouring MIB from within. If you’re even remotely conscious (and are the proud owner of a baseline pulse strong enough to support a facsimile of life) then you can chart it out from here easier than a sideshow psychic who is somehow able to predict that you’re going to meet a man, or a woman, with hair, or no hair, sometime in the next decade that’s going to have a least one vowel in their name who means everything to you, or something, or nothing. It’s a Spy vs Spy kinda MIIIIB-verse now, but no one’s really that great at it (not unlike that shady sideshow psychic).
Um. Uhhh. The OG coffee room rat pack have a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it appearance and Emma Thompson as the Director of the US MIB branch were both great the whole five minutes they were (collectively) onscreen a la the bookend cameo phenomenon (look no further than Jeff Goldblum’s tragically microscopic infusion into Jurassic World‘s franchise resurgence – jury’s still mostly out on that one). I hope Thompson had a hostage-release clause in her contract or else I seriously fear she’s still trapped onset somewhere in an unending nightmare loop of filming more hellspawn-franchise-killing sequels.
Fuck this was painful to watch. All of the processed flash and bang without any substantial emotional core makes this movie duller than [pick an episode of] Netflix’s The Iron Fist. MIIIIB takes the (deeply, ironically, and basic bitch… ically) essence of 2003’s The Core (in which the Earth’s axis just stops fucking spinning and the only solution is to TUNNEL TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH TO DETONATE MEGA BOMBS IN AN ATTEMPT TO JUMP-START THAT SHIT AGAIN) and grafts a rejected organ transplant of a narrative combination together using the basic premise of Fantastic 4: Rise of the Silver Surfer/Doctor Strange/Any Movie Villain Keen On Pac-Man Crunching The Earth Hungry-Hungry-Hippo Style… Only unlike the re-branded Fast 5 franchise (arguably the beginning of a Vin Diesel-ssance), and in a move TOTALLY on brand with The Core, MIB 4 tunnels into a hollow center no one could’ve seen coming (except anyone who pre-screened this shitshow prior to a box office release). But instead of rooting for the earth (and the MIB franchise) to keep on spinning, I sincerely hope that it dies a quick, crushing death (similar to almost everyone in The Core‘s tunneling crew except Hilary Swank and maybe like one other attractive dude).
Everything that should’ve made MIIIIB‘s return to the silverscreen a special homage to longtime franchise fans went directly down the crapper alongside that tragic crystalline turd from Beer One (examples include but are not limited to): revisiting fantastical MIB bases/intergalactic transit hubs where the human and alien mix in wondrous symbiosis, an unlikely MIB recruit inducted into a vast universe of possibilities that makes looking up at nighttime stars an act of purest existential reverence, the humorous-yet-deeply-touching origin story of an unlikely partnership (and even unlikelier friendship) which ultimately ends up bridging past and present to the future – formed between two people who will only ever be truly understood by the few, the proud, the (probably) Armani-clad who recite the following credo: “We are the best kept secret in the universe. Our mission is to monitor extraterrestrial activity on Earth. We are your best, last and only line of defense. We work in secret, we exist in shadow… and we dress in black.”
Yeah… none of that shit happened.
What we got served in MIIIIB was a spackled veneer/candy-coated shell of hollow lip-service wrapped around a flashy prism of smoke and mirrors that started sprouting cracks from minute one of one of the worst movies the MIB franchise has spawned yet. Just kidding, this steaming pile of derivative cinematic regurgitation is absolutely the worst movie to ever release using any combination of the words “men”, “black” and/or “international” in the same title line. I don’t know about you, but canon MIB – for me – doesn’t exist past MIIB (with a begrudging acknowledgement of MIIIB). Not unlike the Die Hard franchise (canon films are Die Hard‘s 1-3 with a meh-knowledgement of Die Hard 4). You can *try* and Sixth Sense me with other movies from those franchises after that, but (just like Bruce Willis’ widow) I refuse to endorse/interact with any further films from either. Spoiler Alert: those movies were dead the whole time anyway.
Ever mix two things that seem like they should go together and the second they combine you’re like “oh no, this was a mistake.” You know, like when the bar you’re at in Australia is out of milk after you order whatever came to mind first, in this case, a White Russian – which is Kahlua, vodka, half and half milk – and they end up selling you on a Black Russian (sub in Cola for the milk) as exactly the same thing? BUT IT’S FUCKING NOT I DON’T CARE IF YOUR WATER SWIRLS DOWN A TOILET IN THE OPPOSITE DIRECTION, AUSTRALIA, YOU CAN’T JUST TELL PEOPLE TWO COMPLETELY OPPOSING FLAVOR PROFILES ARE THE SAME THING OKAY?! Listen, *you (*me talking to me) were in your early twenties at the time and hadn’t settled on what you liked to drink yet, so it’s okay if you believed a bartender who just wanted to sell a drink instead of trying a little harder to find something to serve you that didn’t taste like coffee farts.
I told you that to tell you this: Tessa Thompson (Valkyrie – role debut in Thor: Ragnarok) and Chris Hemsworth (Thor – role debut in, well, Thor) have had cracking banter – I’m deep into binging Love Island (UK) on Hulu right now so I make no apologies for the insane amounts of British slang I’ve picked up – since the moment they met onscreen in the MCU (Ragnarok). Just the type of Odd (and yet purely, beautifully, platonic) Couple you could watch forever trading barbs and witty quips while fighting shoulder-to-shoulder against seemingly insurmountable, world-ending odds.
So it makes sense to pair them up for a similar story arc in MIIIIB… only instead of going for the same razor-sharp dynamic that kicked so much ass the first time around, International decides that men and women can’t just “be friends” (because what’s really been missing from the monochromatic Space Force until now – please know my use of the phrase “space force” is as deeply ironic as its real-world creator is idiotic – is the half-baked, wholly offensive hot take that Men Are From Mars and Women Are From Planet Just Want That Dick) and wedges a dry-as-a-desert-tumble-weed romantic subplot in-between Hemsworth (Agent H) and Thompson (Agent M) with about as much of a genuine connection as the (mandatory) rictus grins plastered on the faces of servers worldwide when forced to sing happy birthday seventy-five times a week for (far too often) less than minimum wage.
This subway trench-coat flasher of an idea tries to sell you on this ‘ship with about as much subtlety as can be found in my new favorite Olympic sport: The Nine-Year-Old-Girl Yellowstone Park Bison Toss (honestly, squad goals). But I digress. MIIIIB’s nonsensical romantic C-Plot is nothing more than a self-serving stroke to the male ego that has no place in this movie (and it’s almost more painful to watch than the time I was in a restaurant to celebrate a friend’s birthday and the staff dimmed the lights to bring out her dessert/sing and then rinse/repeated three more times in the space of twenty minutes to the FOUR TOTAL PEOPLE who had decided to celebrate a birthday in the same small Thai restaurant that night – I think around the third lighting adjustment I started attempting to will a restaurant-sized sinkhole into existence) and slightly *less* painful than sifting through the memory of the time I told Robb Corddry I was a nervous pooper during an interview about his web (short) series, Wedlock. And if you think I’m not going to trot out my toxic masculinity and feminist agenda soapbox for this fuckweasel of a filmic disaster, just wait until Beer Five. Or skip right down to it, I’m not your mom – thank the Flying Spaghetti Monster for that – because I’m about as suited to parenting as the family in Home Alone that just fucken abandons Kevin to go on a vacation. Only I wouldn’t be coming back… probably (for suresies) ever.
MIIIIB‘s dialogue was so painful that the closest I can come to describing it is something akin to getting a root canal without anesthesia (because you’re a millennial and finding an employer that offers health insurance outside of a full-time job is almost as rare as earning a livable wage from no less than 2.5 part-time/gig economy jobs)… or watching an entire season of The Bachelor/ette knowing that the final pairing in that showmance has similar odds of lasting. Just kidding, Bach relationships go the distance way more often than that. But don’t worry, guys, just avoid any major flesh wounds and you’ll be fine.
The throbbing toothache of International‘s abject mediocrity (covered in a thin layer of artificial sweetener) will either kill the last of your will to live outright, or decay the sole surviving fuck you have left to give slowly over the next decade as you look into a mirror every morning and reflect on the unfortunate series of events that led to MIIIIB shoving layer upon layer of its peanut-brittle-stilted-narrative down your throat. Four out of five dentists recommend flossing daily in addition to avoiding filler dialogue that has such low impactful resonance it might as well have been written by a hamster-shaped blob of diabetes with access to a typewriter. The fifth dentist is dead. She was allergic to peanut brittle and scripts that phone it in so hard the call travels back in time to when pay phones existed in order to Frankenstein together whole conversations sourced entirely from the rushed messages gathered during the BRIEF window available to recite your name in order to avoid actually paying for a collect call. Anyone who got that reference can continue reading, you have passed the “must be exactly this old to get my jokes” measuring stick placed outside each of my reviews.
Prepare to scissor-kick the space/time continuum door open again because nothing gets the old ticker clicking faster than running a 10K while shoving toxic masculinity in all its forms out of this world and into a totally separate, endlessly blank void Lucifer-Season-Two-Episode-Eighteen-style!
I struggle to find the right words (a first in recorded history for me) to describe the complete and total lack of gendered (and, for that matter, non-gendered – shout out to all my non-binary peeps) enlightenment/equality that MIIIIB brought to the table in this, the year of our Beyonce, 2019. It’s almost like the glowing, slightly gaseous, contemporary zeitgeist around which we all currently orbit was covered by some sort of dense, similarly-shaped object, during what should have been the most illuminating period of our collective social and societal consciousness thus far. Gosh, it’s so hard to find a universally relatable example to illustrate my point.
I’m being told the moon is covering the sun THOROUGHLY AND COMPLETELY in the MIDDLE OF THE DAY; what should be the BRIGHTEST TIME of our WAKING HOURS (please see my take on Booksmart for reference on how to get it almost completely right) has now been rendered utterly and totally devoid of light in what some are calling an “eclipse”. It’s a real mess out there, people, babies are crying, dogs are peeing on legs instead of tree trunks, and not one single Red Rover has been able to come over without tripping on their own shoelaces. Madness. PURE MADNESS. Best if we all stay inside until (if?) this blanket of darkness passes and the sun comes back out again.
MIIIIB mashed our leading pair (Hemsworth and Thompson) into dated, stereotypical gender roles with wild, toddler-like, that-tiny-monster-you-spawned-just-shoved-Play-Doh-into-every-living-room-light-socket abandon in what can only been seen as an aggressive and/or lazy “fuck you” to anyone with a vagina/woke set of testes/any combination thereof.
Thompson’s “Agent M” alternates in-between bland displays of vapid, all-too-brief, independence/*feisty spunk (*a little more than manic pixie dream girl, way less than Resident Evil-Alice levels of autonomy) and fluttering-eyelash/swoon-y ogling of Hemsworth’s “Agent M” (if you’ve ever seen Bring It On, M was cheer-sexing H the entire goddamned time – and it was the most cringe-inducing shit I’ve seen since After steamrolled over the last brain cell keeping my patchwork psyche intact/alive).
For his part, H was a decoupage of the worst, most self-entitled aspects of James Bond’s womanizing, confidently patronizing, subversively toxic and swaggering, mansplaining Eau de 007; his only redeeming quality being devotion to country and cause (with a spine comprised entirely of adamantium-grade professional ethics… ish). So basically all of it. All of the parts. MIIIIB‘s “H” embodies one of the sneakiest forms of toxic masculinity; when your conceptual filmic burrito comes wrapped with “Incorrigible Rogue” and you clearly ordered “Intelligent Ally” but you’ve got ashtanga yoga across town in twenty minutes and you’re like “fuck it, these taste almost the same.”
Franchising popular content is one of the most lucrative ways studios, and the film industry in general, can make money. I don’t begrudge anyone a job, from directors to actors; all the way through to each and every profession created/supported by serializing films (building themselves, layer by layer, on top of the intellectual property which founded them). It’s a perpetual motion machine that, most of the time, gives everyone what they want; audiences another look into a world clearly loved enough to revisit, and studios, etc. a way to keep the lights on year after year.
That said, there’s an unspoken understanding between a franchise and its fans, and it’s this: the audience trusts enough in the quality of the name on the label to keep coming back to the table, and studios deliver films that deftly thread a needle through whatever world(s) came before. A world they’re (ideally) sending audiences back toward purposefully, creatively, and with a genuine, unifying through-line to act as a guide in tying it all together. No one sets out to make a bad movie but MIIIIB managed to make a solid attempt at delivering a rebootable franchise flick fall flat on its fucking face (say that five times fast). It’d almost be impressive… if they weren’t charging for the privilege of that experience.
Men In Black: International is *such* an abject failure my mom has already called studio execs and asked if she can adopt it/have the opportunity to ask it what the hell it’s doing with its life at all family gatherings/special occasions/holiday meals – in addition to passing judgement on all its hairstyles, significant others, and/or career paths at any of the aforementioned functions. Welcome to the sunken place, MIIIIB, it’s too late to run so just suck it up and learn to repeat “I’ve got a lot of irons in the fire.” from now until eternity, buddy.
Men In Black: International (2019) Drinking Game
Take a Drink: anytime you see double trouble show up to rumble.
Take a Sip: for each new alien. Take Two: for any alien you’ve seen before (ex: any previous MIB).
Take a Drink: whenever a new international location change pops up and/or each time you hear an agent’s letter (Agent M, Agent H, etc.) designation.
Take a Shot: for every original MIB callback reference/character cameo.
Shotgun Your Beer: when the angriest Gillyweed you’ve ever seen shows up.