I wasn't expecting great things from a reboot to an already slightly worn-out franchise, but the original Men in Black films had a great core concept and I will always be game for a film starring both Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson. In the end, I'd say MIB: International lived up to those expectations. I think it would be fair to say the acting was fine, but actually there are some genuinely bad plot and script moments which are almost saved by the performances and delivery, so in that sense you could upgrade it to great. There's nothing entirely awful here, though, and occasionally the script delivers some either genuinely funny or surprisingly interesting moments. I mean, this moment in the desert was a kinda brilliant comeback:
Thompson: Passion is unstable, and logic is constant. Yeah. Physical attraction is nothing more than chemical reactions in your brain. Can't trust them. They're not real.
Hemsworth: Isn't the whole universe a chemical reaction? Pretty sure you can trust that. Feels pretty real.
Is it the kind of quote you'd want as a poster? No, it's generic and it could definitely benefit from a few more copy-editing passes to tighten up, but the core of it is a surprisingly novel take. The fact that the very next line was the comedy sidekick, Pawny, pointing out that it was "kinda deep" shows that the scriptwriters probably agree 😄
On which note, Pawny also was almost fun. The idea that chess is based off an actual alien culture was a neat one, but again it felt like it had been rushed into the film and could have used some additional work. I mean, the fact that they lived on a 3D chessboard felt a little stupid, but the way they turned into little chess pieces via their armour was great. I also wish that Pawny didn't refer to himself as a pawn; that's not a term that makes sense for an alien to use, it would be better to say he "served the Queen" and for one of the humans to laugh and say "like a pawn?".
Which I think sums up the film. There are some great moments, some great character design, and some great actors. The CGI is fantastic – particularly the galaxy people 😮 – the world-building is fun, and the final result is an enjoyable ride. But it feels like it was rushed out the door. With another few months of tightening, the script could have been dialled up a few more notches, the plot wouldn't have been so obvious (I literally called the "twist" the moment the flashback happened, which was also completely unnecessary), and even the stupid deus ex machina would have felt more okay (like the alien that Thompson's Agent M had rescued as a kid turning out to be the goon). I could have done without the romantic undertones between the two leads, it would have been much better to just have them become partners, and a lot of the movie happened just because, but there are still some enjoyable ideas at the core.
I think it could have used more of the original films, as well. MIB has always been quirky, goofy, and a self-aware, but it also made the main characters feel cool. International practically makes the organisation feel incompetent at times. They ride alien tech through crowded streets, open portals over Paris, completely fail to be even a little discrete dozens of times over. And them, worst of all, there was no big "reveal" at the end. That's the classic Men in Black moment, the bit where J opens the door to discover an alien auditorium, or the camera pans out to reveal our universe sits within a marble. The whole way through International we have Thompson's character asking about the "big picture", it was a perfect setup for a weird "big reveal" and it never came. Again, it felt rushed.
In short, I think you could watch International then go away, sit down, and write a much better film, with more in common to its legacy, and making better use of its cast, ideas, and story. Which is a shame, because it hints that this could have been great. Instead, it's merely a bit of fun.