MIB: International is so unfunny, it’s painful

F Gary Gray (Straight Outta Compton) directs Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson in this Men in Black spin-off that sees them kicking alien butt all around the world. Too bad the script lays Hemsworth and Thompson’s talent to waste, Liam Maguren writes.

Imagine a Taika Waititi-less Thor: Ragnarok rewritten by the guys who penned Transformers: The Last Knight. If you’re picturing a painfully unfunny alien adventure in desperate need of a comedic punch-up, then you’re well prepared for Men in Black: International.

Ragnarok comrades Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth honour a script that doesn’t deserve it. Thompson certainly has the fortitude to carry a blockbuster, but as a self-admitted loner who sacrificed everything—including mates—to get the job with MiB, her built-up paranoia and social awkwardness only come through in the first 15 minutes until it’s dropped completely.

The backstory for Hemsworth’s character is just as much of a write-off. Revered as a hero and a hunk, colleagues whisper that there’s something a bit off about him ever since he saved the world. Seems like it could lead to something interesting, but it absolutely does not. It makes me wonder if his character notes simply said ‘do your funny Thor thing’ in place of actual writing.

Thompson and Hemsworth do their best to create a buddy-buddy rapport but are only fuelled by sarcastic quips, shoulder shrugs, and outdated jokes that lay waste to their talent.

More than that, their relationship lacks a dynamic. Compared to the original 1997 film, which saw fresh young upstart J butting heads with the stoic experienced older K, this new pair doesn’t hold a significant point of difference. One’s new, young, cocky, and really good at her job; the other’s experienced, young, cocky, and really good at his job.

For the brief moments Emma Thompson’s on screen, playing a high-up agent who’s kinda sick and tired of the MiB system, you can see a proper dynamic working between her and Tessa. I’m convinced a ‘Thompsons in Black’ film could have fared better.

At least this sequel makes decent use of the globe-trotting gimmick with varied environments that adds to the world of underground ETs. The alien designs also remain on par for the series, continuing that good mesh of CGI and practical effects (F. Gary Gray somehow convincingly directs a fight scene involving a three-armed woman).

That might have been enough to save International from a 1-star rating if it wasn’t for tiny CG creature Pawny. Voiced by Kumail Nanjiani, this Happy Meal wannabe introduces himself with a jokey Kanye reference just moments after surviving genocide. His only purpose is to riff on Thompson and Hemsworth with lines that fell like they were added during post-production. Some in my cinema chuckled at his sass. I wanted to pull out a 9-iron.