Since the second Men in Black film was released – shortly before the Crimean War, as I recall – critics have been making cracks about the team’s memory-erasing “neuralyzer” stick. “You’ll need no help forgetting this one. Ha ha!” That sort of thing.
Indulge us one more time. From the generic title that treats the word “international” as instant coffee manufacturers once treated the word “continental” to the blandly realised, off-the-peg urban locations, Men in Black 4 (5? 8? 165?) is so perfunctory that, even before it’s finished, the film has taken on the quality of a late sequel you’re not sure ever happened. You know? Like Gregory’s Two Girls or More American Graffiti. The movie’s only purpose is to reassure you of its own unnecessary existence.
The first, only-okay Men in Black got by on top-flight casting and amusing world building. F Gary Gray’s current episode certainly tries hard in the first department.
Emma Thompson is barely in the thing, but she can do "stern boss" in her sleep, and the performance is no less welcome for an apparent determination to demonstrate this is so.
About Li*m N*eson we will say no more than he is in the film and he makes no greater effort to join the land of the awake.
The main selling point is the chemistry between Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson that fired so energetically in Thor: Ragnarok. Is there a scientific term for a process that causes only one of two intermixed chemicals to undergo significant transfiguration?
Playing a new recruit who has childhood experience of the alien presence on Earth, Thompson works so hard and so amusingly with the pallid material that she almost causes the film to catch fire. She has a sardonic delivery that adds edge to interactions without damaging her reliable warmth.
Hemsworth is never bad, but he seems stranded here in a himbo role that plays – let’s say this for the picture – like an act of justifiable revenge for cinema’s century-long shoddy sexualisation of female characters. This would be grand if the joke hadn’t been worked more explicitly and more effectively with the same actor in the recent, undervalued Ghostbusters. The character is little more than a torso on suit pants (I understand that might be enough for some).
The world-building is now so half-baked that the film comes across like a Saturday Night Live parody of itself. Creatures in beards. Creatures that pose as chess pieces. Creatures that dissolve into smaller creatures. Obviously, it’s funnier than any SNL parody. So is Lyme disease.
Opens on June 13th