“Men in Black: International” should neutralize itself

The original “Men in Black” is a really good movie. Part sci-fi, part action adventure, part comedy. Strong characters. An interesting message with a coming-of-age plot and surprising revelations.

Why has it been so hard to make a good sequel from it?

Written by Matt Holloway and Art Marcum and directed by F. Gary Gray, “Men in Black: International” stars Tessa Thompson as Agent M and Chris Hemsworth as Agent H in an international caper that goes from New York to London to Paris to Marrakesh, revealing a mole in MiB as well as international intrigue as the most dangerous weapon in the universe falls into the wrong hands.

There is no strong internal journey to guide the story and reveal the inner aspects of its characters. The leads try their best, but the script just isn’t there for them. There are some occasional fun moments, but they service a story that on the whole is a retread of the first film. All in all, it’s a miss.

“Men in Black II” was an unfunny letdown. “Men in Black 3” had its moments but overall felt lacking. And now “Men in Black: International” is decidedly unmemorable, a mix of lackluster “Mission: Impossible” tropes with forgettable characters. Why has creating a franchise been so hard?

It may come down simply to poor writing and execution. All of these sequels feel as though they were made just to be made: no creative spark, no new avenues to explore, no broader themes to investigate. It’s all a real shame as the MiB as a concept seems to have so much potential.

What perhaps should have been realized awhile ago is that perhaps the cinema is not the best place for the MiB; perhaps they belong on television. An episodic venture that focuses on secret agents fighting aliens and keeping the world safe makes sense more than another high-profile film that tells the same story again and again.

Will that happen? Given the dismal box office performance of “International”, it seems doubtful for the near future.

But franchises have come back from worse films before.

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