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Front Page - Friday, June 21, 2019

Critic's Corner: Memory eraser is only cure for latest ‘Men in Black’

“Men in Black: International” caps three weeks of big budget duds from major movie studios.

“Godzilla: King of the Monsters” lumbered into empty theaters May 31 and died a quick box office death.

“Dark Phoenix” arrived one week later, straining for narrative relevance long after even die-hard X-Men fans stopped caring about Twentieth Century Fox’s aimless film franchise.

Both films tanked critically and commercially, despite being descendants of hit movies. Then “Men in Black: International” arrived sans Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones and any of the fun and originality that once marked this popular series.

I’m alarmed by how little I have to say about “MIB: International.” Maybe if I hadn’t spent most of the movie struggling to stay awake, I’d have more to offer than a shrug.

In my defense, the film could cure insomnia. Its story is forgettable, its action is dull and its special effects are a far cry from special. It’s as if Sony Pictures Releasing was shooting for mediocre and landed on weak.

There’s no emotion more depressing while watching a film than indifference. (Even an aggressively bad movie can be entertaining.) But this was all I could muster as I watched Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson of Marvel’s “Thor” movies team up to save the world from evil aliens on a mission to steal a superweapon.

Yeah, we’ve seen this one before. Many times. And that’s really all there is to it. But director F. Gary Gray and writers Art Marcum and Matt Holloway (who together penned the excellent “Iron Man” and jumpstarted the Marvel Cinematic Universe) can’t even juggle that gracefully. Instead, they build their story on meaningless plot points and coincidence.

At one point, I was so certain there should be more going on that I leaned over and asked my wife if I’d missed something. But no. The story is simply paper-thin.

Thompson does her best as Molly Wright, a young woman who had an encounter with an alien and the Men in Black as a child but retained her memory of the incident. (For the uninitiated, MIB acts as an intergalactic ICE agency, deporting illegal aliens and deleting the memories of civilians who encounter them.)

After Molly spends her youth searching for and then finding the Men in Black, she convinces the agency to hire her and winds up assigned to the UK branch, where she’s teamed with Hemsworth’s Agent H.

During a narratively dubious meeting with an alien at a secret nightclub, the duo come into possession of a strange crystal that – well, never mind. If I explain more, you might begin your own struggle to stay awake.

My point is that Thompson brings a lot of energy to her role, and as a result, winds up being the most watchable aspect of the movie.

Hemsworth, on the other hand, seems content to lean on the comedic side of his Thor persona, only his jokes and quips aren’t funny here. In one inane argument with another agent, he insists the man likes puppies, with the punchline literally being, “You want a puppy” (emphasis on “want”) as the scene ends.

You can throw that drivel on an IMAX screen and charge me an extra three bucks to see it, but that still doesn’t make it entertaining.

Every movie studio except Disney (and the studios Disney owns) has been floundering as they sequelize, spin-off and reboot their once popular franchises.

But even as they spend big bucks to squeeze juice from dry oranges like Godzilla, X-Men and Men in Black, audiences are expressing their apathy by failing to show up.

After releasing three expensive duds in as many weeks, maybe these studios will realize the next thing they should reboot is themselves.