Men in Black: International

Men in Black: International ★★★½

"We are a rumor... the best kept secret in the universe." ~ Agent O

The original MIB (1997) was a 4-star blast. Then director Barry Sonnenfeld milked its fan base for two ho-hum sequels and I thought it was done. But the good folks at Amblin-Columbia-Sony convinced filmmaker Felix Gary Gray to pick up the megaphone, and here we are with Part IV of the franchise, which isn't getting much love from LB reviewers. But I say it's a return to form. Here's why.

1. THE BEST ASPECT OF MIB is the chemistry between the partnering agents. In Part I, Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones as Agents J & K delivered in a way they couldn't reprise in Part II and was fumbled by Josh Brolin as Young Agent K in Part III. Here, we get Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson partnered, and if they made a great couple in "Thor Ragnarok" (2017) as Thor and Valkyrie, they are every bit as well matched as Agents H & M. Together, they just click.

2. THE OUT-OF-THIS-WORLD ALIENS are extra awesome here. Pawny (voiced by Kumail Nanjiani) is a riot all by his ownsome, but check out the evil DNA-merging Hive... third-cousins to the Borg. And there's the obese and ugly but lovable Vungus (Kayvan Novak), the shape-shifting Twins (Laurent & Larry Bourgeois), the beard-like Bassam (Novak), and the beautiful three-armed Riza Stavros (Rebecca Ferguson). I seriously suggest that the "Incredible Beasts" franchise take notes here. We get a much better variety of strange entities from MIB.

3. THERE'S CONTINUITY WITH PART III thanks to Emma Thompson's return as the MIB boss lady Agent O. She only appears in a handful of scenes, but she dominates when she's on screen... a rudder to a franchise otherwise set adrift by Sonnenfeld. Other familiar faces are Frank the Pug (Tim Blaney) and the Worm Guys (Thom Fountain and Drew Massey). And there are Easter egg references to Parts I~III, like the Noisy Cricket gun and a painting of Agents J & K saving the world.

4. IAN FLEMING IS SMILING down from heaven to see the wonderful variety of gadgets and gizmos the MIB weapons lab cooks up, from a car fitted out with more hidden firepower than a Klingon warbird to "reality facades" -- illusionary walls that hide MIB operations -- and high-speed underground trains that look like space vehicles.

5. YA JUST GOTTA LAUGH at the humor tossed around here, from the octopus-tentacled female alien (Ania Sowinski) who beds Agent H and leaves sucker hickeys on his torso to the fight he has with a big blue alien bodyguard; he finds a hammer that he throws as if it were Thor's Mjölnir, but the alien simply catches it.

Yes, Liam Neeson is in this as the head of MIB's London operations, Agent High T. He's the former partner of Agent H and the plot revolves around his concern that there is a mole inside the clandestine organization. Much suspicion is cast on Agent C (Rafe Spall), and for a time Agent H is thought to be the traitor. But it's the journey, not the destination that makes this fun. I recommend it in spite of the low ratings it is receiving on Letterboxd.

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