Men in Black: International ★★★

(Extended version of my review for Willamette Week)

Look, it’s fine if you go into it simply to gaze at hot people in tailored suits hanging out and fighting with aliens. On that front, you’re covered. On most other fronts, well…

This spin-off of the Men In Black series, which was originally supposed to be a 21 Jump Street crossover, centers on Molly (Tessa Thompson), a brilliant hacker who harbors both the burning passion for truth of Mulder and the dry cynicism of Scully. After landing a job as a probationary agent, she pairs up with the roguishly charming Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) for her first mission, which soon spirals out of control.

The first act is okay, good even, and it’s refreshing to see a science-minded woman of color starring in a franchise that has, historically, suffered from casual misogyny (looking at you, MIB II). This step forward takes a step back with some forced faux-feminist dialogue like "Why aren't we called Men and Women in Black?" "I know! I've raised the question... attachment issues!" and the one Agent H says in the trailer ("We are the Men... AND Women in Black.") Hire actual women to co-write your women-led blockbusters, please!

As soon as Agent H enters the picture, the movie starts to displace the half-baked and predictable story in favor of relying almost entirely on the star power and chemistry of the Marvel actors. There are some snort-through-your-nose funny jokes interspersed throughout, mostly delivered by Kumail Nanjiani as the agents’ pocket-sized alien sidekick, but it’s climactically a forgettable, though entertaining, sci-fi ride. Sorry, fellow bisexuals. We do not feast tonight, but we do snack.

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