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What the critics are saying about Men in Black: International

The men (and women) in black are back — and critics are letting their thoughts about the organization's return be known. 

Ahead of the June 14 launch of Men in Black: International, Sony Pictures lifted the review embargo for the Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson-starrer on Wednesday, June 12. 

A prequel-slash-spin-off of the sci-fi action comedy film franchise that kicked off in 1997, Men in Black: International fancies itself an invigorating, capital-F funny refresh that takes the agents of the secret alien-monitoring organization around the world for a high-stakes adventure. Intention doesn't equal impact, as we all know, so did Men in Black: International live up to its own promises? Well, not exactly. 

Critical response to the movie has been less-than-optimal… to put it sweetly. Men in Black: International holds a bleak 29 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes as of Wednesday at 11:45 AM ET. 

Directed by Straight Outta Compton and The Fate of the Furious filmmaker F. Gary Gray, Men in Black: International picks up after the events of 2012's Men in Black 3 and centers on Hemsworth's Agent H as he teams with Thompson's Agent M, a woman who spent most of her life trying to unravel the mysteries of the Men in Black before finding the organization's base. Liam Neeson's High T, the head of the London branch, pairs Agent H and Agent M together on a globetrotting mission to locate a mole in the MIB — while taking down alien scum along the way. Kumail Nanjiani lends his pipes to a pint-sized alien named Pawny, and Emma Thompson reprises her role as Agent O.

Sounds awesome, right? Sadly, most critics don't agree. 

IndieWire's Eric Kohn gave the film a D+ rating and wrote in his review that Men in Black: International "launches Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth into a bland variation on the same MiB routine [and] lacks the energy or ambition to make its intergalactic stakes into anything more than baffling cash grab." He added, "This misconceived attempt to inject a tired franchise with new life ends up as little more than an empty vessel."

Darren Franich at Entertainment Weekly warned that viewers might wish neuralizers were real after watching Men in Black: International, which is "better than Men in Black II and worse than Men in Black III, and they're all bad." He did note that the film has potential with its plot and characters, but things ultimately fizzle out due in large part to Gray's panache-less direction. "Director F. Gary Gray reduces his leads' chemistry into action heroics. They're attacked by invulnerable aliens who look precisely like the invasive space dust from Dark Phoenix," wrote Franich. "Gray films this whole globetrotting tale with little flair or feeling. A letdown, because the Straight Outta Compton director had so much fun heisting Venice in 2003's amiable Italian Job remake. He's on autopilot here, carrying H and M between energy-spray digital setpieces."

Writing for Screen International, Tim Grierson felt that Men in Black: International was "a comedic black hole" and disappointing given how charming Hemsworth and Thompson were in Thor: Ragnarok and the recent Avengers: Endgame

"The delightful chemistry Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth displayed in Thor: Ragnarok is nowhere in evidence in Men In Black: International, a stunningly inert spinoff from a franchise that, long ago, was a sleek, breezy lark," he wrote, adding that International recycles ideas from the MIB franchise rather than reinvigorates them. 

Grierson continued, "International illustrates just how hard it is to craft a crackerjack comedic duo. Thompson and Hemsworth had a grand time trading barbs in Ragnarok, but here their exchanges are terribly strained. Agent M is serious and earnest, while Agent H is a bit of a cad, but these opposites don't attract — instead, they're trapped together in a comedic black hole where no light or humour can escape."

Ryan Oliver at The Playlist had similar thoughts: "MIB International commits an even greater sin than being mind-numbingly dull: it squanders the chemistry between Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth …  They're as charismatic and appealing individuals for sure, but without chemistry together, their painful lines of dialogue are only accentuated by excessive blockbuster blandness. Maybe that was the intent, to numb the audience into thinking they enjoyed it. Whatever the case may be, MIB International is a failure on just about every level, and instead of 3D glasses, movie theaters should be handing out the neuralizers at the end instead to help us all forgot the cringe-worthy memory of what we just watched."

Reactions weren't awful through and through, as a few critics found Men in Black: International to be a summer blockbuster worth seeing. 

Danielle Solzman of Solzy at the Movies gave the flick four out of five stars (what a lovely score!), and called International a solid new trilogy-starter. Empire Magazine critic James Dyer stamped International with one less star, regarding the pic as "unexpectedly enjoyable" despite being totally unnecessary from his point of view.

"Coming seven years after the humourless MIB3 and blessed with neither of its stars, Men In Black: International arrives as possibly the least essential film of the summer. And yet, despite a throwaway story and slightly indulgent runtime ([Men in Black 3 director Barry] Sonnenfeld never strayed far from the 90-minute mark), H&M prove surprisingly engaging company," Dyer wrote. "Part soft reboot, part extended gag reel, this never takes off as a sci-fi mystery, but thanks to another powerfully appealing central combo, there's more than enough goofy fun to save you reaching for the neuralyzer.

Only 34 Rotten Tomatoes-approved critics have submitted reviews and scores for Men in Black: International as of this writing, so the film's rating will undoubtedly change as time goes on. Whether that score improves or continues to plummet remains to be seen. 

What will also factor into the overall consensus of Men in Black: International is the audience rating. Prior to the debut of Captain Marvel, the Marvel Cinematic Universe installment that garnered backlash of a caliber few movies experienced before, Rotten Tomatoes updated its policies regarding audience scores. Now, moviegoers can only post their mini-reviews about a film after its official theatrical premiere; before this change, anyone could praise or lambast a film months before it ever hit screens, potentially sending its audience score to a place from which it could never recover. (They can still, however, rate the movie ahead of time based on how excited they are to see it, which is the case for Men in Black: International.) Rotten Tomatoes also implemented tracking for verified buyers — moviegoers whom the site's staff confirm bought tickets for the movie they want to rate and/or review. This is all in efforts to eliminate reviews and ratings posted by people who want to slam or exalt a film without having seen it. 

Men in Black: International currently boasts a pretty impressive 76 percent audience score, meaning more than three-quarters of Rotten Tomatoes-registered moviegoers are keen to see Hemsworth and Thompson suited up in the flick. Based on the critic and audience scores as they stand on Wednesday afternoon, it looks like Men in Black: International could wind up becoming one of those films that reviewers hate but causal viewers genuinely enjoy. We've seen this happen many times in the past: some movies divide critics and fans so much, that there's a huge gap between the respective scores. The canyon that separates Men in Black: International's critical score and audience rating could close and the two might even out, or it may widen over the course of its opening weekend.

Judge Men in Black: International for yourselves when the film hits theaters this Friday, June 14.