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Small details you missed in Men in Black: International

It's been seven years since Men in Black 3 — the third and final installment of the MiB films starring Will Smith as the irreverent Agent J and Tommy Lee Jones as his unsmiling mentor Agent K. June 2019 brings us Men in Black: International with a new pair of agents: Tessa Thompson plays the ambitious Agent M, a tenacious genius who learns about the secret organization as a girl. Hungry to learn the secrets of the cosmos, she hunts the group down so she can become a part of it. She's paired with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth), MiB's former rising star who's hit a rough patch and is losing the trust of his superiors and other agents. 

While these new agents evoke a feel different from the classic comedian/straight man chemistry that Smith and Jones enjoyed for three films, the Men in Black franchise hasn't forgotten its past. Right down to the fonts of the opening credits, Men in Black: International feels every bit like one of the early movies — just with better CGI. 

If you pay attention, you'll notice plenty of tributes to those early films sprinkled throughout, not to mention a couple of jokes acknowledging the other big-budget franchise Hemsworth and Thompson are known to work together in. Keep reading to learn about those and some other details you may have missed in Men in Black: International.

Hammer time

It's become difficult to separate Chris Hemsworth from the thunder god Thor — the Asgardian Avenger of Marvel's superhero movies. With Hemsworth starring as the hammer-swinging hero in three solo films and all four Avengers installments (not to mention his hilarious Team Thor appearances), it's safe to say there are plenty of moviegoers who might not know who Hemsworth was if it weren't for his MCU flicks. 

It can be a problem when an actor so closely associated with one role stars in something different, but rather than ignore the proverbial elephant in the room, Men in Black: International has some clever fun with it. 

Towards the end of the film, Agent H and M and their sidekick Pawny (Kumail Nanjiani) infiltrate the fortress of Riza (Rebecca Ferguson), an alien arms dealer as well as H's former lover. Agent H gets into a fight with Riza's super strong bodyguard and he's clearly outmatched. At one point, H spots a small mallet and grabs it. As he stands to strike the alien with it he says, "Looks like the tables have turned!" We hear heroic music rise and practically expect Agent H to be sheathed in lightning as he throws the hammer. The alien, predictably, catches the hammer easily and H looks shocked as he says, "That was an incredible catch."

Two thumbs up!

Agent H's brief hammer-related delusion of grandeur isn't the last nod to Hemsworth and Thompson's work in the MCU. Later, the heroes face down twin alien villains. H, M, and their tiny buddy Pawny have their backs to the edge of a cliff and don't have much left to fight with. Regardless, Agent H bravely steps forward and warns the villains that they're facing the Men in Black. Then, he corrects himself and says, "The Men… and Women… in Black." He follows it up by turning to agent M and giving her big a smile and a supportive thumbs up.

The moment works even without the reference, but it's nonetheless a nod to a scene Hemsworth and Thompson share in 2017's Thor: Ragnarok. While Thor (Hemsworth) is still a slave and is about to be sent into the arena to fight, he spots the woman he thus far only know as "Scrapper 142" — the woman who captured him and sold him to the Grandmaster (Jeff Goldblum). Thor sees a tattoo on her arm that marks her as one of the Valkyrie — an elite force of Asgardian warrior women. Desperately trying to get in her good graces so she'll help him escape, Thor stumbles over his words saying he thinks "it's great" there's finally a powerful group of "women warriors" and that it's "about time." Then he gives her the same goofy thumbs up and smile he gives her in Men in Black: International.

The brief return of the Noisy Cricket

If you've seen 1997's Men in Black then you probably remember the Noisy Cricket. Shortly after Agent J is accepted into MiB, Agent K brings the new recruit to the armory. K chooses a Series 4 De-Atomizer for himself while handing J a teeny, tiny thing that looks like it might be a keychain or a fancy kitchen gadget. He calls it the "Noisy Cricket" and J is unimpressed. Of course, J later learns the Noisy Cricket is one of many things in Men in Black that should not be judged by its outer appearance. The first time Agent J uses the small gun, the blast is so powerful it throws him backwards off his feet.

Apparently the Noisy Cricket is still in use, and MiB isn't any better about educating new agents about it. Shortly after Agent M is accepted as a probationary agent, we get a montage similar to the one we see in 1997's Men in Black when Agent J is inducted. M is given a new wardrobe, sunglasses to protect her from the amnesia-inducing Neuralizers, and then it's time to choose her weapon.

Agent M lifts the Noisy Cricket daintily out of its case and, looking at the camera, lets us know there's no way she'll be trusting this dinky little thing with her safety. Unfortunately, there's no Agent K around to let her know just how much stuff that little thing can blow up.

A picture says a thousand words

If you're worried Men in Black: International is yet another Hollywood reboot, some small details let you know that isn't the case. There's Agent O, who first appeared in Men in Black 3. But there are also some artistic details in the office of Agent High T (Liam Neeson), the head of the agency's London branch.

Men in Black: International opens on Agents H and High T, a few years earlier, teaming up to fight aliens known as the Hive. The villains are coming to Earth via a portal in Paris' Eiffel Tower. The prologue cuts away before we see how that scenario ends, but we later hear different agents speaking of it with great reverence. We also see a painting meant to represent this victory in Agent High T's office.

But this Paris battle isn't the only immortalized moment. Blink and you'll miss it, but not far from the Paris painting is one of the more familiar J and K in the final battle of 1997's Men in Black as they battle the giant bug at the observation towers of the New York World's Fair. So while we never learn what happened to J and K, the painting lets us know International is a continuation of the series rather than a do-over.

This is Men in Black

One of the more well-loved Men in Black traditions is the reveal of different celebrities as aliens in disguise. In the first Men in Black, Agent K shows J where they monitor such celebrities, and the new recruit is shocked to learn that people like Danny DeVito, Sylvester Stallone, and Dionne Warwick are all visitors from other planets. Men in Black director Barry Sonnenfeld originally wanted Michael Jackson to be shown as one of the incognito E.T.s, but Jackson refused to give permission. Relating how most celebrities were cooperative, Sonnenfeld joked to Entertainment Weekly in 1997, "Of course, the real alien says no." Apparently the King of Pop wasn't completely opposed to the idea, because Jackson made a cameo in 2002's Men in Black II.

Men in Black: International doesn't skimp on the celebrity aliens. Surveillance footage reveals a number of more contemporary stars as being from other worlds. Singer-songwriter Ariana Grande proves to be an alien, as does the eccentric entrepreneur Elon Musk. JJ Abrams is also an extraterrestrial, and finally there's Donald Glover; his image is the only one Agent M responds to, saying, "That one actually makes a lot of sense." Thompson and Glover have worked together — in 2015 they collaborated on some of the music for Creed – so this was likely a friendly jab from Thompson.

T and High T

It's a little curious that Liam Neeson's character — Agent High T, head of the London Branch of MiB — is perhaps the only MiB agent we've met so far in the films who has a designation that isn't simply a letter. Rather than simply Agent T, he's "High T." One possible reason is because the series has already had an Agent T. In 2002's Men in Black II, Agent J briefly works with Agent K's replacement, Agent T (Patrick Warburton). When T doesn't perform to J's standards, J neuralizes the sobbing agent while they eat at a diner, sending him back to a life of blissful ignorance. 

Of course, if they had named Neeson's character simply Agent T, it wouldn't be the first instance of an International character having the same name as an agent from a previous film. While Tessa Thompson plays Agent M, Michael Jackson's cameo in Men in Black II was likewise as Agent M. Tom Whiteknight appears in Men in Black II as Agent C, while International has its own Agent C played by Rafe Spall. 

Regardless, why not just give Neeson a different letter? Well, another reason for the "High T" may be to purposely set him apart from the other agents. We eventually learn that the real Agent High T was possessed years ago by a member of the Hive, so the differently styled name might be the filmmakers' way of hinting that Neeson's character isn't what he appears.

Old friends

Men in Black: International does a good job of paying tribute to the earlier films without getting too bogged down in the past. Perfect examples include a pair of cameos from popular aliens we've seen before. 

When Molly (later Agent M) first bluffs her way into the MiB headquarters, the old man watching the elevator is accompanied by a pug in a dog bed at his feet. Once Molly slips into the elevator, the pug says "Talk about amateur hour," and we instantly recognize the voice of Tim Blaney — the actor who did the voice of Frank the Pug in the first two Men in Black films

Later, after she's discovered and accepted into the agency, Agent M walks past a group of short, antennaed, wisecracking aliens instantly recognizable as the same guys that shocked Agent J when he saw them hanging out in the MiB break room in the first film. 

Sleeping with the fishes

When we meet Agent H, he's involved in an undercover op, posing as a gambler for some kind of alien card game where players have to reach into a cage holding a poisonous three-headed snake in order to get their cards. The game is overseen by an alien crook named Luca Brasi (Spencer Wilding), a pretty blatant reference to 1972's classic mafia epic The Godfather

In The Godfather, Luca Brasi is strangled to death while trying to infiltrate a rival gang. The character was played Lenny Montana, a former professional wrestler as well as a real-life mob enforcer for the Columbo Family. The Corleones learn of Brasi's murder when a package is delivered including fish wrapped in Brasi's vest, leading to one of the film's most oft-repeated lines: "Luca Brasi sleeps with the fishes."

Considering how that early scene in Men in Black: International does not end well for the alien Luca Brasi, it seems clear there's more than one Luca Brasi sleeping with the fishes tonight.

The voice of the Pawn

Another of Men in Black's popular tropes is the cute alien sidekick. While Frank the Pug makes a cameo in Men in Black: International, he isn't on field duty this time around. Instead, Agents H and M are helped by the Smurf-sized Pawny — the sole survivor of his people. 

Early in the film the Alien Twins (played by real-life twins Laurent and Larry Bourgeois) approach Pawny's people for help with an assassination. Pawny's queen refuses the request and the next time we see them is when Agents H and M find their corpses. Though honor-bound to kill himself, he clearly doesn't like the idea, and to let him off the hook Agent M agrees to act as his new queen. Pawny proves helpful to the agents, including saving Agent M's life in the final battle.

If you don't recognize Pawny's voice, then you might want to watch more Silicon Valley. Pawny is voiced by Kumail Nanjiani, who plays Dinesh in the HBO series. The actor and stand-up comic is a rising star in Hollywood: Along with Dave Bautista, he's co-starring in the upcoming action comedy Stuber, and he's been eyed for an undisclosed role in Marvel Studios' upcoming The Eternals.