WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Men in Black: International, in theaters now.
Of all the criticisms of Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, among the biggest was the use of the "Martha!" line, which prevented the Dark Knight from killing the Man of Steel. Apparently, the two heroes' mothers sharing the same name was all that was needed to resolve their feud so they could focus instead on defeating Doomsday.
Many ridiculed the moment as forced and lacking drama, while some stood by its emotion, defending Batman's epiphany as something that made him more human. Men in Black: International takes a similar route with its own take on the "Martha!" scene, albeit with an alien twist that fits the tone of the sci-fi action comedy franchise.
The seed is planted early on as the movie opens up with Tessa Thompson's Molly (her name before she becomes Agent M) hiding an alien Tarantulan from her parents as they're interrogated by Men in Black agents outside their New York City home. Molly forms a bond with the frightened, fuzzy extraterrestrial. Her parents have their memories wiped once the agents realize they can't help them locate the alien, but they leave Molly alone, thinking she's asleep, and unaware she's protecting their target.
When the drama is over, Molly opens her bedroom window and allows the Tarantulan to fly away to safety. As it flutters off, it utters a phrase, "Kabla Nan Chuk," leaving Molly with confirmation that extraterrestrials exist. That knowledge is the catalyst for her desire to join the Men in Black as an adult.
Years later, after forcing her way into the agency, M is given her first assignment in London, and partners with Agent H (Chris Hemsworth) and the alien Pawny (Kumail Nanjiana) to recover a super-weapon the monstrous Hive wants to assert cosmic dominance. Amid a feud with the Twins, they track the gun to H's ex, Riza Stavros (Rebecca Ferguson), a three-handed intergalactic arms dealer who lives on a Greek island. But after almost stealing back the item, they're arrested by her goons. However, when Riza instructs her henchmen to kill the heroes, M recognizes one of the aliens and exclaims "Kabla Nan Chuk!"
The creature reacts in shock, and as the camera zooms in, we can see it's the alien M saved decades earlier. With that one phrase, it immediately turns on Riza and frees the MIB agents, allowing M to seize the gun again. M's crew is stunned at how effective the phrase was, and wonder why the alien helped her. It turns out it's merely expressing gratitude, as the phrase means, "I'll kill anyone for you someday in a most gruesome manner to repay this debt."
Of course, being a virtuous agent, M asks for the creature not to kill anyone on her behalf, and to simply hold Riza's forces at bay to buy them time to escape. It's a comedic "Martha!" moment that might have been cheesy, but it brings Molly's journey full circle.
In theaters nationwide, director F. Gary Gray's Men in Black: International stars Chris Hemsworth, Tessa Thompson, Rebecca Ferguson, Kumail Nanjiani, Rafe Spall, Laurent Bourgeois and Larry Bourgeois, with Emma Thompson and Liam Neeson.