WARNING: The following contains spoilers for Men in Black: International, in theaters now.
When it comes to alien invasions, some are in-your-face, all-out wars that consume the entire planet in movies like Independence Day, Battleship and War of the Worlds. However, other alien invasions take a far more subtle approach to intergalactic conflict.
Stories like Invasion of the Body-Snatchers, V or Marvel's Secret Invasion center on aliens roaming among us in disguise as they quietly carry out their plans. This type of alien attack has been a staple of the Men in Black franchise and it happens once again in Men in Black: International.
However, it's hardly the only film with shape-shifting aliens to hit theaters this year. Both Captain Marvel and Dark Phoenix also featured aliens who camouflaged themselves in the larger the human population. With all of that in mind, 2019 is shaping up to be the year of the shape-shifter.
This shape-shifting alien trend kicked off with March's Captain Marvel, where Skrulls infiltrated the planet. Although they were initially seeking a unique space-engine to takethem to greener pastures after the Kree destroyed their world, Brie Larson's Carol Danvers was trained to kill these beings and view them as a threat.
After she arrived on Earth and discovered the Skrulls' true nature, their status as peaceful refugees was one of the film's biggest revelations. They only disguised themselves as human civilians in the first place to walk freely among the people of Earth as they worked with Mar-Vell (Annette Bening) to achieve their goals.
While seeing Talos (Ben Mendelsohn) shape-shifting into Nick Fury's boss and manipulating S.H.I.E.L.D. was pure delight, it also brought to mind the the "Who do you trust?" mantra from Marvel's Secret Invasion comic event, which featured a much more nefarious Skrull invasion. While these Skrulls were never really a threat to Earth in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, it once more proved how deadly such agents could be.
Earlier this month, another Marvel movie, Fox's Dark Phoenix, featured a far more insidious alien invasion with the D'Bari aliens. Those aliens disguised themselves as FBI agents, people with ample power or influence, and civilians like Jessica Chastain's Vuk in a failed attempt to harness the power of the Phoenix through its human avatar in Sophie Turner's Jean Grey. In their case, they were merciless killers who wanted to destroy mankind and use the cosmic entity to recreate their species on the planet.
Last week, Men in Black: International, another loosely comic book-inspired movie, brought another race of shape-shifting aliens to the big screen with the Hive, an insectoid race with a sleeper agent who assumed the human form of High T (Liam Neeson) and took command of the London MiB office. While there, this double agent used Chris Hemsworth's H and Tessa Thompson's M to retrieve a super-gun so the Hive could continue inflicting genocide across the cosmos.
The Hive weren't the only shape-shifting aliens in the film through, since the film also featured another pair of extraterrestrial shape-shifters in the Twins (Laurent and Larry Bourgeois). These beings of pure energy could manipulate matter, and absorb it by touch, which allowed them to take the form of a human electrician from Morocco. Using their disguises, they entered night clubs, breakdancing their way to assassinations, while managing to blend in and beat H and M to the gun hidden on Earth.
The shape-shifting alien trope has always been a hallmark of MiB movies. In 2002's Men in Black II, Lara Flynn Boyle's Serleena, a Venus fly-trap-like alien, masqueraded as a Victoria's Secret model for the duration of the film. In 1997, Men in Black kicked off the franchise with Vincent D'Onofrio's Edgar the Cockroach, but he simply wore the skin of a human like a costume rather than actually changing his form to match an Earthling.
Nonetheless, this franchise is practically built around the idea of aliens moving through secrecy and cloaking themselves so as to not be too noticeable on Earth. While it's not surprising to see this film deploy shape-shifters as a plot device once again, the idea wasn't quite so novel this time, since hiding-in-plain-sight by shape-shifting has been the go-to move for aliens invading Earth on the big screen this year.
Directed by F. Gary Gray, 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 and is in theaters now.