It's been a while since theaters screened a Men in Black film, which means the franchise was due for a revival of some kind. Fans may just get that with Men in Black: International, a spinoff that centers on a new setting, new characters and new aliens. It's worth keeping in mind that "new" doesn't necessarily mean unique, especially in this day and age. Aside from that, the film's stars, Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth, have the enormous task of filling the space in the franchise that Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones have left behind as everyone eagerly awaits word on Men in Black 4.
Can the new duo tide longtime fans over until then? That remains to be seen. Critics have already had time to look at Men in Black: International and the general consensus seems to be that it has its charms but is mostly underwhelming. So, where does it sit among director Barry Sonnenfeld's trilogy according to critics? The outlook isn't good. We've calculated the average scores for each film in the franchise using multiple review aggregates and this is how each film stacks up.
MEN IN BLACK: INTERNATIONAL - AVERAGE SCORE: 37
The spinoff focuses on Molly, or Agent M (played by Tessa Thompson), a brand-new agent at the London branch of the Men in Black. She is partnered with Agent H (played by Chris Hemsworth) and the two set off to defend the world from numerous alien attacks. The premise itself -- much like those of the main film series -- seems as though it would allow for a satisfactory combination of action, adventure, character development and comedy. Critics seemed to find very little of that in Men in Black: International (directed by F. Gary Gray).
Reviewers cite the quality of writing as a point of criticism. At the time of writing, Men in Black: International currently holds a critic score of 32% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of just 41, making it the lowest-rated film in the franchise right now. However, it should be noted that -- since it is early -- these figures are likely to change. Whether or not it'll be for better or worse remains to be seen.
MEN IN BLACK 2 - AVERAGE SCORE: 44
The 2002 sequel arrived five years after the original and tested the chemistry between the two leads. The film focuses on Agents K (Tommy Lee Jones) recovering his memories and Serleena (played by Lara Flynn Boyle), a shape-shifting alien who invades Earth in search of a power source, the Light of Zartha, which is utilized by her race's intergalactic enemies. It's up to Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) and J (Will Smith) to put a stop to what is ultimately a murder spree.
Unfortunately, it seems Men in Black 2 didn't have as much to offer as its predecessor did. The film received mixed to negative reviews from critics, who cited the loss of chemistry between the two leads and the fact that the film seemed to recycle many of the comedic and narrative elements from the first film. Men in Black 2 currently holds a critic score of 39% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 49, making it the lowest-rated film in the franchise.
For comparison, the film currently holds an audience score of 45% on Rotten Tomatoes.
MEN IN BLACK 3 - AVERAGE SCORE: 63
After a decade, a third installment was released and this time fans got a better look at Agent K's backstory thanks to the time-traveling narrative. The film sees J jump (almost literally) into 1969 to stop the vicious alien criminal known as Boris the Animal from rendering the Earth vulnerable for invasion. What's unique about the film is that it's the first in the series that didn't heavily feature Tommy Lee Jones. Instead, it relies on Josh Brolin to portray a young Agent K.
Critics seemed to agree that Men in Black 3 was a decent film and a huge improvement over its predecessor, but it just wasn't particularly impressive. Josh Brolin's performance as young Agent K received praise, as did the visual effects that brought the set pieces and aliens to life. The story itself, evidently, just wasn't captivating enough. The film currently holds a critic score of 68% on Rotten Tomatoes and a Metacritic score of 58. Not the best score for a contemporary film, but certainly not the worst.
Men in Black 3 currently holds an audience score of 70% on Rotten Tomatoes.
MEN IN BLACK - AVERAGE SCORE: 81.5
Standing head and shoulders above the rest is the original Men in Black from 1997. The film introduced the Men in Black through former NYPD officer James Darrell Edwards III, who would later become Agent J, after encountering alien activity in a seemingly average criminal pursuit. It's a loose adaptation of the dark and gritty comic book miniseries of the same name.
The film received generally positive reviews from critics at the time. There were various flaws in the execution of the film's overall comedic tone, but everyone seemed to agree that it was a breath of fresh air. It was unique and ambitious and the visual effects -- at least in the first act, according to some -- reflected that. The film currently holds a critic score of 92% on Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic score of 71, making it the highest-rated film in the franchise, even now after 22 years.
Men in Black holds an audience score of 79% on Rotten Tomatoes.
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. The film opens on June 14.