M is for mole.
For my wife, time travel in a movie kills that movie for her. I get it – time travel solves any problem, undoes any death or event, and, of course, comes with that pesky paradox (if you change the past, you erase the reason for going back to the past to make the change). Avengers: Endgame might be the best case way to deal with time travel and scores of movies are the worst way (I will go with Timecop). I do not have an issue with time travel in movies.
For me, a mole in the agency ruins a movie. The mole is a lazy plot devices that allows you to explain away almost anything. Need a bad guy to know where the heroes are or looking for the MacGuffin? The mole told them. Need the bad guys to always be one step ahead? The mole is helping them. Need to defeat something the agency is using? The mole did it. Need to find out if a spouse is cheating? Hire a private detective. The mole is for official use only.
My loathing of the mole all started with season two of 24. Season one of 24 is arguably one of the best seasons of television ever and is one of the very few instances where the mole subplot was handled beautifully. Season two, not so much. Then, season three commenced and gave us another mole and I quit watching the show mid-season. Since then, it seems like every movie and TV show involving secret agents or cops has a mole. Agents of Shield, Castle, The Blacklist, Casino Royale, every Mission: Impossible movie. It’s no wonder that Republicans buy the conspiracy-theory nonsense about the “deep state” when this is what they are being fed on TV (not really a surprise since they continue swallowing other bullshit from Fox ahem-News). See where I’m going with this?
(SPOILER ALERT – Too late.)
Yes, MIB:I has a mole, but we’ll come back to that in a minute. MIB:I can be considered a bit of a reboot for the series (and it is also a sequel), but with the least amount of effort to distinguish itself from the previous three films. Basically, they changed the cast and called it a day. Not that that is necessarily a bad thing, but the film doesn’t even attempt to add any new elements beyond Chris Hemsworth (Agent H), Tessa Thompson (Agent M), and Liam Neeson (High T – yes, High T). Just because you have Thor, Valkyrie, and Ra’s al Goul, doesn’t mean you don’t have to try hard.
Molly is a young girl when she has her first run-in with an alien – a cute little blue stuffed animal-looking-thing that she helps escape the men in black that show up at her house to find it. For plot reasons, Molly isn’t neuralized along with her parents, even though Molly is looking at the neuralizer (albeit, from a distance, which is definitely lazy writing based on what we know from previous movies). Flash-forward twenty years and we find that Molly interviewing with every spy agency in America because she’s spent two decades trying to fulfill her dream of joining the men in black. How the men in black haven’t discovered Molly’s search is a testament to how little the writers think of them and how obvious it is that neither of the two writers bothered to even watch the previous films (let alone read the comic books).
(Side note: as another example of laziness, the movie tells us the men in black have existed since at least Eiffel built his tower, which directly contradicts the origin story in the first MIB film.)
Finally, Molly tracks them down and attempts to sneak into MIB headquarters. She is immediately discovered and, with barely an objection by the head of MIB (Emma Thompson as Agent O), is taken on as a recruit and quickly earns probationary agent status and dubbed Agent M. For her first mission, she is sent to London to the international branch of MIB for reasons that are never shared with the audience (O cryptically just says she has a feeling M will be needed there).
There she meets Agent H, volunteering to help him escort a royal alien named Vungus (Kayvan Novak) for a night out on the town. When their night is interrupted by two aliens from the Hive (played by twins Laurent and Larry Bourgeois), Vungus gives Molly an everlasting gobstopper that is also the most powerful gun in the universe (it’s fueled by a miniaturized blue giant star). For the rest of the film, M and H are pursued by the alien twins and another MIB agent (Agent C – played by Rafe Spall – believes M and H have gone rogue). Throw in Riza (Rebecca Ferguson), an international arms dealer – who also happens to have three literal arms (GET IT!?!) – because the writers have definitely seen Mission: Impossible a thousand times.
While the plot is incredibly lazy, yet somehow wildly over-complicated, the film is a fun watch. The big problem with MIB:I is (and here comes that big SPOILER) the opening scene telegraphs the mole. So, instead of fully enjoying the movie, part of your brain is sitting there waiting for the least surprising reveal in the history of film. And, since the reveal doesn’t happen until the very end of the film, you keep noticing how the script has to keep the men in black stupid in order to protect the reveal. Even after the reveal, the movie thumbs its ass at the audience when O tells M “I’ve suspected something wasn’t right with London Branch for quite some time.” Wait – so you sent a probie, alone, to another branch with no clear mission (at least that the audience was told of), hoping she would discover whatever it was you thought was amiss? Oh, if only Zed were still alive.
If you can ignore the hilariously stupid writing (and it gets no dumber and predictable than how H and M get out of a sure-death situation with Riza), you will enjoy really good performances from Hemsworth and Thompson, with an assist from Kumail Nanjiani (voicing a tiny little sidekick alien named Pawny). The three of them keep this movie from being the diaper blowout it was desperately trying to be.
Rating: Ask for all but two dollars back, because…damn.