‘Men in Black: International’ Trailer Breakdown: A Balance of Nostalgia and Novelty

It seems like there’s nothing that Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson can’t do. They both proved themselves as talented actors individually time and time again — we recently named Thompson our Performer of the Year for 2018 — and we jumped for joy when we found out they were teaming up for this latest Men in Black installment. Their chemistry as a witty dynamic duo was already proven once as Thor and Valkyrie in Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok, and the first trailer for F. Gary Gray‘s Men in Black: International proves that they haven’t lost their touch.

The new MIB film serves as a reboot to the iconic trilogy starring Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones, but the trailer reveals that it’s still very much a part of the same universe that the prior films belong to. Yet its introduction of new characters and concepts keeps the franchise from feeling tired, and the elevation of its mission from a local scale to a global one raises the stakes.

Check out the trailer below:


Let’s dive into it, shall we?

We open the trailer with this lovely, scenic shot of Paris, followed by a sequence of Agent H (Hemsworth) and the head of the UK branch of MIB (Liam Neeson) tiptoeing through an empty building with caution and weapons in hand:

We can infer from the placement of these shots that Hemsworth and Neeson’s characters are currently completing a mission somewhere in Paris, immediately establishing the international scope that the title promises. It also gives us the sense that these two characters often work closely together.

Shortly after, however, it cuts to this shot of New York, establishing a new location, and the character we know to become Agent M (Thompson) is seen placing her hand through a chainlink fence:

These shots along with Agent M’s voiceover makes it appear as though she is trying to get into the MIB agency in New York. This alone begs several questions about the character: Who is she? Why has she been looking for MIB for 20 years? How did she know about MIB in the first place?

The following shot gives us some pretty important context that wasn’t revealed prior to this trailer release. The painting shown on the right of the shot depicts Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) fighting what looks like the giant cockroach-like alien from the first MIB film. Considering that this film has been referred to as a reboot, this is our first indication that MIB: International is maintaining continuity with the other films and that past events have not been erased. Could this mean a potential Will Smith and/or Tommy Lee Jones cameo? On the left appears what looks like a painting of Agent H and the UK head, the Eiffel Tower in the background serving as further implication of this.

Another connection to the original MIB films! We are now seeing that Agent M’s prior dialogue was directed at Emma Thompson‘s character Agent O, head of the US agency of MIB and who first appeared in Men in Black 3. When Agent M tells Agent O that the fact she was able to seek them out proves that she should be working for them, O asks if she really thinks wearing a suit will solve M’s problems. What problems is she referring to? Is M running from something or someone?

But, as we all know, Agent M gets to wear that suit. Agent O then reveals that M will be sent off to London, where they “may have a problem.” Quite interesting considering that things seemed to be going well enough that a painting was hung on the wall of another agency to memorialize work that the London agency has done. Is Agent M being sent to keep an eye on things?

The abundance of activity taking place in the London headquarters when Agent M arrives is pretty impressive. Aliens are being checked in and undergoing thorough investigation in every corner of the room. The fun, upbeat music suggests that the movie is going for a light and fun tone rather than a dramatic and daunting one and is suggestive of playing more into the comedic side of things, much like its predecessors. And of course, we can’t forget about…

…these little guys! The Annelids or “Worm Guys” are the comic, vice-indulgent aliens that were often seen in the previous films drinking coffee and making inappropriate jokes. They’ll be sure to keep things interesting in the new installment.

Neeson’s UK head agent then informs M that she will be working with Agent H, referring to him as “one of the best ever to wear the suit.” Naturally, this line of dialogue is accompanied with clips of H demonstrating his agile moves and full-on badassery — it’s clear the guy has skills. But secret agents can’t be fighting bad guys 24/7, right?

Of course not. Very much in the fashion of a typical Valkyrie-Thor exchange, Agent M abruptly wakes up Agent H from his nap, and even when she informs him that it’s only 9:30, he simply stands and says, “Perfect, Tuesday is Taco Day.” The pair’s comedic chemistry is already established in the first scene shown of them together in the trailer, giving us a sense of what their dynamic will be like. Based on their previous performances together, their humorous quips will probably be one of the most delightful aspects of the film.

Fergie’s “London Bridge” continues to play as we start to see different clips strung together of Agent H and Agent M on the job, continuing with the same tone the trailer has had thus far. But at the same time, the stakes are raised a bit higher when Neeson’s character speaks of being compromised and endangering the Earth’s entire population, giving a bit more weight to what we’ve seen up to this point. The film seems to be leaning into a balance of being not too frivolous but not too dark, which is perfect for an action movie like this.

Also, um, who are these guys? They don’t look very friendly if you ask me. In fact, it kind of looked like Agent H and Agent M were charging at them full-speed. Could they be the central antagonists of the film? Or are they merely henchmen? They could easily be aliens disguised in human skin, which is how most aliens in the franchise remain hidden among the normal human population. This is the only shot in which we see these characters, so for now it’s hard to say.

The trailer also hints at some of the cool and creative technology that’s to come in MIB: International, especially with this clip of a bunch of secret weapons revealing themselves as hidden in different parts of the car. Perhaps this is an ode to F. Gary Gray’s previous directorial project, The Fate of the Furious.

We also get various clips of Agent H and Agent M in some of the different international locations that they will be visiting for their mission, really emphasizing once again the raised stakes in this film. It will be interesting to see which countries certain aliens choose to reside in, perhaps for specific reasons based on what their home planets were like. We also get another great buddy-comedy interaction between Hemsworth and Thompson as they crash-land in a foreign country, with Thompson’s character hastily grabbing what appears to be a neuralyzer after her partner takes too long to use it. The addition of the neuralyzer, a device used to erase the memories of unsuspecting humans when they’ve witnessed something they shouldn’t have, was a great touch — but it’s unsurprising that they’re being used given the continuity the film appears to have with the rest of the MIB universe.

In this shot, we get to see another one of the aliens that the pair comes across. While there is no indication yet as to what kind of species he is, it’s been revealed that his name is Pawny, voiced by none other than Kumail Nanjiani. And chances are that if Nanjiani’s involved, Pawny is bound to be a pretty humorous little guy.

Also interesting to note is the brief gag shown where Agent M presses the giant red button in the car before the duo goes speedily flying up into the air. It’s actually another reference to the first MIB film, paying homage to a similar scene that occurs between Agent J and Agent K.

The trailer comes to a close with a showdown between Agent H and an alien where H picks up a hammer and hurls it across the room, only for his opponent to catch it. Anyone else notice anything eerily familiar about this scene? This moment is no doubt a Thor reference — notice how the hammer is shaped exactly like Mjolnir, the god’s weapon of choice. We could even take it one step further and connect it to a scene early in Thor: Ragnarok when Thor throws his hammer at his nemesis sister, Hela, only for her to unexpectedly catch it. If there’s more tongue-in-cheek humor like this to come, then this latest MIB film is bound to be a great time.

Although, let’s be real — if we’re getting to see Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson fight the evils of the galaxy side-by-side once more, what’s not to like?

Men in Black: International hits theaters on June 14, 2019.

Siobhan Spera: @siobhanspera I write about film and occasionally other stuff. Xavier Dolan enthusiast. Trying to read books before seeing their film adaptations and sometimes succeeding.