Men in Black - WEB ONLY

This image released by Sony Pictures shows Tessa Thompson and Chris Hemsworth in a scene from Columbia Pictures’ “Men in Black: International.”

With seven years passed since 2012’s “Men in Black 3,” “Men in Black: International” hopes to serve as a soft reboot, introducing us to new characters, new gadgets and new alien threats.

Chris Hemsworth and Tessa Thompson reunite after their pairing in Marvel’s “Thor: Ragnarok” and since screen chemistry can be a tricky thing to get right, why not pull from a successful formula? At least that was the thought process behind this project, whether or not it accomplished the studio directive.

Thompson plays Molly, who seeks to discover the truth about the Men in Black after her family was visited by an alien when she was only a child. She spends most of her life looking for the MIB’s whereabouts, leading her to their secret headquarters, where she is then trained and sent to England.

Hemsworth plays Agent H, a swaggering ego-driven member of the UK division, and he has become increasingly reckless ever since he and his superior, Agent T (Liam Neeson), defeated an alien threat known as The Hive.

Molly convinces Agent H to let her be his partner as he tries to solve a mystery involving a world-destroying weapon that they were given to protect. The duo is then sent on a mission to keep the weapon out of the hands of their enemies and to root out a possible mole in the agency.

This outing has the pep and energy to keep a staggering franchise on its feet, but there’s something fundamentally missing when it comes to tone and its exploration of the pulp, sci-fi genre.

Barry Sonnenfeld’s perspective of this movie universe as the director of the first three films involved more thoughtful world-building and a satirical edge that wasn’t’ afraid to approach off-beat, sometimes dark or violent humor.

“Straight out of Compton” and “Friday” director F. Gary Gray uses many of the same ingredients here, but he doesn’t seem to know the correct proportions, resulting in a lighter, bouncier affair that divorces the franchise from its subversive conversation with traditional B-Movie culture.

Gray similarly missed the mark with “Be Cool,” his fluffy sequel to Sonnenfeld’s terrific gangster comedy “Get Shorty.” Perhaps studios would be wise to realize these two filmmakers are aesthetically opposed and should not be helming projects that are supposed to take place in the same movie worlds.

While Tessa Thompson is an interesting actress and she’s giving a hungry performance here, her character seems underwritten and lacks a sense of personal struggle. Whereas Will Smith’s role in the first “Men in Black” was that of a fish-out-of-water, creating much of the space for comedy,

Thompson’s Agent-M joins with prior knowledge of the organization and adapts to every new weird occurrence with great ease. Against that, we have Hemsworth’s over-confident bumbling slacker performance that doesn’t contrast enough or complement Thompson’s Mary-Sue archetype. The pairing is neutral at best and at worst, boring.

“Men In Black: International” is mindlessly entertaining in the way that all summer blockbusters are designed to be. Side performances from Rebecca Ferguson as the vampy alien seductress and weapons dealer Riza, and Kumail Nanjiani as the heroes’ chess-piece sized alien companion keep things lively enough to float you from one scene to another.

But everything from the lackluster screenplay, the tired attempts at humor, and the lack of creative vision from the director makes this installment utterly unsubstantial.Grade: C-

Cassidy Robinson is a former Idaho State University student with a master’s degree in film studies from Orange County’s Chapman University. He is currently working as a media journalist in Los Angeles, California.