Men In Black: International was released and every critic made the same joke

Matt Looker

8th July 2019

Attention filmmakers! If your movie franchise contains a unique narrative device that also serves as easy ammunition for critics to use in the event of a bad review, don't kid yourselves that they'll rise above it. They'll latch on to that reference like it's a personal gift from you to them. Thank you, they'll say. Thank you for making our jobs and deadlines easy. Because that's what good film reviews should be. Easy.

Men In Black: International was released last month to all the acclaim of a passable tweet about Brexit. Of all the faults aimed squarely at the long-awaited sci-fi comedy follow-up - the stars lack chemistry! There's no compelling threat! Where's the tie-in song? - critics everywhere seem generally agreed that the film's biggest crime is that it is... forgettable. Luckily there's an in-universe gadget that causes forgetfulness. It's perfect. For all of the MIB universe building, the only galactic occurrence that any reviewer cared about is the stars aligning for them to make this one gag reference.

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film is currently on a green splat total score of 22% and, out of the 283 critic reviews listed on its page, a total 19 writers joked about the neuralyzer in their submitted summary. That might not sound like a big ratio, but that's only the number that quoted it in their link to the full review. Who knows how many of the other reviewers made the same joke elsewhere in their critique?

I guess the question is: is the film really forgettable, or was the opportunity to invoke the neuralyzer simply too great? Is the film really that rotten, or did opinion about the film bend to justify the use of a 'clever' sign-off line? What came first, the kicking or the gag?

Let's take a look at the evidence and see if this joke is justified.
The film is so bad, you'll wish you HAD a neuralyzer!

I disagree with the logic here. Generally speaking, a film experience is never so bad that you actively want to forget it afterwards. You might wish you went to see something else, or experienced sunlight instead, maybe visit a family member, but you rarely wish you could actually wipe the film from your brain just because it was... a bit dull? Also, specifically advising your audience to do just this shows a blatant disregard for your readership's time and money.
The film is so forgettable, you won't even NEED a neuralyzer!

No arguments here. This is a perfectly typical format for the joke. A textbook "You won't even remember the film by the time the credits have finished rolling", but retro-fitted with an added fan nod. This is just classic, weapons-grade opinionising.
Miscellaneous circumstances which mean you should USE a neuralyzer!

I'm so confused. Anyone who sees this film should forget it before they see the next one? Why? To what aim? Watch this film, but make sure you forget all the previous ones first? Who does that help? The last one makes a little more sense, but murmuring softly? Why did you have to make it creepy, Peter?
You should INSERT a neuralyzer joke here because I'm not going to! Although really I just have!

It's 2019. We should stop with the 'Insert joke here' joke when it so clearly exposes a lack of an actual joke that works.
You'll notice, by the way, that we never got round to reviewing Men In Black: International on this site, which is just a result of us not seeing it in time before release. For what it's worth though, I actually thought it was pretty enjoyable. I can't remember a thing about it now, of course.

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