Soundtrack Review: Men in Black: International (2019)

The soundtrack for Men in Black: International became available in June 2019. Composer Danny Elfman returned to work on the score, having also scored the first three Men in Black films as well. This time, Elfman co-composed the score with Chris Bacon. Unlike the earlier MIB films, MIB: International is set in Europe and follows Agent M (Tessa Thompson) as she worms her way into the MIB organization and sets off on a wild adventure with aliens and intrigue galore.

Regarding the soundtrack, Danny Elfman had this to say:

I have always loved scoring the Men in Black series.  It allows me to enter a weird quirky unique musical world that only exists in the MIB universe. Revisiting and updating is always a joy. And sharing this chapter with co-composer Chris Bacon was also a great experience.

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I have a mixed history with the original Men in Black trilogy. I watched the first two films when they were relatively new, but I don’t remember much about the music (understandable since I was going on 9 when the first MIB came out). I certainly didn’t know that Danny Elfman had been working on the franchise from the beginning, one of these days I’ll have to compare the score for MIB: International to the original trilogy to see how they compare. But I digress, let’s get on to the score itself.

One of the things that immediately jumped out at me about the score to MIB: International is how the music can seamlessly jump from traditional orchestral music to electronic music. It happens more times than I can count, and the effect is that it gives the music a ‘quirky’ sound that fits very well with the unique world all of the MIB films have created, a world where aliens are hiding in plain sight and most people never know it.

While most of the music fits the “action film” genre (fast-paced melodies, quick crescendos, and percussion when appropriate), I was surprised by how tender some of the cues sounded. A prime example is “Promotions” which appears towards the end of the soundtrack. The music in that theme is quite thoughtful (I’m guessing it comes as the story is winding down if the cue title is anything to go by), and almost wholly orchestral, which is completely different from how the soundtrack starts. The early tracks jump back and forth between orchestral and electronic music so frequently I half-expected it to continue for the entire soundtrack.

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And actually, I have a theory for why that might be (though I warn you that I’m working off my knowledge of the plot summary without having actually seen the film itself). Keeping in mind that the story starts with M literally breaking into the world of the Men in Black, I think the early quirkiness of the music alludes to M leaving her normal life (represented by the orchestral music) behind and jumping into the quirky, alien-filled world of MIB (represented by electronic music). That’s my thought anyway, it could be an oversimplification, but it makes sense.

I’ve heard that MIB: International disappointed quite a lot of people, but the soundtrack itself is quite lovely from what I’ve heard to it. I think it’s great that Danny Elfman returned to work on this would-be reboot, and if you get the chance, definitely check the soundtrack out, it’s worth it.

Let me know what you think about Men in Black: International (and its soundtrack) in the comments below and have a great day!

See also:

Film Soundtracks A-W

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