6

In the movie, multiple people made reference to him being less competent, changed, worse in some way.

But, he was generally very competent throughout the movie, fighting aliens, finding useful allies to help them solve problems, and the only times he failed was in a fist fight vs an alien and other times when his fellow (not changed) Tessa Thompson also failed. He didn't drunkenly forget what he was doing or get distracted while seducing someone.

So, what was the movie trying to say had changed about him? What was his actual incompetence or failure that the big blue alien detected in him that was not present in Tessa? I've heard about script rewrites, was he less competent in other script versions or something?

  • The movie tried to fool us that he was the mole in Men In Black or maybe compromised by the hive. – Captain Cold Oct 22 at 7:44
7

I think the implication is that although H thinks that he was successful in repelling the Hive "with nothing but his wits and a Series-7 de-atomiser", he was in fact...

... entirely unsuccessful, with his mentor (and father figure High-T) effectively being killed in the process.

What we're seeing is the result of an internal mental conflict between his overt memory of success and his hidden memory of failure as well as the fact that he now has to work every day, taking orders from...

his sworn enemy, walking around in a meatsuit made out of his pseudo-dad.

In his own words, he's gone from being a model agent to being a loose cannon.

"My character certainly does things his own way and is reckless in his approach. He certainly doesn’t take advice from others, he works alone usually"

‘Men In Black: International’ Stars Tessa Thompson & Chris Hemsworth on Their ‘Thor’ Reunion and Alien Gunplay

and

"My character’s a little unhinged and a little nutty,” he laughs. “He certainly has a style and a way of doing things that’s pretty unorthodox and not really by the book. And he sort of gets away with it because he gets results…"

New Men in Black: International Image and Character Descriptions


The film's official novelisation also offers some commentary.

In the years since he and High T had saved the world in Paris, something had changed in H. Something indefinable about his demeanor. Some of the light had gone out of his eyes.

and

H shook his head, looking into the fire. “You know—” he sounded just as irritated as Em “—I’m actually getting pretty sick of everyone giving me this ‘I’ve changed’ crap.”
“Are you saying you’ve always been obstinate, arrogant, and reckless?” Em asked.

  • This better explains what the intention was- that he generally works alone, and uses unusual methods and has an emotional conflict from the neuralyzer. I definitely think that point could have been handled better, since he immediately teamed up with someone and worked well with them, and they both quickly became off the books workers who fought against MIB, but I can see what they were going for with the help of the novelization comments. – Nepene Nep Sep 3 at 14:07
  • @NepeneNep - I think you've hit the nail squarely on the head. They're trying to keep this a comedy while at the same time having a man who should be in emotional torment. They had a similar situation in Doctor Who and they had one of the characters periodically start crying for no reason. – Valorum Sep 3 at 15:05
  • Almost makes sense, except the issue never seems to come up anywhere else with their rampant use of neuralyzers. There's a deleted scene that touches on this, from the moment after H has apparently disturbing sex with the tentacled alien woman: H writes a message to himself on a mirror to just walk out of the room without looking back, then neuralyzes himself to apparently wipe away the memory. – jeffronicus Oct 22 at 17:33
5

The central story of Agent H is that he gained renown for repelling the invasion of The Hive with High T, and that he has not done anything as impressive since then, and is now largely known for his bad behavior, with High T covering for him. Since he's never done anything quite as impressive since then, he's seen as having peaked, worse than he was before. Secondly, on a personal level, he's become a worse person, arrogant and abrasive.

Through the film, he's shown to be competent, but this was not behavior others had seen and, since they already knew him as a guy who didn't really do much of anything of note since his one big success, any competence is seen more as a fluke than of him actually being skilled.

As regards the Vungus the Ugly, I don't think it was his competence that was detected, but rather his memory loss from the Eiffel Tower incident where

High T was mind-controlled by The Hive and neuralyzed Agent H to prevent him from remembering. Whether Vungus knew that Agent H was potentially contaminated by The Hive, or simply distrusted this gap in his brain, they did not trust Agent H with the crystal weapon.

  • So, it's just something about him being vaguely abrasive? Blue alien dude said he'd changed- did High T manage to make him look more trustworthy before or something? – Nepene Nep Sep 2 at 23:15
  • Ah, I forgot to address Vungus. I've added a sentence. – FuzzyBoots Sep 3 at 0:21

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