Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) – Movie Review

antman and wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp is yet one more milestone in Marvel’s lucrative super-powered saga – one more feather to add to CEO Kevin Feige’s cap. Now would seem like a suitable moment to marvel (get it?) at the unprecedented feat this man’s studio has accomplished – that of producing twenty distinct, sequential, feature-length movies in a single decade – as we rest for a spell in this juncture between epics, and await the end of the MCU (for better or worse) as we know it. Who knows what Phase 4 will bring?

Tonally, most would liken the sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man, and rightly so. Here you have a unique corner of the comic-book world – one which hits upon a very light, very comedic note, which characteristically involves plenty of action, albeit of an especially breezy, upbeat nature. Egotistic quips and visual gags are vastly popular staples across the family of Marvel instalments, yet rarely do they let slip the more urgent themes so as to embrace the comedy so wholeheartedly as Ant-Man and the Wasp, loaded with laughs aplenty as it is. In my opinion, the sequel improves on the original, scaling up the jokes and gimics of the first, while shrinking its’ defects (whatever those were, as my comment was naturally played entirely for effect!). In any case, a fresher feel sets this newer movie a step ahead of the original. That being said, it shares minimum involvement with the greater goings-on in the general world-stage of the MCU. Hearkening back to its’ predecessor once again, one may expect a neat, isolated adventure set largely in its’ own, friendly little (or sometimes rather giant!) world, which, after a ponderous opening and surprisingly action-lacking mid-section, brings us to a really fun climax that includes most of the movie’s action, and certainly the most satisfying part overall. One of the harsher (and perhaps unfair) adjectives I could cruelly suggest concerning the plot would be the word “meaningless”. The story is fine – it just doesn’t impact anyone or anything else very much. This may irk some; it may leave others nonplussed. Only mind that this tale shares precious few links to the greater scheme which stupified fans earlier this year.

Two words on characters and acting: Michael Peña! This man truely does steal the show – definitely a highlight of the fun. Yet although the casting is mostly spot-on, the characters typically lack a depth and moral and emotional quality that, were it to exist, would elevate the film to a new level (I’m looking at you, Marvel). Here I blame the writers more for incompetency in forming characters with meaning and personality than I blame the actors. In our age of sequels, tonnes of characters are played only to a “satisfactory” level, filling shoes without bringing anything more than the bare necessities to the role. Certainly in this movie, but also all over the MCU, shallow villains and heroes alike too often dominate the screen. The characters are good – but not outstanding.

If you’re anything like me, you’ll find yourself humming that catchy little Ant-Man theme incessantly days in a row after seeing this movie. Christopher Beck’s score encapsulates perfectly the quirky silliness of the movie’s antics at all the right times, yet also displays a thorough command of the more serious-spirited side of things when needed.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is probably best described as a real “fun” time. Laughs and action in abundance make popular crowd-pleasers as the movie opts for a conventional approach which is likely to please everybody all round to a degree. While iffy on the morals, it doesn’t stint on smooth (and often amusing) effects and a catchy score. Other setbacks (depending on your opinion) may include some weak stunts and unimagintive scriptwriting. Nevertheless, Marvel continues to rule the box office and the hearts of fans world-wide with an ever-increasing roster of quality entertainment, which, given its’ size and complexity, approaches something like television show status. If my cinema attendance is indicative of the larger audience, then it’s proof that our favourite big-screen superheroes are not going away anytime soon.

 

7 out of 10 stars

……………………………………

Advertisements

Ant-Man (2015) – Movie Review

ant man

When I first heard the news that Marvel was producing a film about “Ant-Man,” I thought that there was no way it could be good. How could a movie about a superhero who can control ants be interesting at all? Furthermore, my doubts on how well the movie would do were further diminished when I found out that Paul Rudd, a comedian, was going to play the lead role of Scott Lang who would eventually become “Ant- Man.” I never thought Rudd was a poor actor, just not one who could pull off a comic book hero role. I entered the theater with low expectations, but left pleasantly surprised.

“Ant-Man” turned out to be a fun, different, and off-beat film. It tells the story of a master thief named Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who has just gotten out of prison and is trying to make amends and keep a job. Lang is divorced but has a young daughter who idolizes him. Lang eventually comes in contact with a mysterious man named Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) whose plans for Lang end up changing his life. This film develops each one of the main characters fairly well. It shows us that although Scott Lang has a criminal background, he still generally means well. It also builds on Douglas’s character as well as on Evangeline Lilly’s character, Hope Van Dyne, although in this review I don’t want to give away too much.

There are also many little things that make this movie charming. Paul Rudd ends up playing Scott Lang wonderfully. He delivers his lines well and plays the character exactly the way he should. Douglas is great as he normally is, and Lilly portrays her serious character quite well. Corey Stoll’s “Darren Cross” is a generally interesting villain, although there wasn’t much that made him stand out from other villains in the Marvel universe. The comic relief character, Michael Peña, is spot on. His character is a silly, small-time thief who is a friend of Lang’s and who accompanied him on his past crimes. Overall, the casting choices proved to be effective.

In conclusion, “Ant-Man” is a film that I believe anybody can enjoy, superhero fan or not. The characters are likable, the story is different enough from a standard Marvel film to make it interesting, and there’s plenty of humor, character development, and action to make this movie worth seeing again. I’m looking forward to seeing more of Paul Rudd’s “Ant-Man” in movies to come.

 

8 out of 10 stars

………………………………….

The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies (2014) – Movie Review

hobbit battle of 5 armies

There’s simply no denying it: The Hobbit is no The Lord Of The Rings. While cast and production values remain absolutely top-notch, the first two films in the Hobbit trilogy have proved disappointing, especially when assessed against the sublime trio of movies that first transported us to Middle-earth. It’s evident that the slim narrative of J.R.R. Tolkien’s source novel – even when supplemented with details and backstory from his Appendices – simply doesn’t merit an expansion into three unnecessarily protracted movies. Strictly speaking, The Battle Of The Five Armies suffers from many of the same problems as its predecessors. But director Peter Jackson proves once again that he’s an expert hand at crafting epic battles underpinned by love, loyalty and sacrifice. As a result, the final Hobbit film is (more or less) the best of the trilogy, although it still pales in comparison to what comes after it.

Bilbo (Martin Freeman) and the dwarven company of Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) watch in horror as Smaug the dragon (Benedict Cumberbatch) lays waste to Laketown. When Bard (Luke Evans) bravely manages to take the dragon out, Thorin regains the mountain kingdom of Erebor by default. He succumbs swiftly to the ‘Dragon Sickness’ – a hungering greed to keep the treasures of Erebor all to himself, refusing a claim from elven king Thranduil (Lee Pace) and rewards for Bard and the now-homeless humans. As a battle brews between dwarfs, elves and men, Gandalf (Ian McKellen) returns from Dol Goldur with news that entire battalions of orcs are on the march as well – signs of an incipient evil that might soon sweep Middle-earth again.

Truth be told, The Battle Of The Five Armies doesn’t have quite the sense of magic and poetry that so effortlessly infuses the Lord Of The Rings trilogy. Indeed, the script is peppered with simplistic dialogue, with many characters forced to navigate entire chunks of exposition or deliver less than witty one-liners. Bilbo and Gandalf, for instance, spend a great deal of the raging battle standing still and expounding on what’s going on around them. It also seems remarkably odd for a film weighted down with so many characters, including wholly invented ones like lovelorn elf Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly), that so much screen time is devoted to Alfrid (Ryan Gage). The vile right- hand man of Laketown’s Master (Stephen Fry) is clearly meant to provide comic relief now that the dwarfs are caught up in emotional turmoil of their own, but winds up annoying rather than entertaining the audience.

And yet, Jackson somehow manages to salvage the film from itself, in no small part because of the engrossing battle scenes and some deft character work from his stellar cast. The climactic battle stretches well over an hour, as the upper hand shifts from orcs to everyone else and back again, but Jackson keeps the action and drama coming thick and fast. Waves of orcs slam into ragged battle lines of men, ranks of elves swell and rise, and Thorin wavers between greed and honour as he decides whether to plunge into war or stay safely sequestered within the impregnable walls of Erebor. Many of the battle sequences may be technically extraneous, but it’s hard to care too much when Legolas (Orlando Bloom) – scoring his requisite action-hero moment – dances his way to safety over a collapsing bridge and takes out an orc or two while doing so.

Jackson’s cast – actors we’ve spent so much time with over the past decade – rises remarkably to the occasion. There’s stellar support, as always, from fan favourites like McKellen and Cate Blanchett, whose Galadriel goes briefly supernova in a confrontation which foreshadows the darkness that will befall Middle-earth come The Lord Of The Rings. Armitage lends considerable depth and weight to Thorin, who could easily lose a great deal of audience sympathy when he burrows further into himself and starts losing (and banishing) friends. Pace exudes a solemn, almost malevolent dignity as Thranduil, one which he tempers with a surprising amount of heart as well. For a brief, touching moment, the imperious king finds within himself the father he has forgotten how to be. Even Lilly, who is saddled with a made-up character and fledgling, forbidden romance with dwarf Kili (Aidan Turner), miraculously mines some genuine emotion from a fairly poorly-conceived and utterly fictitious love story.

The true triumph of the Hobbit franchise, however, remains Freeman. He’s playing the same archetype that Elijah Wood did in The Lord Of The Rings – the homebody Hobbit who’s small in stature yet casts an enormous shadow – but makes it feel thoroughly fresh. Freeman’s Bilbo is equal parts heart, humour and hero, and he makes it easy to see why Gandalf holds hobbits in such high esteem. Freeman’s scenes with Armitage, rife with paranoia and tension on Thorin’s part, are some of the best in the film, with a huge emotional payoff at the end.

With The Battle Of The Five Armies, the curtain really does fall at last on Jackson’s vision of Middle-earth. In the past three years, it’s been – frankly – a pretty bumpy journey. In too many ways, the Hobbit trilogy recalls but never quite manages to recapture the indescribable magic of The Lord Of The Rings. That’s true of the final film in the franchise as well. But it certainly comes closer than either of its two predecessors to truly making Middle-earth live again. The film’s final scenes quite literally bring everything home, and in that final swell of music and emotion, throw open the doors to the epic world that Jackson first invited us into over a decade ago.

 

7 out of 10 stars

…………………………