Movie Rewatch Review – Ant Man

I really used to like the original Ant Man. I thought it was underrated, charming, funny, and a lighter take on the Marvel Cinematic Universe. And that’s how I remembered it until my rewatch last night.

What I forgot: since it came out, a lot more amusing  and enjoyable MCU films came along, ones that made me laugh harder, thrilled me visually, and set up characters I cared for in a visceral, deeper way. Now, having rewatched Ant Man’s 2015 origin story after having viewed top of the line films like Thor: Ragnarok, the Guardians films, Black Panther, Civil War, Spiderman, and Infinity War, I’m suddenly underwhelmed. Paul Rudd as Scott Lang does what he can, but aside from his sweet little kid, I didn’t feel much of anything for anyone else. I cared more for poor Antony the Ant than the cast of people, which isn’t a good sign.

And the plot. It was just about another set of guys in another set of suits. Really. A guy of dubiously good morality in a tech suit, plus a clearly definite bad guy in a meaner suit, exploiting the tech. Am I describing Iron Man or Ant Man?

We now have normal guys in suits up and down the MCU — Iron Man, War Machine, Falcon, Ant Man. (Batman is the same, but hey, different universe.) I’m not sure we needed to put Wasp in yet another suit, but it’s a gal, so that’s new. Yay?

Some indirect spoilers for Avengers: Infinity War follows. 

Who else dons supersuits? Spidey finally has a cool tech version, and so does the Black Panther, but those are also dudes with legitimate innate superpowers.  And lest I forget, Bruce Banner now sports a Hulkbuster Suit, for days when the rage monster refuses to come out and play.

Back to Ant Man. What really sets him apart from the other suit guys are two things: he’s got an ant army, and can move back and forth between many sizes — from normal, to tiny, right up to gigantic (making him “Gi-Ant Man”), and then back down to the subatomic, in the Quantum Realm.

Now, let’s pick this apart. At a normal size, he’s really just a cat burgler with engineering skills wearing in a leather jumper. We didn’t see him do the Gi-Ant thing until the (far superior) Captain America: Civil War. His role in the Quantum Realm was so short that it wasn’t more than a cameo excursion. (Hopefully, in Ant Man and the Wasp we’ll get a lot more quantum goodness.) So, what did he really do in his origin story?

Well, Scott had a cool fight with Falcon: it was brief, but fun, and he was adorably fan-girly in meeting an actual Avenger. He had cute scenes learning to control the various ants and bonding with Antony. Um. Hmmm. He kissed a girl in an awkward transition. And the bad guy smushed some sweet little lambs, which I forgot happened and never want to see again.

So, what about those ants, anyway? I was able to stop the screen and write it all down. Keep in mind most of this entymological science is totally made up:

  • Crazy Ants (control electricity)
  • Bullet Ants (really painful bites)
  • Carpenter Ants (great for transport and flying)
  • Fire Ants (can get in and out of difficult places)

So when the critters show up in the next movie, you’ll know which ants do what, for what its worth. But what I’m really looking forward to is seeing how the Quantum Realm relates to the larger Avengers storyline. I mean, it HAS to. Because another stand-alone plotline would not be very satisfying after what Thanos just did to the universe.

It’s still a well constructed movie; it’s just not very exciting. I don’t mind a ‘small’ story — I often prefer it — but it has to be good.

Movie Rewatch Grade: B

Read more on RunPee: 

The Ant Man Movie — Sexism and Real Ants

How the Quantum Realm Offers Possible Insights to Avengers 4

 

Wonder Woman 1984: Actor News, Story Continuity

DC’s Wonder Woman 1984 film, scheduled to arrive November 19, 2019, posted a first look at Kristen Wigg’s villain “The Cheetah” today, and at this point we know very little about the role. The sequel/prequel plot will somehow be squashed between the bulk of Amazon princess’ World War I origin entry last summer, and her final scene fast-forwarded to the present day with a Bruce Wayne reference (Wayne Industries).

This isn’t even including her featured cameos set in modern times during Batman V Superman (released March 25, 2016) and The Justice League (November 15, 2017).

We do know Chris Pine returns as Steve Trevor (another pretty Chris, playing another heroic Steve…yeah, we know), and we have to guess: is he also as immortal as Diana Prince seems to be? Prince is from a race of Amazons, so maybe I can buy that. But I don’t think immortality is contagious. Also…we saw Trevor die in Wonder Woman, right?  And not in a preserving block of ice, like the MCU’s Steve Rogers, so…WTF?

Comicbook.com offers some ideas how Steve Trevor can return. (Clones, magic, time jumps…) Pine’s Trevor was infinitely likeable, so okaaaaaay….but with Superman already resurrected, the DCEU is on shaky ground offering  actual stakes.

DC is clearly trying to catch-up to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, but breaking their timeline can’t help. The MCU has seen heroes return, but they’ve earned their way, keeping continuity almost completely intact over ten years — something of a major miracle.

 

In any case, we’ll be going both back and forth to the future in Wonder Woman 1984. To confuse things further, this is set shortly after Lynda Carter gave us her campy/cool (but also iconic) Wonder Woman TV series from 1975 to 1979.

How all of this will shake out better make sense, if the DCEU wants to keep the slight momentum they garnered with Gal Godot’s breakout Wonder Woman appearances in Batman V Superman, Wonder Woman, and The Justice League. Color us confused and tentatively hopeful.

Anyway, here’s the first photo of Kristen Wiig/The Cheetah in Wonder Woman 1984, as her human role…possibly looking at a stuffed cheetah in a museum?

 

The Quantum Realm in Ant-Man 2 Offers Answers for Avengers 4

People are wondering why the big beautiful Avengers 3 – Infinity War is being followed so closely in the Marvel Cinematic Universe by, of all heroes, the Ant Man. With Ant-Man and the Wasp smashing across theaters July 6, we’ve barely had a moment to absorb the calamitous events of the Infinity War. Where, as you might have heard, a LOT OF STUFF happens. (If you haven’t seen it yet, GO NOW.)

Ant Man and the Wasp, strangely, will be the 20th film in the MCU. If you’ve been up to date with the Avengers, you might be curious why one of the lower ranking MCU heroes — who’s been on hiatus since Captain America 3: Civil War (on ‘house arrest,’ just like Hawkeye) — is the next star in this ten-year-old lineup of films. Why him? Why now?

Most people across the internet guessed that Ant Man and the Wasp was intended as a palette cleanser, serving up a comic, lighter fare to audiences — just like the original Ant Man in 2015 did for the heavier Avengers 2: Age of Ultron. But there may be more going on this time than previously assumed.

———-

Spoilers for Avengers Infinity War to follow. Plus idle speculation about Ant Man and the Wasp. 

It seems like we NEED an Ant Man story right now. Remember the Pym Particle, and Hank Pym, and the Quantum Realm (QR for short)? The QR wasn’t a huge part of Ant Man in 2015, but we do know Hank’s wife is stuck there, and that Scott Lang somehow escaped it. He should have been trapped, “forever shrinking.” There’s a lot we don’t know about such a vast, and yet tiny, playground. Fans have assumed Scott and now Hope (as the Wasp) will be going back and getting Mrs. Pym in their next outing.  Sounds good, right?

But what if the QR provides a way to undo Thanos’s big universe killing snap, somehow? Who else might know a few things about the QR?

Possibly Dr. Strange, who’s seen and done many “strange” things, especially in his own movie. He has a connection to space and time that goes beyond the Time Stone. And while he’s dust now, he did look into over 14 million timelines to see the ONE that works out for the good guys. Maybe he saw that Ant Man and the Wasp have something to do with this, on a sub-particle level.

Okay, who else might come into play? There’s the 21st movie in the MCU queue: Captain Marvel. At the very bitter end of the Infinity War, Nick Fury seemingly sends a page back in time to Ms. Marvel. What are her powers? Without using the comic books for reference, we have to assume there’s something Fury thought she could do to save the universe…and maybe bring back those who turned to ash. It’s possible the Quantum Realm, outside normal space and time, has to do with this. In which case, bringing the Ant Man back now makes sense. Maybe there’s more than just a need for lighthearted comedy on the larger MCU plate.

Movie Web has this to say about our conjecture: “At this point in time, it seems that the exploration of the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man 2 will play a large part in Avengers 4, leading to a journey through time and space to reverse the snap of Thanos. Time travel was the guess from most fans of the MCU, but it seems that some interdimensional travel will be closer to what actually happens in the final movie of phase 3. The real question will be how they implement the Quantum Realm in Avengers 4 and who is able to come back.”

In this piece on Movie Web, they explore this idea more, focusing on Captain Marvel taking her own trip to the QR, and tying directly into Ant-Man’s oeuvre.

Inverse.com takes everything a huge step further, implying that Ant Man might not be a second string hero at all, but could potentially be the most powerful superhero of all (we’d like to add that this doesn’t refer actually to Scott Lang, but potentially anyone using the suit to enter the QR).

Here’s what Dr. Spiros Michalakis, quantum physicist, wrote in 2015: “[I]f someone could go to a place where the laws of physics as we know them were not yet formed, at a place where the arrow of time was broken and the fabric of space was not yet woven, the powers of such a master of the quantum realm would only be constrained by their ability to come back to the same (or similar) reality from which they departed. All the superheroes of Marvel and DC Comics combined would stand no chance against Ant-Man with a malfunctioning regulator.”

What this means: The Ant Man 2 movie might not be as fluffy as it appears. The trailers look fun and silly, the posters seem light enough, and the first movie had admittedly smallish stakes. Plus, it was almost entirely comedic. But right now, things in the MCU are dire. Ant Man and the Wasp might be a sneakily serious story, and of greater import than anyone previously suspected.

We’ll find out next week.

Read the RunPee Rewatch Review of Ant Man

Ant Man and Sexism: Real Ant Science

 

Movie Review – Black Panther

Opening night at Black Panther felt like a celebration. All six showings at my cinema were totally sold out that night, and continued to sell out through the weekend. But, yes, the audience was ecstatic, completely into the event, dressed in traditional African attire, laughing, cheering, applauding, hooting, and generally having a great time. It makes me want to give Black Panther a higher grade. There’s nothing like a good party.

My A- is still a very good grade. But I honestly preferred the recent Thor: Ragnarok and Spiderman: Homecoming…those were better plotted stories, tightly woven with better heroes and villains, more sprightly humor, and people I cared about. This movie (an origin story that suffers by introducing an entire NATION of new characters) moved along so quickly that I was often lost, and didn’t get to know much about anyone. The title character himself, with so much else this movie had to accomplish, had surprisingly little to say or do. The actual Black Panther had more action in Captain America: Civil War.

However, Black Panther is a spectacularly gorgeous film. The cinematography, location shots, the CGI, the total aesthetic appeal — all was topnotch. There was an epic feel to the proceedings, decent humor (mostly from the scene-stealing Princess Shuri), and standout female performances by the aforementioned Princess, the Queen, the Girlfriend, and the General. The women were the best part of the narrative.

Wait, of course, through the entire credits. This is a Marvel movie, after all. The final movie stinger provides a long-awaited payoff.

Updated Note: With Avengers: Infinity Wars coming out this week, and Black Panther STILL in theaters, this is the first time we’ve had two MCU movies playing at once! I might make my movie day a double feature…

Movie Grade: A-

A Black Perspective on Marvel’s Black Panther

Black Panther’s Wakanda Fashion in the Real World

Read More Marvel Movie Features on RunPee.com

 

Movie Review: Thor 3 – Ragnorak (Jilly’s POV)

Thor 3, AKA Ragnarok, was incredibly engaging and hard to tear my eyes from. It’s now in my top tier of MCU movies, beaten only by the first Guardians of the Galaxy. Hemsworth’s slightly dim but mighty character is a joy, from his 4th wall-breaking open, to the mid-credit end, and the man’s got surprisingly perfect comedic timing. Who knew? Turns out Hemsworth really can carry a movie on his muscular back, with more than raw beauty to show for it.

I wasn’t expecting too much going in, but admittedly the bar was so low with Thor 1 and 2 (especially 2). The director used Thor wisely in his 3rd, and presumably final, solo film. Although it’s essentially a buddy movie about Hulk, too. Just like Captain America 3: Civil War is basically an Avengers ensemble movie, right? It works.

Along these lines, I have a few alternate titles for Thor: Ragnarok that I think would work even better (unless you are a huge Norse Mythology fan). List whichever you prefer in the comments section:

  • Thor: God of Hammers
  • Thor: Gladiator Edition
  • Thor: The Funny One
  • Revengers (like the Avengers, with added dysfunction)
  • Hulk 2
  • Thor and Hulk: Road Trip to the Devil’s Anus

What’s unusual about this film are the villains. They aren’t bland meanies, like most superhero supervillans; they’re actually okay.  Damning with faint praise, I know. Cate Blanchett does a decent job with what she’s given (I sense there were more scenes left on the editing floor). The Ragnarok fire demon was fine – he wasn’t intended to be more than a burning lava monster, from cold open to the unusual climax. And Golblum isn’t even a “bad” guy — he’s just an amiable meglomaniac with a harem and God Complex. He reminded me of The Collector. I hope we see them both again.

I do feel bad for Hela…there could have been a lot more depth to her arc. I guess she needed to get in line for scene time after Loki and Odin and Heimdall (who, thankfully, had something to do this time around). I’d be super happy with a Heimdall movie, for reals. The man was wasted, although the teaser suggests more to come. Saying anything more would enter spoiler territory, so let’s just move along.

Finally, Loki was appropriately used, and is more understandable — this director “got” what the God Of Mischief is about. Loki is like the “Scorpion” in the parable with the fox (Google it) — it’s true to his nature to sting. Yet he does try (when it suits hims, natch) to be a hero. He wants to be better, and if you recall from the first Thor movie, both brothers had some moral growing to do. With Thanos mad at him, we can guess which side he’ll lean on now. Loki has always been a scene stealer, as well as a PITA to boot, but here I’m fully onboard with his character. He can be a positive force, if he’s just accepted and understood — that’s become super clear, finally, in Ragnarok.

I’m really stingy with my A grades, and the last time I gave out a full A+ was the 2017 space cruise ship flick Passengers. Strangely enough, my favorite MCU film is still the original Guardians of the Galaxy. The blue and purple villains were underwhelming though, and I can only give GoTG a A- grade in good conscience. (I’ll link to that article when I write it.)

But, we’re still talking about Thor here, and Thor 3 manages to pull a win from their previously low Marvel tier buttocks.

And yes, I rank Marvel movies by tier: Great, Good, Okay, and Fetid…and Thor’s been scraping the bottom in his stand-alones,  til now. I credit the director — who also played the delightful Rockman — for understanding what Thor should be used for, along with Hemsworth for embracing his slightly slow but funny godhood (“Because that is what heroes do!”), Ruffalo for being freaking awesome in his dual roles, and for the writers giving us something happy in these dark times…YES. Thank you for the color, the fun, and for Goldblum. He’s the perfect weirdo to be the Grandmaster, and I hear he smartly improvised most of his lines, playing himself, as usual. Go Goldblum, go.

And now I’ve got The Immigrant Song, by Led Zepplin, stuck in m head. It’s a good choice, so that’s okay by me. The reprise was certainly welcome, and the audience clapped at it. I was a happy movie goer that day, and saw it this three more times in the cinema later. Watch it in the theater, and watch it again on DVD.

Movie Grade: A+

Want more? Read Dan’s review of Thor: Ragnarok

And our Thor 2 – The Dark World Rewatch Review

Or the Complete Compilation of Thor 3’s Deleted, Bonus, and Blooper Scenes

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Jilly’s POV)

RunPee Jilly: So, DC has its own cinematic universe. That’s fine: I won’t turn down good entertainment. I’m a geek through and through, and NEED my sci fi fix to sleep well at night. But DC has a history of being either 1. Disappointing, or 2. Really and Truly Grim. Contrast this to Marvel and the Avengers, which engages me, making me happy. Life is tough enough; my entertainment choices should make me laugh and smile and feel better about being alive. Mostly, Marvel does just this. (And DC vs Marvel is the topic of a whole different article. I’ll link it here when I write it.)

So, DC. Specifically, The Justice League. I’m old enough to remember the original Saturday morning cartoons about the Justice League, AKA Super Friends. I liked it then, Wonder Twins and all. Now, I’m cautious. Ambivalent. Waiting to see where things go.

Here’s what I’m thinking: we had the earnestly serious but ultimately depressing Nolan-version Batman films. Health Ledger made those watchable. Then we had some rebooted Superman flicks that were also dark, which for Supes is simply unforgivable. Superman is about lightness, apple pie, and good vibes, and making the world a better place. See Superman in the 1980s, when it was done right. Ya with me?

The new Superman made him unbearably moody. I understand a broody Batman, who is admittedly an alcoholic, a loner, and just a breath away from being a supervillain himself.

Then DC brought them together in Batman vs Superman – more grimdark stuff – and Suicide Squad, which was…okay? Guardians of the Galaxy it wasn’t,  though it tried. It shot high, landed low.

Finally, DC hit a home run in Wonder Woman. YES! It was exactly what we, the long-suffering fans, hoped for. Fun, a tiny bit joyous, ambitiously pretty, and sprinkled with humor. It somehow felt like Fantastic Beasts in the Harry Potter franchise (that’s a good thing). Of course, all three take place roughly in the timespace of MCU’s successful and original Captain America movie, but those are different universes, right?

This loooong lead in brings us to Justice League. Did it do the job, bring it, give us what the DCEU needed? Hmmmm, somewhat. It was definitely an ensemble piece with fun beats, good 70s tunes, and an amiable premise. However, the producers seemed in too big a hurry to catch up with the Marvel Cinematic Universe. It’s not earned, so I’m ambivalent. The MCU has a lot of groundwork and years on DC. When The Avengers came together, it was simpatico.

To explain: We “get” Diana Prince/the Wonder Woman. She carried Justice League on her lithe Amazonian back. We know her; we like her. She brings the action and the humor. She leads the team. I have no WW complaints.

The Batman? Hmmmm. Gloomy and underserved. I don’t have much to say on his role in JL, besides, “What the frak he was thinking to bring Supes back?” Oh, is that a spoiler? (Not if you watched the trailers.)

It’s been said here before: the problem with Superman is that he’s too powerful. You can only hurt him with Kryptonite. There’s not much else to say or do with this guy.

He also makes The Flash unfortunately redundant. Why have someone who can run fast when Superman can best him in speed?

But, speaking of The Flash himself: awesome. Admittedly, he owned most of this film’s humor, and the actor was up to the task. He’s clearly the DCEU version of Spiderman, and I want more. Gimme, gimme. I’ll be very happy to watch the standalone Flash film when it comes.

But then, there’s Cyborg. He’s a cipher, an Iron Man without the personality. I think he could have been better written. Next…

That leaves Aquaman. Superbly cast and executed — he needs his own origin movie. That’s all, mike drop, end of story. I loved the energy, the raw power he brought to the screen. What was frustrating: his character’s lack of mythological depth. What is the deal with Atlantis? What’s his relationship with Norway? Do fish obey him or what? Stuff was missing. In the meantime, I LOVED what we got, which was funny and engaging, both. DC needs to move up his movie in their queue, and drop the terrible pathos of Batman and Superman, who are frankly played out.

It’s not like you HAVE to pander to the fans, but in this case, give the Bat a break. Move on. Give us something fun and pretty and new. We want good storytelling, not another angsty reboot.

So, the JL movie was fine. A solid B, IMO. The villain was a bust, but hey; I’m used to that and have learned to ignore it. Steppenwolf was a low-rent Sauron from Lord of the Rings, but I frankly don’t care. Marvel has had its share of Macguffin villains (see Guardians of the Galaxy, my favorite MCU movie). So, I can forgive the Justice League baddie as a sucky ripoff, as long as the ensemble story works. Which it mostly does. (Oh, and the “Mother Boxes” — give me a break. Infinity Stones much? Come up with your own plot. Even Voldemort was original.)

Altogether, was Justice League good? Well. It was fine. Middle of the road; basically non-offensive superhero fare. See it in the theater, but don’t pay extra for IMAX or 3D. Joss Whedon’s involvement helped the banter significantly (you can really tell his lines in this – they stand out – mostly with The Flash, and Aquaman).

To sum: the best DCEU movie yet, coming in just a hair ahead of Wonder Woman (mainly because I loves me a good ensemble film). But, really, if I had to choose, I’d see Thor: Ragnarok again. That movie just slayed me, and I’ve seen it four times now.

Movie Grade: B

Movie Review – Justice League (RunPee Dan’s POV)

I enjoyed the movie. Not a lot, but enough. There was some decent humor — most of which revolves around Barry Allen/Flash. The action/fight scenes were fine. A few awesome moments here and there.

The actors all did a good job. I’d say Ezra Miller, as Flash, stood out as the best. Ray Fisher, as Cyborg, was good, but his character is so basically unemotional that it’s hard to mess it up. Jason Momoa, as Aquaman, was almost great. He brings some power, and not just the physical type, and he handled few humorous scenes well.

That being said, there’s a LOT that I don’t like about the movie.

First, why is DC in such a hurry to create the Justice League? I can understand that the studio/producers probably feel like they’re light years behind Marvel, but who cares? They have all the time in the world. There were five stand alone(ish) MCU movies before we got to the first Avengers. But the DC team just skipped over at least three standalone movies: the origin of The Flash, Aquaman, and Cyborg. Each one of those could have been a movie by themselves. Plus, a few more to introduce the mythology in the DC universe. Oh well.

My biggest gripe is that the villain is honestly plain horrible in this movie. Basically, he’s a big bad god type thing, bent on destruction. There’s absolutely no lead in. And all I could think after seeing the one minute of exposition of the villain’s origin was, “Hello, Lord of the Rings much?” Really, he’s a big bad thing bent on total domination, because he has united these three boxes. And after the three armies of Amazons, Atlantians, and men defeat him, they divide up the three boxes so they can’t be reunited again.

Besides all that, the villain is basically a prop for our heroes to crush, after an appropriate amount of struggle.

My last gripe is a potential spoiler. So scroll if you want to read more.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again: Superman is the single worst superhero ever. He’s just too strong. Once he enters the fight at the end, it’s like playtime for him. Where’s the fun in that?