Review: ‘Ant Man and the Wasp’ is a Fun, Witty Entry in the MCU

A much needed, light-hearted film following Avengers: Infinity War.

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A much needed, light-hearted film following Avengers: Infinity War.

RATING: ★★1/2 (out of four stars)

The MCU has had an incredible year so far with Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War. Both of those films were very serious and, for the most part, some of the more darker chapters in the universe. They were definitely great movie experiences, but with Ant Man and the Wasp, it’s nice to go back to laughing every five minutes for a Marvel Studios movie. Even though the events in the movie take place before Infinity War, it was smart and necessary for Marvel Studios to set Ant-Man and the Wasp pre-Infinity War.

Let’s talk about what worked in Ant Man and the Wasp. Paul Rudd is perfect as Scott Lang/Ant Man. His wit, comedic timing, and charisma make his character very likable and easy to root for. He spends the first act of the movie on house arrest following the events in Captain America: Civil War. The writing uses this plot element as a great way to continue building the relationship with his daughter after the events of Ant-Man. Best of all, it explains where he was during Avengers: Infinity War.

Now if only we can get justice for Hawkeye…..BUT ANYWAY….

Evangeline Lilly makes for a good partner as Hope/The Wasp for Scott Lang/Ant-Man. She has some of the coolest fight sequences in the movie and she’s also just as cool and collective when she’s not in a superhero suit. Michael Douglas as Hank Pym and is about the same as he was in Ant-Man. The biggest difference for his character this time around though is that Ant-Man and the Wasp’s story is far more personal to his character, which adds some gravitas to the story. Laurence Fishburne is now a part of the MCU and the DCEU, so that’s pretty cool if you like comic book movies. Michael Pena once again steals the show with some of the funniest moments in the movie. Seriously, get him a suit and a movie of his own now, Marvel Studios.

There are two problems in Ant Man and the Wasp. One is somewhat minor and can be overlooked by most people, and the other is pretty glaringly obvious. The small problem is the chemistry between Scott and Hope. It isn’t bad, but the issue is that they built their relationship between the two movies. So, the fact that the audience hasn’t actually seen it build makes it difficult to believe when Hope gets mad at Scott or when they have a romantic moment. They had some chemistry in the first film, but without seeing it build on-screen poses as a  small character connection problem. The main problem in Ant Man and the Wasp is a problem that’s been around for years in the MCU: the villain (or should I say villains). They missed a big opportunity to make Ghost the main villain and one that we could sympathize like Thanos and Killmonger. After Avengers: Infinity War and Black Panther earlier this year, it looked like Marvel Studios finally got the antagonist side of their MCU entries right – and then Ant-Man and the Wasp shows how it’s still a glaring problem that has yet to be fixed entirely. And not only is there Ghost, but there’s also Walton Goggins’ character and group of henchmen that are connected to the FBI too. When you have this many villains, it’s hard to keep the core focus of the film. If Ghost had been the only villain, then Ant Man and the Wasp might have soared to greater heights.

As a whole, Ant Man and the Wasp is loads of fun and is laugh out loud funny. The fact that you’re either laughing or smiling from excitement makes it easier to forgive the movie for its flaws and issues. The mid-credit scene is awesome and the post-credit scene is simply okay. And yes, Ant Man and the Wasp does answer some questions from Avengers: Infinity War and ties everything together nicely.

Review: ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ Plays It Smart and Delivers the Goods

“The end is near.”

“The end is near.”

RATING: ★★★ (out of four stars)

In 2008, Nick Fury announced to the world “…you’ve become part of a much bigger universe, you just don’t know it yet.” Ten years later, we know just how true that is. Avengers: Infinity War is the endgame for everything we’ve come to know and love about the Marvel Cinematic Universe over the course of 18 (count ‘em) films. Sure enough, it delivers the goods in spectacular fashion thanks in large part to MVP Josh Brolin, as the Mad Titan Thanos, who brings a surprising element of calm focus to this otherwise gargantuan, universe-spanning, reality-shifting affair.

Opening where Thor: Ragnorok left us, Infinity War begins with Thanos’ destruction of the Asgardian refugee vessel with Thor, Loki, Heimdall and even Hulk on their knees; all powerless against the might of Thanos and his minions. Unlike previous villains, Thanos is not here to showboat. He is not here to prove himself worthy by defeating his enemies or rule over the conquered; He is here to bring balance to the universe by dealing death. Life, when unchecked, leads to suffering and overconsumption of resources. Thanos is the only one with the will to reset the scales by cutting civilizations in half at random. Uniting all six Infinity Stones will give him the power to reset the entire universe with the snap of his fingers.

This singular focus is what propels a two and a half hour long movie like a freight train heading for the end of the line. Without missing a beat, the Russo’s deftly blend each unique element of the MCU in such a smooth manner that is positively astounding how well it works in spite of itself. Layering in the humor of the Guardians with Chris Hemsworth’s now self-referential take on Thor; merging quippy one-liners from Tony Stark with Doctor Strange’s deadpan delivery of hope in the form of a 1-in-14 million chance of survival. From cosmic metallurgy to jungle warfare, we jump from location to location and one colorful character to another almost seamlessly. This movie knows full well the weight it bears and it’s signature MCU humor serves simply to help us carry on throughout because honestly, none of us could probably take a self-serious version of this particular tale. One standout scene between the God of Thunder and a Guardian of the Galaxy (I won’t name who) reminds us our favorite characters have lost so much along the way that perhaps we shouldn’t linger on the loss too long but use it to carry on the fight.

The biggest complaint most have regarding Marvel movies is the villain. Villains should reflect the hero’s flaws, point out their failings and contradictions. In this case, Thanos is not so much a villain, but a man on a suicide mission that the entire MCU must stop at all costs or face annihilation. It is this fundamental difference that makes Thanos more compelling than the vast majority of enemies faced so far. Brolin commands every moment on screen with silent assurance knowing that his actions speak far louder than any monologue or one-liner (And boy do they). For Infinity War to work in the slightest, Thanos has to work as a character separate from the Avengers and by Odin’s beard, mission accomplished.

Avengers: Infinity War is not just the culmination of Kevin Feige’s master plan to dominate the box office and fan-boy and fan-girl minds for years to come. Infinity War is the ultimate synthesis of a Marvel movie with their signature pop culture humor, mind-numbing action on an epic scale, with a slightly episodic structure overall that connects all the worlds they’ve been building. This is not the greatest superhero movie ever made; perhaps a tighter focus story-wise, singularly on Thanos, or even more inventiveness in the visual approach overall, would have propelled this film to such heights. Nevertheless, it’s a pretty damn good movie and it’s an absolute blast in the theater.

PS: Stay for a scene after the credits.

Frank Grillo Hints at the Return of Crossbones in the Marvel Cinematic Universe

More of badass Frank Grillo is always a good thing.

More of badass Frank Grillo is always a good thing.

Even though it seemed as if Frank Grillo’s (The Purge: Election Year) super-villain, Crossbones, died in last year’s Captain America: Civil War, it appears he will be back in some shape or form in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU).

In an interview with Forbes’ Simon Thompson at the launch of this year’s famed Halloween Horror Nights at Universal Studios Hollywood, Grillo dropped a hint that his take on the famed Captain America adversary would return.

“It’s great to be part of Marvel too, and I have three boys who are fanatical about Marvel, and I was surprised not too long ago because there is some news that nobody knows yet, to do with my character, that’s going to be really interesting and I’m excited about that.”

My only minor complaint with Civil War was that Crossbones, one of Captain’s best antagonists, appeared to have died early on in the movie, thanks to an explosion after confronting Captain America and his friends.  

But now that does not appear to be the case, according to Grillo’s remarks, which makes me both excited and interested to see how the super-villain Hydra factors into the MCU going forward. Will he be in the next Captain America movie (if there is one) or will he appear in another MCU project?

Either way, I’m just glad to see that it looks like Grillo’s Crossbones is coming back. Are you surprised (and happy) to see that Grillo’s Crossbones will seemingly be back?

Five Things We Learned from Comic-Con 2017

Sean takes a look back at the five things that stood out the most from this year’s Comic-Con.

Sean takes a look back at the five things that stood out the most from this year’s Comic-Con.

One day, I’ll make it out to San Diego to experience Comic-Con International: San Diego. One day, that is. But until then, I’ll continue to follow new developments, photos, and trailers that come out of one of the biggest annual conventions in the world on Twitter on my phone or on my computer in an air-conditioned room.

This year’s convention seemed to be less exciting than previous years, but that still doesn’t mean there wasn’t a lot happening at most of the panels. After watching stories from Comic-Con develop over the weekend, here are the five biggest things I took from this year’s four-day pop culture extravaganza.


 

1. Fox was the Biggest Loser at Comic-Con

20th Century Fox showed footage of the highly-anticipated Kingsman sequel, Kingsman: The Golden Circle, but what was notably absent from the studio? Their three X-Men properties scheduled to come out in 2018, including X-Men: New Mutants, X-Men: Dark Phoenix, and Deadpool 2. No cast videos from the set, clips/sizzle reels, or artwork from any of these three upcoming comic book movies? Fox must still be spooked by the 2015 convention when footage from Deadpool and X-Men: Apocalypse leaked online.


 

2. Nobody has a Bigger Presence at Comic-Con than Peak TV

“Peak TV” continues to draw in more viewers, dominate the social media landscape, and take a small bite out of box office numbers, thanks to shows like The Walking Dead, Game of Thrones, Westworld, Twin Peaks, and Preacher, all of which had big panels at this year’s convention. (I could mention many more, but that would require an article solely dedicated to Peak TV at Comic-Con.) Not only that, but a few of them had big presences outside the panels. HBO’s Westworld had an impressive Experience Center, which allowed guests to see the infamous point of entry, the place where guests select their weapons and outfits before entering the amusement park.


 

3. Warner Brothers Still has No Idea What They’re Doing with their DC Comics Properties

WB teased numerous projects in development via a sizzle reel, including Shazam!, Suicide Squad 2, The Batman, Justice League Dark, Batgirl, Green Lantern Corps, The Flash: Flashpoint, and Wonder Woman II. But where was the Harley Quinn-centered Gotham City Sirens, the Chris McKay-directed Nightwing, or the Dwayne Johnson-starring Black Adam in this sizzle reel?

And after WB showed off early footage of next year’s Aquaman and a great four-minute trailer for Justice League, what else? Nothing.

It’s puzzling, to be quite honest, that WB didn’t announce any casting or anything related to these teased projects considering the momentum the studio had coming into this panel. Wonder Woman had just surpassed Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 at the box office (domestically) to become the biggest movie of the summer, yet we couldn’t get an announcement that the woman behind it, Patty Jenkins, was coming back to direct the teased sequel?

While Wonder Woman is a big win for WB and their DC properties, we still have no idea where they’re going with their cinematic universe. I guess we’ll know in November after the release of Justice League, the studio’s riskiest movie yet.


 

4. Marvel Studios is Still the King of Con

Marvel Studios came in swinging, like always, and came away as the victors at Comic-Con, thanks to presentations for their upcoming movies Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther, and Avengers: Infinity War.

A new trailer for Thor: Ragnarok was unveiled and it looked like something out of left field compared to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet, on the flipside it looks so fresh and entertaining and is the first Thor movie people are actually getting excited about (myself included). While footage from the Black Panther panel won’t be appearing online anytime soon, it brought people to their feet and was arguably the best presentation out of any movie shown at this year’s Comic-Con. And finally, Marvel Studios showed an early look at Avengers: Infinity War – the movie, which this 10-year cinematic universe has been building up to. Like Black Panther, the rest of the world won’t get to see this footage until sometime this fall.

And on top of that, Marvel Studios dished out details and artwork from the Brie Larson-led Captain Marvel, which will take place in the 90s, feature a Nick Fury with two eyes, and have some of the most famous Marvel villains–the Skrulls.


 

5. Netflix is Coming

If there is one disruptor in all of Hollywood that is the equivalent of the White Walkers in HBO’s Game of Thrones, it’s Netflix. And this year, they made sure everyone at Comic-Con knew that.

Netflix is beginning to churn out its own original movies and they showed off two at this year’s Comic-Con, including Death Note (arriving on the streaming service next month) and Bright, the Will Smith-led sci-fi fantasy cop movie that Netflix paid $100M for and will release around Christmas time.

On the TV side of things, Netflix showed convention attendees Friday night the first episode of Marvel’s The Defenders, which brings together Daredevil, Jessica Jones, Luke Cage and Iron Fist from their own Netflix shows. Saturday, though, was the biggest day for the streaming giant, as thousands descended on Hall H and were treated to the first showing of the fantastic, thrilling trailer for the upcoming new season of Stranger Things, the streaming service’s crown jewel.

With big budget movies like Bright and original shows with so much buzz like The Defenders and Stranger Things, to go along with recruiting A-list talent like Will Smith, Brad Pitt earlier this year for War Machine, and Sandra Bullock for an upcoming big budget movie, Netflix is slowly taking over everything. The signs have been there that Netflix was coming and it won’t be long until they’re here for everything you want to watch.