Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

It takes two to tango…

[THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS OR MAJOR PLOT DETAILS IN THIS REVIEW, ONLY WHAT WAS REVEALED IN TRAILERS AND INTERVIEWS]

If anyone has any suggestions for how to survive 8 whole months without an MCU movie, I’m open to ideas. Mr. Stark, I don’t feel so good…

Ant-Man and the Wasp is the 20th installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe and is a direct sequel to Ant-Man (2015), both movies being directed by Peyton Reed. It also serves as a nice catch-up with Scott Lang himself after the last time we see him in Captain America: Civil War (2016). We pick up with Scott on a house-arrest as punishment for being involved in Captain America’s crusade that violated the Sokovia Accords. Not only does this lead to a fallout between him, Hank Pym, and Hope Van Dyne, it also complicates his situation of wanting to be a better father to his own daughter.

Just like the previous Ant-Man movie, this one feels like a huge breath of fresh air after the MCU just came off of a much more intense movie, and it also does what I liked about the last one where it touches on how the drama of such larger than life figures like the Avengers can affect regular people like Scott who are just trying to do better. Its why I appreciate that the MCU went with Scott Lang instead of Hank Pym as their designated Ant-Man, as I feel Hank would’ve just been “science bros” with Tony Stark and Bruce Banner, or be too similar of a character.

So how does the actual movie stack up in a year where Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War already have made their impact on audiences and the box office? Admittedly, it is tough to keep up the momentum from two groundbreaking films such as those, but Ant-Man and the Wasp succeeds in giving us a positive, fun, and real look into its themes of family, partnership, and friendship. There no other way to put it: This has probably been the most successful year for Marvel Studios creatively and financially.

To get some criticisms out of the way first, the movie follows multiple “antagonists” (not to be confused with henchmen, they actually had their own agendas) to go along with the main one, which fell a little flat for me in a year where we got such focused villains as Killmonger and Thanos. Its not that having multiple is a bad thing, but the movie had Hannah John-Kamen acting incredibly well alongside Laurence Fishburne, only to spend time with Walton Goggins playing a throwaway “bad guy” with poor motivation. I would’ve rather spent that time exploring the dynamic between the other two or giving the time to Randall Park’s FBI character, who knocked it out of the park for the comedic aspect of the movie. The best thing done by Goggins’ character was the set-up for Luis (Micheal Pena) to go on one of his signature monologues, which was even funnier than the ones he does in the previous Ant-Man.

Piggybacking off of that point, I think most of the actors disappeared into their characters in this one and that really made the movie keep its positive and up-beat momentum. Paul Rudd is fantastic as always, but I have to give major props to Abby Ryder Fortson, who plays Scott’s daughter Cassie. All of her scenes with Paul Rudd made the audience feel like their father-daughter dynamic was real. Evangeline Lily played Hope with less of a “faux-intense” feel and seemed more present as a character. I also liked Scott’s “crew” of Luis, Kurt, and Dave more so than the last time we saw them. Not only are their lines and delivery just better, but the humor feels organic in the sense that I can actually believe that these are three friends hanging out and joking with each other. The humor also didn’t undercut emotional moments as badly as it did in the previous Ant-Man, and there’s one scene in particular (no spoilers obviously) where there is a nice character moment that is being supplemented with humor due to the situation, and I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out at first…and it ended up being one of my favorite scenes after it was over because the choice of the humor made actually worked.

I guess my only big thing is that the third act did the “MCU thing” in the sense that there was a lot happening, it got a bit messy, and it was only carried onward through the elements of fun and some surprise. Compared to what we’ve seen recently too, this one felt a bit inconsequential. That’s me nit-picking, because this still genuinely was such a blast in theaters and I actually look forward to another Ant-Man/Wasp movie later on in phase 4 or something to give us breathing room after the dramatic closing of the Infinity Saga that is sure to follow. If that’s the role that these characters are going to serve in the MCU, I don’t really have a complaint with that. It’s nice to take a break from super-geniuses, Demigods, sorcerers, and assassins to follow some very human characters.

Ant-Man and the Wasp gets an 8.5/10

19 Responses to 19 Questions About Infinity War

The nerdy version of rap battles is cross-promoting blogs.

Hello everyone! I’m back from a small break from writing and podcasting and its only fitting that we pick up where we left off with Avengers: Infinity War. I’m sure everyone has seen it at this point so SPOILERS will be present in this post…but what exactly is this post?

My good friend, previously featured guest-writer (responsible for the Ready Player One Review), and fellow co-host of the “Overrated” Podcast, Uday Mehta, wrote this piece. It featured 19 pretty reasonable questions about the movie that most audiences who might’ve missed some context would have. As his friend and MCU fanboy, I decided to respond to all 19. I highly recommend you read his piece before reading this, but just in case you’re lazy I’ll be shortening his questions on this. 19 responses, here we go:

1. How did Thanos defeat the combined forces of Thor, Loki, and Hulk with only one Infinity Stone?

So “just one stone” is 100% not a pushover, as we’ve seen in the previous MCU movies. The Power stone is literally all you need to cause the kind of damage you saw in the opening scene. Remember Guardians of the Galaxy and the Collector’s whole deal where “even dropping it on the ground would decimate the planet”? Star-Lord could only hold it because he was half-celestial back then, so beings of that level of power (i.e. Asgardian warriors, Celestials, Hulks, etc) could survive, albeit very damaged.

The “Black order is useless” thing is because you’re viewing through the lens of their short screen-time (For Example: Odin is probably the most powerful being in the MCU but we dont see that in a movie, we just see old/dying/dead). Even then, we do see that Maw and Obsidian are heavy hitters, and Thanos’ ship definitely caught Thor’s ship by surprise,  so it does make sense why that’d hurt the Asgardians hard as well.

As for Hulk, his specific power is that he gets stronger the angrier he gets (in The Incredible Hulk, Abomination was definitely stronger at their base levels. Hulk only won because Abomination pissed him off hard enough). If you watch the scene again (now that you’ve done some boxing, which I only know cuz I follow you on instagram) Thanos didn’t give him a chance to. Thanos clearly knows how to fight and focuses his hits on pressure points to disable Hulk, and Hulk doesn’t really fight anyone insanely knowledgeable in technique like that. 

This next point is going to be huge in answering a lot of your questions: Thematically speaking, this movie is about the inevitability of failure and the fact that it doesn’t discriminate. Sometimes you absolutely must fail before you succeed. Every hero messes up in this film some way or another, in this specific case: Hulk was overconfident because he’s never really lost a fight (The Hulkbuster knocked him out in Ultron and Thunder God Thor would’ve won in Ragnarok if not for the Grandmaster’s intervention). It was important to show someone as reliable in a fight as Hulk get easily defeated by Thanos “having fun” (line from Maw).

2. How did Cap know where Vision and Wanda were?

This is also entirely possible and there’s a few ways to look at this.

This may be extra MCU canon released in one of the deleted scenes or tie-in comics, but during the 2 years between Civil War and Infinity War, most of the former “Team Cap” form a covert hit-squad (inspired by the concept of the “Secret Avengers” in the Marvel continuity). This squad was able to resolve conflicts in Syria and Lebanon due to Natasha’s former KGB connections. Additionally, it was established that Steve was friendly with Wakanda, and they’re more than capable of finding people who don’t want to be found (line from Natasha in Civil War).

Even if you say “well that’s all extra and not in the movie”, you can just draw the conclusion that they were keeping tabs on Wanda, seeing as how she escaped with them and probably helped them too. You can get this from Wanda’s line where she mentions “We both made promises”. Of course she would give her team her location in case things go sour. They still ARE all technically wanted fugitives by the UN, its natural for them to have some sort of distress signal. 

3. Is it time to write the non-powered characters out of the franchise?

Definitely not, as its important to have a variety of characters to work with so that they all have different perspectives and make a better ensemble cast. Yeah they don’t have “Superpowers” but they’re not just regular people either…they’re highly talented, specially trained, and gifted in what they do (think people like Nightwing and Green Arrow on the DC side).

The more important thing I need to make clear here: Spider-man and Ant-man VERY LITERALLY earned their suits. They were both specifically given to them by their mentor figures in separate movies. A whole different person owned the suit and had to LITERALLY make the decision of “Hm, should I give this kid my suit or not?” and they decided “yes”.

4. Did Tony seriously think that taking the time stone to Thanos was a good idea?

Honestly? He probably didn’t think it 100% through. However that’s entirely reasonable for someone with an anxiety disorder/PTSD like Tony Stark. There’s two ways to look at this:

On one hand, you could say that he couldn’t control the nerves and made a decision based on panic. On the other, you could say that he absolutely did not want ANY bodies dropping on earth anymore, and made the decision to not make New York a battleground again (when Maw first landed, Tony very noticeably starts freaking out a little which you can tell from his dialogue/RDJ’s acting when interacting with the civilians and talking to his AI). Or maybe he just didn’t want to get Secretary of State Ross involved, which he legally must do according to the Sokovia Accords. Lastly, refer to earlier point about the movie’s theme, everyone in this movie makes bad calls despite good intention and that’s the point.

5. Was it necessary to kill off Ebony Maw so early?

It definitely would’ve been cool to have him around more. It also would’ve been cool to have at least half the Black Order stick around for the next movie. However, this is a director decision that also serves a purpose. Thanos losing his children juxtaposes the heroes not being able to part ways with what they care about (Strange and Wong saying they have to protect the time stone because of an oath, Spider-Man not willing to just go home, Wanda not willing to kill Vision right away, etc.). Thanos knew that this mission would cost him everything, children included.

6. Can we all agree that Thor is the coolest Avenger?

Shoutout to my man Taika Waititi for directing the fantastic Thor: Ragnarok. Objectively, yes Thor is the coolest Avenger now. I DO want to also mention that Strange was fantastic in this movie and deserves equal props.

7. Why did the heroes give away the infinity stones so easily?

Heroes are empathetic people who care about everyone around them, but they’re also regular humans that have attachments. Even then, in a situation where your sister was being tortured by your psychotic father in front of your eyes, I’m pretty sure most people would give in. Also, same concept and themes of acceptance, loss, failure, etc.

8. Why did Captain America not already have his shield?

Because it makes for an amazing hype line, duh. In all seriousness, Cap dropping his shield to Tony in Civil War is symbolism more than anything. He’s stopped believing in political leaders (think Winter Soldier, Civil War, and him telling off Ross in Infinity War), He’s not the leader of the Avengers anymore, and he’s giving Tony a piece of his father back (Howard Stark designed the shield) due to his guilt of not telling Tony what happened regarding his parents’ death. Which brings him to Wakanda: Cap isn’t the type of guy that’s going to ask T’Challa to make him a special shield. He already feels bad enough that T’Challa was willing to help out Bucky and reveal their location to Cap, he probably wasn’t going to be like “Oh BTW, lost my shield…got another one?” Especially considering that he maybe shouldn’t have had the vibranium in the first place, as its a Wakandan resource.

9. Why go through an entire post-credit scene with the Collector if Thanos was going to get the reality stone off screen?

The Collector was never really that important to be honest. This strikes me as a decision made back when Kevin Feige didn’t have 100% control over everything and they just had to roll with it. Also yeah I’m also not a fan of Benicio so I’ll agree with you there.

10. Since when did Scarlet Witch get that powerful? What exactly are her powers?

Her powers all fall under the big umbrella of Psionics. This includes neuro-electrical interfacing, telekinesis, energy manipulation, telepathy, etc.

Scarlet Witch is one of the most powerful characters in Marvel Canon, so I guess making her this buffed up was just a nod to the source material (read “House of M”, I highly recommend). I dont know how else to explain it to you. It is known, Khaleesi.

11. How strong is Ironman really?

So a big side-effect of Tony’s anxiety disorder is that (since the battle of NY) he’s constantly making new and improved suits because he’s preparing for the inevitable doomsday that no one else seems to understand (see Iron Man 3 and Ultron). He stopped making sentry bots because they all got hacked by Ultron, so he presumably just started improving suits. Civil War takes place in 2016, with Infinity War taking place in 2018. Since that time, Tony has had a lot of time (all the threats we see in movies before were confined to one area) to work on this AND Wakanda opened up its scientific outreach center in Oakland in 2016 as well. Its fair to say he had the money, time, and resources to make the nano-tech suit (it looked SO GOOD on screen!!).

12. How strong is Vision really?

Vision is supposedly an S-Tier hero because of the mind stone…but unfortunately he kinda got the bad end of the deal where he’s written to be what the writers need him to be (I’m a fanboy for sure, but I can acknowledge error easily. Speaking of which…)

13. What happened to Wanda’s accent? 

Yeah it didn’t stick. I have zero ways of defending this. It happened. Wanda’s still great though!

14. Why did Eitri not have it together when making Thor’s ax?

Bro…the dude just lost his entire race and his hands. He’s probably reeling from insane survivor’s guilt and a huge lack of confidence.

15. Can we stop using time travel as a driving construct in these movies?

Again, I’m assuming this was out of respect for the source material, because the time stone is in the comics. While time travel is really hard to write about, I think the MCU handles it well, and while most speculations think that Avengers 4 is going to revolve around some timey-whimey loopholes, a lot of people are forgetting the Quantum Realm (from Ant-Man) and I think that’ll be the more likely construct since they have yet to expand on it fully. As for the “no stakes” comment, the beauty of the movie is that everyone with the plot-armor (aka confirmed sequels) disappeared and its really the people who are left that aren’t safe. Plus, I think the movie did its job because every time I watched it (4 times, no shame) people audibly gasped when Panther and Spidey disappeared. It was still an emotional gut-punch.

16. Why was Red Skull’s appearance necessary?

Well it’s the most plausible appearance out of the dead villains. Red Skull was transported to Vormir by the Tesseract (space stone) and probably tried to take the Soul Stone as well (the extra fan theory is that he became a spooky ghost because when the Soul Stone asked him to give up what he loved, the only thing he did care about was himself). It checks out, plus its nice to see Red Skull back as a comic fan.

17. Why was War Machine left alive with the other original Avengers?

To Rhoadey’s credit, he’s been around in the MCU since 2008 (albeit portrayed by Terrance Howard instead of Don Cheadle). Also, it wasn’t just the OG Avengers left alive, you still got Nebula, Rocket, Okoye, and Captain Marvel’s gonna show up. Hell, we dont really know what happened to Hawkeye, Ant-Man, and Wasp yet.

18.  Uday bashes Star-Lord for a bit

I have no response to this because Star-Lord is still on my top 5 MCU boys (Steve, Quill, Strange, Banner, T’Challa), but I will take this time to address people to STOP HARASSING ACTORS, YOU IDIOTS. CHRIS PRATT IS CHRIS PRATT, HE PLAYS STAR-LORD. Y’ALL WERE WRONG FOR DOING THIS TO KELLY MARIE TRAN, ALSO WRONG TO DO IT TO PRATT (although its much less hate than KMT got. Stay strong, homegirl. Toxic Star Wars fans are pathetic losers anyway).

19. Uday goes on about why Nick Fury has a pager to page Captain Marvel

Okay so we don’t know the connection yet because that movie is still filming, HOWEVER they have already revealed that Captain Marvel will take place in the 90’s, making pagers a legitimate tool. Plus, Fury wouldn’t have called her beforehand because there was no need to. Upon recognizing that this might be the end of humanity, Fury made the call instantly.

Dear Marvel Studios,

It’s been 10 years since you started me, and millions of others, on this incredible journey with the first Iron Man movie. From technically being an independent studio, to being acquired by Disney, to the massive success of every project in Phase 3…it truly has been marvelous (pun intended) to be a loyal and enthusiastic fan since day one. My friends keep worrying that the hype I have for every movie is going to fail me eventually, but it truly doesn’t…especially as of late. Make no mistake, this 18-movie (including the ones I actually dislike) franchise is near and dear to my heart.

You see I had no choice, growing up as a kid with no friends, but to believe in heroism. When I would go to school and try to fit in, and when it became apparent that I wouldn’t, I went back home to sit in front of the TV and watch someone like Spider-Man struggle with the same thing. I would read about the different comic book arcs and the stories of Captain America, the Hulk, Iron Man, and more. Thanks to you, now those same heroes are these characters that suddenly everyone is familiar with (much to my confusion and happiness).

I still remember the day you came into my life like it was yesterday, even though it was 2008 and I was 13 years old. That was an old enough age to know that most comic book movies before that point were massive piles of hot garbage, with a few being atrocious, and a few being amazing. So when my Mom told me to go hang out with some family friends for the day in another city, and when they said the plan was to watch Iron Man, I remember thinking “Oh, wonderful, this will be awful”. A few hours later, I found myself clapping after Tony Stark delivered the final line that still gives me chills to this day… “I am Iron Man”. You did that.

But we didn’t leave the theater just yet. All the other kids already had texting plans and fancy phones, and somebody’s friend said “make sure you stay after the credits”. I had never done that before, but I didn’t complain if it meant less people to deal with on the way out. I didn’t know it at the time, but that’s when you changed my life.

“Mr. Stark, you’ve become part of a bigger universe. You just don’t know it yet…I’m here to talk to you about the Avenger Initiative”.

I don’t know what reaction you were going for from the audience, but I immediately lost all sense of composure and started to scream. One of the other moms definitely thought something was wrong with me as I managed to babble something along the lines of this:

“OH. MY. GOD. GUYS, THEY’RE GOING TO DO AN AVENGERS MOVIE? DOES THIS MEAN WE’RE GONNA HAVE ALL THESE MOVIES LEADING UP TO ONE BIG ONE? DOES THOR GET HIS OWN? DOES CAPTAIN AMERICA? IF THEY DO HULK IT BETTER NOT BE LIKE THE 2003 ONE. HOLY CRAP WHAT IF THEY GET WOLVERINE AND SPIDER-MAN?? WOULD HUGH JACKMAN AND TOBEY MCGUIRE DO IT?”

Seeing as how you really only had the rights to B-list heroes at that point, the other kids could not understand me at all. They genuinely thought I was making stuff up about a team called the Avengers, and about an entire comic series based on a Norse God. I had stopped talking about super-heroes since the 3rd grade because that’s when they stopped being cool to the other kids, and I had just released 5 years of pent-up-fanboy on four teenagers who thought I was insane. I didn’t care. All I could think about was you had planned for the future. Four years later, you delivered.

My patience would finally pay off in May of 2012, the release of The Avengers. I had just finished my AP Statistics Exam, and immediately bolted to the theater for a mid-afternoon show. I still remember how much pure bliss I felt when I saw the shot of all the heroes grouped together, ready to fight Loki’s army. You made this thing that I had thought would be silly to most people, and it ended up being one of the highest grossing movies of all time. You ended up making my “useless” knowledge of superheroes be a “cool thing” about me instead of something I’d be ridiculed for. The best part? You revealed Thanos at the end, which confirmed my suspicions that none of this would end any time soon.

Six years later, I’m a bigger fan than ever despite being a very different person. You have made quite the journey yourself since then: The Disney acquisition, some very disappointing movies, trouble with directors and management, actors wanting an “out” of their contracts. All of this was then followed by a major change in management, followed by an awesome six-movie run of success, two of which I was privileged enough to attend the red carpet premieres for.

There shouldn’t be any denying that you managed to do something incredible and change the landscape of Hollywood. Even more impressively, you keep breaking records and getting new fans while many other studios have tried the same concept and fell flat. From what I understand, it’s because you care about these characters and the impact they have on kids like me. The same kids who needed heroes in their lives. The same kids that are still “running around believing in fairy tales”.

You’ve given us a character like Tony Stark, whose desire to improve himself and do the right thing will always be his strength, despite his struggle with mental illness.

Thor, who taught us that it’s not enough to simply be powerful, and that only with a good heart can we truly ascend to greater heights.

The Guardians of the Galaxy, who make us remember that it is always better to take on the world with your best friends by your side.

You’ve given us characters that prove that even a regular human can stand amongst Gods.

You’ve given the spotlight to strong women, young adults, and POCs, and even highlighted some philosophies in my own faith.

Finally, and most important to me, you’ve given me a personal role model in Captain America. Someone who will always stand for justice and is already what I strive to be every day of my life…a good man.

I know things are going to change after the “Infinity Stone” storyline is over next year. I don’t even know if I’ll be a fan of whatever new direction the universe takes afterwards. However, I will always know that in these past 10 years you’ve been a largely positive force in my life and that I will cherish this journey forever.

So, Marvel Studios, I guess what I’m trying to say is “thank you”. Thanks for growing up with me and inspiring me every step of the way.

Thanks for making sure I never stopped believing in heroes.

Movie Review – Black Panther

The Revolution will not be Televised.

[THERE WILL BE NO SPOILERS OR MAJOR PLOT DETAILS IN THIS REVIEW, ONLY WHAT WAS REVEALED IN TRAILERS/INTERVIEWS]

Well it looks like my favorite director and favorite actor are 3 for 3 on their team-ups. I don’t even know where to begin, that’s how happy I am. Here goes my attempt…

“Black Panther” is the 18th installment of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it picks up where “Captain America: Civil War” left off and brings the focus to the Prince T’Challa having to formally take up the mantle of Black Panther and King of Wakanda. In this movie, we get familiarized with Wakandan culture, T’Challa’s family and best friends, and the conflict that revolves around Wakanda itself. We really do get to focus on this country and these characters because there’s barely any MCU-extras in this. In fact you really don’t even need to be caught up to watch this one on its own. What seemed like a tall order ends up being an original movie with many conflicted characters that you actually care about, an absolutely phenomenal villain (oh we’ll get there, trust me), and it manages to bring social commentary to the front without being forceful or preachy. It all just works so well.

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However, most movies aren’t perfect (even the ones like this that I personally will take with me to my grave), and I specifically made sure to see this one twice to really be fair to it and anyone reading. I couldn’t catch anything glaringly wrong without nitpicking, but there’s a few technical issues that mess with the flow a little. This movie kind of does the “Wonder Woman” thing where that first shot of Themyscira (in this case, Wakanda) looks absolutely gorgeous…but from there on out the CGI takes a dive and its not “unwatchable” but its frustrating because we’ve seen “Doctor Strange” and how amazing the effects were there, so I felt a little disappointed in that end. As many of you may have heard, there’s a lack of action and big fights in this one. From where I stand, the first fight between T’Challa and M’Baku is a bare-knuckle fight and its AMAZING because they actually go for an MMA-style bout with punches and grappling rather than the unrealistic “Black Widow” scissor kicking and a million cuts just to get one sequence right. However, admittedly the final fights are kind of bland. Lastly, I feel like the pacing could turn some people off, because the climax happens intensely and quickly after a lot of exposition and fleshing-out. I didn’t mind it because I felt like I knew the situation well enough before the thing happens, but I think an extra 10 minutes would’ve made a huge difference (would put the runtime right at the 2.5 hour mark, which I don’t mind because the time used is well spent).

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So that was me nitpicking…and all that aside this is still the best MCU movie and in the top 5 Superhero movies for me. Everything the movie does well is done so ridiculously well that you feel satisfied and familiar with Wakanda because the world and the characters are built properly so that audiences can understand them. The movie just exudes passion and power and it really captivates you. Lets get into specifics:

Anyone can look at this cast and already be amazed, but wow they ALL delivered. I can’t honestly think of a single main character or performance I disliked because all of the characters and their different motives got a chance to shine and they all got to be heard. Okoye, Nakia, M’Baku were all fantastic, Shuri (played by Letitia Wright) absolutely stole the show. She does such an amazing job of juxtaposing being T’Challa’s younger sister with being one of the brightest minds in the world, rivaling guys like Tony Stark and Dr. Strange. The best part is that all of these characters develop and conflict with each other, because of the way Coogler establishes them early on, everything that happens after just makes sense and you end up picking sides but also understanding where everyone is coming from.

The film is so ridiculously layered and there’s so much to unpack, but I wanted to highlight a few things in particular. Yes, this is a very culturally relevant and important, but like I may have mentioned before it doesn’t preach to you. It takes you on this journey and all of sudden you’re hit with things that all end up making sense and gives the film an organic feel. On that note, the “Marvel humor” that so many people complain about also isn’t there. Any jokes made are very dry and unforced to go along with these characters, think of T’challa’s “I don’t care” line in Civil War when he wasn’t really trying to be funny, but it just was. Coogler also did his thing with subtleties and having a reason for all the small details, which just made me so happy especially when it was supplemented by Ludwig Gorranson’s score and Kendrick Lamar’s original songs. Even after all of this…I still haven’t gotten to the best part.

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Michael B. Jordan as Erik Killmonger is, without a doubt, my favorite part of this movie. It is always tough to capture a character who is fueled by anger because often times it can look/feel silly…but Killmonger brought a very real and relatable feeling to the table and was so fantastic on every level. This is a villain that makes the heroes look within themselves, and at his core philosophy…he isn’t wrong. He takes it too far, sure, but he just wants to help innocent people, and he’s so mad that the people with the resources to help aren’t doing anything. You’re going to have to watch the movie to understand, but the issues that Killmonger brings up affect Wakanda, the characters, and the Marvel universe going forward.

“Black Panther” is an excellent addition to cinematic history, and I’m giving it a 9.5/10; Wakanda Forever.

The Thing about Cinematic Universes..

Let’s ignore the fact that I disappeared for a few months because life is crazy and just go into a deep dive on Cinematic Universes. So I recently, like a few optimists out there, watched the movie known as “Justice League”. I also, like a majority of the population, saw “Thor Ragnarok”. Additionally, me and a few other nerds on r/marvelstudios spent weeks praying for a trailer for “Avengers: Infinity War” that was given to us last week and blew all of our minds…and just happened to break the record for most viewed movie trailer on Youtube.

I know that not writing reviews for either Thor or Justice League were very out of character for me (although not as out of character as Batman was…), so just to be really quick about it:

  • I loved “Thor: Ragnarok”. It was unexpected, the improv feel made me happy, I got to see more obscure comic book things I never thought I’d see on the big screen, sure it was pretty weightless on the universe when compared to the Ragnarok comic book but I’m fine if we goof off with Thor and Hulk before we get real for “Black Panther” and before the potential for a major shake-up in the next two Avengers movies. Lastly, Jeff Goldblum is a national treasure and I won’t accept anything less.
  • “Justice League”…I’m not mad, I’m just frustrated. There is a decent movie in here bogged down by unfortunate tragedy behind the scenes, bad production decisions separate from that, and absolutely horrible executive decisions. However, the more I think/talk about it, the more I actually do get mad because it finally became very obvious that whoever is making the decisions behind the DCCU doesn’t actually care about the characters and what they’ve done for people (there is an entire generation of us that grew up on the Justice League Animated Series). I’m sick of being an apologist about it, this thing was a mess and frankly I’d be okay if they cancelled the DCCU.

Between the overwhelming success of Marvel Studios (coming up on their 10th anniversary) juxtaposed with the potential $500k loss on “Justice League” for the DCCU, the laughably bad attempt at a “Dark Universe” by Universal, Sony literally making a deal with Disney so that Spider-Man can be better, and the upcoming X-Force from Fox that spawned from the success of “Deadpool”…It’s becoming obvious that studios are struggling and scrambling to achieve what Marvel Studios has. In this post I’ll attempt to limit being an MCU fanboy/gushing over my idol Kevin Feige to try and pinpoint why studios that are trying this “Universe” thing are failing.

(P.S: Vanity Fair published this article for the MCU’s 10 year celebration, I’ll be referring to it quite a bit.)

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Making a Franchise Before Making a Good Movie

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Take a good look at that picture. That was a promotional image released by Universal for their “Dark Universe”. Objectively it looks cool, especially the inclusion of A-list celebrities, so what’s the issue? This thing was circulating the internet BEFORE the first film in the franchise, “The Mummy”, was even released. Universal jumped the gun to announce and plan this multi-billion dollar list of movies…and the box office revenue/critical reception to the first film speaks for itself. Here we are now with rumors of the thing possibly being cancelled due to top members of the production teams wanting out.

It was pretty gutsy of them to go for the power move, but now it just looks silly. Its even more embarrassing than that scene in “The Amazing Spider-Man 2” where Harry literally walks down the aisle of Sony’s slated “Sinister Six” movie that we now know never happened and never will.

It’s great that you want to be ambitious and bold, even Feige took a huge risk with the initial phases of the MCU. Still, we come back to the fact that that first Iron-Man movie was absolutely amazing and is still the gold-standard for superhero origin movies, not to mention that the Avenger initiative wasn’t brought up once in the movie until the credits rolled. In some of these other franchises…the first movie wasn’t exactly great (“Man of Steel”, “The Mummy”, “The Amazing Spider-Man”) and felt the need to rub their non-existent franchise in your face. It was a “start smaller and build” strategy for Marvel, versus a “We have a Franchise coming up, the first movie will be out in a year” strategy for the others, and that is a HUGE difference when it comes to building fans as well.

Overreacting and Overcorrecting

If you’ve been paying attention, you might remember that a very common theme in production for the DCCU movies included extensive re-shoots and even re-writes. Justice League had to go through so many changes that they had to use CGI to remove Superman’s mustache that actor Henry Cavill needed for another role. The “Suicide Squad” script was heavily revised after the accidental enormous success of Fox’s “Deadpool”, and a ton of movies were announced and had casting rumors after response to “Batman vs Superman” and “Suicide Squad”, notably an Affleck directed Batman movie and a possible Gotham City Sirens movie starring Margot Robbie. At some point, it felt like DC was making it up as they went along and that isn’t on accident.

By changing their scripts, movies, and production plans on a whim, Warner Bros. showed us that this giant narrative they’re trying to accomplish wasn’t being given much thought. Rather, they were being extremely reactionary to the criticism and little praise their movies got. Now obviously things change for studios and it is good to cut what isn’t working and what is, but it’s like they would open up Facebook the day after their movie showed, compile every stupid comment they could find, and make huge executive decisions off of those.

For example: Suicide Squad’s reception was bad > but people liked Margot as Harley Quinn > Let’s announce “Gotham City Sirens” > What about all the issues about this movie? > They wont care once we announce “Gotham City Sirens”, we’ll seem progressive and it’ll be fine.

Similarly, think about the X-Men movies and “Days of Future Past”. Don’t get me wrong, that’s a damn good comic movie, but it arguably did seem like a response to the frustration behind “The Last Stand” and the success of “First Class”. If that doesn’t seem odd to anyone, think about “Apocalypse” (yikes) and the hinting of a very obvious intention to re-start the Phoenix Saga in a future movie…even though it would make more sense to do something new rather than to keep fixing Brett Ratner’s screw-up.

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Interfering with Creators

It’s such a shocker that the most successful movie DC had was the one where Warner Bros hired a good director and gave her a lot of creative freedom! That was sarcasm, that isn’t shocking it all. It also isn’t surprising that the less-than-successful MCU movies were the ones where Feige was least involved and Ike Perlmutter was still making huge decisions. I really don’t have to emphasize that the most successful comic-book movies had talented directors with creative freedom, that should be obvious. Yet somehow, bad decisions kept being made and in 2017 I got to see Batman suck in a movie for the first time since I watched “Batman Forever” (so many regrets).

Actually Caring

It warms my heart to read the Vanity Fair article and find out that Feige, like so many comic-fans/movie-nerds, is just an innocent fanboy with a desire to see his favorite characters represented properly on the big screen. That is the kind of person that should be in charge that rarely ever gets to be. What needs to be realized is that a lot of these characters that studios can “build a universe” around are all unique and can hold a lot of significance to a lot of people. Often times, people don’t even want to see a character in a live action movie because they’re scared it’ll be ridiculous (such is the case for me and Batman Beyond). So when executives view these characters as simple cash cows or good PR for their corporate image, it feels a little insulting to the fans. Again, this should be obvious, yet here we are.

Well that’s enough rambling about comic movies for now, see you soon for my review of *inhales*…THE LAST JEDI!!!!

Movie Review – Spider-Man: Homecoming

Stay until ALL the credits are over. You wont regret it!

[SPOILER FREE]

I’m just going to say it: Aunt May can babysit me any time.

Now that I got that out of the way, “Spider-Man: Homecoming”! Wow, I can’t believe we finally got here…the beloved web-slinger is finally in the Marvel Cinematic Universe with his own movie. You all know my thoughts on past Spider-Man movies and on Tom Holland already from my previous few posts, so we can dive straight in to this review.

This was a very fun, light hearted, character focused, coming-of-age story for the character of Spider-Man. It was the type of movie that could get you to smile solely off of its charm and vibe. Admittedly I had to sleep on this one to really figure out where I stand, and I hope that my audience understands that I’m extra critical when it comes to characters like Spider-Man and Batman because of how much they’ve done for me (hell, if we EVER got a Batman-Beyond movie, that would probably be my biggest challenge as an aspiring critic). While I will NOT say this is a better movie than Sam Raimi’s “Spider-Man 2”, I will say this is the best Spider-Man movie we’ve gotten in the 13 years since Raimi’s second one came out.

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Peter is actually a sophomore in high school throughout this entire movie, and its fantastic. My favorite parts about this movie were all the grounded moments between the characters that impact Peter’s life: Ned, Aunt May, Liz, Flash, and Michelle…they were all great and it really felt like “high school” to me. Peter has high school problems while trying to balance being Spider-Man, and wants to do MORE as Spider-Man so he can be over high school already, and I felt like that was a very important trait/arc that they gave his character. I’ve already mentioned that I love Holland, but this casting for the supporting characters was also fantastic. Holland’s chemistry with Jacob Batalon (Ned) was absolutely perfect, Zendaya did what she had to do well with her character of Michelle, I loved Laura Harrier as Liz, and yes…I even liked Tony Revolori as Flash. While some might see these moments as a drag in the first two acts, I thoroughly enjoyed them, as they helped establish a young Spider-Man with a bright future.

Like I mentioned, this was just a very fun movie, and despite how cliche the “MCU snark” is getting, I actually laughed a lot during this movie. It wasn’t even because Spider-Man himself was a funny character (he was, don’t worry) but it was because of the right type and amount of jokes they threw in there that were out of the ordinary and matched the setting. For example, Hannibal Buress plays a gym teacher that shows a video of Captain America talking to the kids about a fitness challenge, and he makes a side-comment saying “I’m pretty sure this guy is a war criminal but whatever I have to show this” and I lost it. Even that stupid moment of “SPIDEY, DO A FLIP!” had so much charm to it, and I like that they catered the humor to the character’s situations rather than just having people throw quip after quip at each other.

Let’s talk about Michael Keaton and his character of the Vulture…Wow. The early reviews were right, Keaton gives us one of the best MCU villains we’ve seen (not that hard to do, but still). I was a little worried because Adrian Toomes is a tough character to make impactful throughout an entire movie, but they actually made it work by making him one of the people affected by the Avenger’s shenanigans. It was a good decision because while Toomes and his operation started because of unfair treatment by the Government and the Avengers, it related to the smaller scale of New York and made sense why Spidey would deal with this instead of SHIELD or something…because we forget that when he’s doing his own thing, Spider-Man IS a street-level hero. We get a relatable hero and villain with depth, and we get a lot of insight in to their motives and what makes them tick.

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Because this is Spidey’s “Homecoming” (haaaa) to the MCU, there are MCU references everywhere. Hell, there are even Spider-Man comic references everywhere. This movie takes place a few months after Civil War and we get to see a little bit of an “aftermath”. Robert Downey Jr. is, as most of you know, in this movie..but not as much as you would think, thankfully. He has a presence as a mentor and that is it, there’s no epic showdown with villains vs Ironman and Spider-Man despite what the PR might make you believe. Despite this, Marvel Studios comes swinging with this movie to say “Hey. Guess what. We have Spider-Man now.”…which actually brings me to my cons with this movie.

While the “MCU-building” aspect is cool…at times this movie can feel more like a “Marvel movie” rather than a “Spider-Man movie”. We’re all familiar with the MCU setup movies that don’t stand alone very well, and Homecoming has slight hints of this. Spider-Man IS the Marvel Comics poster-boy, so I kind of assumed that this story would be more grounded in his reality than it already was. While the light-heartedness was great, the movie lacked a sense of intensity and subtlety when it would’ve been appropriate, and most of the events didn’t feel as consequential. This is where I veer off from what others are saying in me saying that I wanted MORE. There was one scene between Toomes and Peter without their super suits that has so much tension..but that was the most that movie went in that direction where I feel like it had more potential. Spider-Man is a great character and I feel like at some point, the decision was made to play it safe with certain parts of the story. To be honest, I’m having trouble explaining why I was so bothered at some points…but I wanted to get this review out as quickly as possible so I hope I’m making sense (edits will be marked).

Also, this isn’t really a point about the movie…more about the marketing…but DAMN, trailers really messed this one up. I can honestly say that the less of the trailers/PR you ate up will mean a better time for you when watching Homecoming.

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“Spider-Man: Homecoming” has its moments where it very much feels like a product of a cinematic universe, but more than makes up for it with moments of charm and the understanding of a different kind of hero. I’m giving Homecoming an 8.5/10.

 

Hype for Homecoming: What We’ve Seen from Tom Holland

Part 5 of 5: You have the right to remain silent!

So my first bit of exposure to Tom Holland was seeing him at the red carpet premier for “Captain America: Civil War” and I thought…wow…this guy is…straight up a kid. The dude LOOKS like he’s in high-school, he was 19 at the time.  As for his few minutes of screen-time in Civil War…he nailed it. It felt like the Peter/Spidey I remembered from “Spectacular Spider-Man” the TV show was real. I think Holland has potential to be the best Peter Parker AND Spider-Man to take the big screen.

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  • Right off the bat we see him as an awkward kid, meeting someone as iconic as Tony Stark. I always am a sucker for the little things, and what I love here is Peter eventually goes “Wait, so does this grant have like…money involved..?”. This kid is from a low-income family…and his 10 minutes of fame nails that. Not only is his suit kinda crappy when Tony finds it, but his web-shooters are really clunky too…suggesting he probably built it from dumpster parts like his other tech in his room.
  • I’m gonna just drop quotes at points because whoever wrote Peter’s dialogue understood the character SO WELL.
  • “When you can do the things I can, but you don’t…and THEN the bad things happen? They happen because of you.” Now THAT’S how you paraphrase the great power/great responsibility bit.
  • “I can’t go to Germany!…I’ve got homework!”
  • Again, small things..when Tony throws the web cartridge at Peter, he catches without looking…aka he’s already adjusting to his Spider-Sense (his most useful power, for those who don’t know).
  • So knowing that Peter is well done, now we get to the Airport Scene where SPIDEY is absolutely stellar as well. Amazing use of his wit, good fight choreography, the child-like enthusiasm…its all so perfect.
  • “You have a metal arm? That’s awesome dude!”
  • It’s all just so perfect. His lines, his reactions to everything, the subtlety of the spider-sense…even the “young-blood” attitude that Spidey would have at this point is accounted for.

Well, thank you all for sticking with me through this Homecoming series, and I hope that you (much like I am) are very HYPED FOR HOMECOMING!! My review will be up on Friday, July 7th!

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