Tag Archives: Superhero; Marvel; Action

Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

Now in theatres.

Honey, they shrunk the expectations! In fact the stakes are subatomic in Peyton Reed’s water treading entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (C). The titular heroes, their daughter and the family grandparents journey to the center of the earth for a curious adventure and find themselves battling Kang, a man in exile who has the power to control time and space. Most of the Pym-witted plot points fall by the wayside as lumpy logic reveals this is basically a shoehorned origin story for baddie conqueror Kang. The movie is not without its pleasures, especially Paul Rudd flexing his eusocial instincts for comedy and sentimentality in frequent sequences with his character’s daughter, played with pluck by Kathryn Newton. The other high-profile cast members, Evangeline Lilly, Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Douglas, get very little activity (Douglas is even cuffed in an awkward position for piloting an inner space jet). The new villain played by Jonathan Majors gets precious little scenery to chew. In a film that flaunts additional comedy firepower in Bill Murray (he also has scant contribution), it’s character actor Corey Stoll who shines in a funny bit part as a hapless henchman. Mostly everyone’s dressed up with nothing to do in an underground pageant of kooky rejects from the sister division creature shop of Strange World. The film has mild adventure and occasional fun but is not a standout in terms of story or spectacle.

Review of 2nd film in the Ant-Man series

Review of original film in the Ant-Man series

Movie Review: Black Widow (2021)

In theatres or available on Disney+ premium access.

The nuclear family of superhero assassins comprised of Scarlett Johansson, Florence Pugh, Rachel Weisz and David Harbour are pretty much the anti-Incredibles in Marvel’s new action installment. Also not so incredible: the languid pacing of Cate Shortland’s Black Widow (B), but this somewhat perfunctory saga still showcases some interesting backstory, a few well choreographed action sequences and some committed acting from the ensemble. Actually the three characters who are not the lead are the ones who contribute the most to this installment. The plot finds Johansson’s Natasha Romanoff a fugitive on the run who’s forced to confront a conspiracy tied to her past, and Pugh gamely plays her estranged little sister with dollops of deadpans. The humor in this episode centers on the sibling’s wisecracks about the titular character’s self-important poses and the witty dialogue of Harbour’s spandex festooned Russian super soldier who’s a second-rate mixed bag of hero and father figure. Shortland loves to pull back from her stunt sequences to show what an epic landscape she is painting on, but all the globetrotting still feels more surface than lived-in. There aren’t too many surprises, but altogether it’s a pretty sturdy entry into the MCU canon with action and heart.

Movie Review: Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021)

Now on HBO Max streaming service.

The ambition and creativity its original director intended before a family tragedy prompted him to eject from the helm of his 2017 version of his film are now on full display, as are the material’s flaws, in the 2021 remix of the DC superhero origins movie Zack Snyder’s Justice League (B). Told in six acts like a binge series in four-hour film form (the even numbered sections are best, by the way), this desaturated operatic opus reconstructs and recontextualizes the story of how Batman, Wonder Woman, The Flash, Cyborg and Aquaman unite to bring back Superman and defeat an intergalactic villain. The R-rated reshuffling puts more focus and pathos on some of the younger cast members, Ray Fisher as Cyborg and Ezra Miller as The Flash, yielding some freshness and fun amidst a rather epic canvas of reliable action film favorites. Most of the visual effects are glorious, some downright mythical, and there are some pretty compelling action set pieces even though the risks seem low with this breed of formidable fighters running the table. The solemn film’s zigzagging epilogue feels like a dozen plot threads in search of a next franchise. Overall the additional world building, newly rousing score and compelling clarifications don’t adequately make up for for a bifurcated focus and sometimes disjointed narrative that bogs down some of its subplots; but ultimately too much of a good thing is so much better than not enough of a mediocre one.

Link to review of the 2017 cut of the film

Movie Review: Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019)

Spider-Man: Far From Home: B

Director Jon Watts follows up his Marvel Universe reboot of the web-slinging series with the returning, utterly charming Tom Holland conveying convincing spectacle in the title role of Spider-Man: Far from Home (B), a worthy but overly busy Spidey sequel. This installment finds our hero mourning the loss of a fellow superhero while juggling a high school European field trip in which he’s looking for a romantic hook-up with MJ played with sass by Zendaya and battling emerging supervillain Mysterio, a mixed bag of a Jake Gyllenhaal performance. The teen angst is the best part; the set-up for the epic action in an augmented reality showdown is curiously half-baked. Holland’s Peter parkours, trapezes, amazes and teases through it all and makes this episode worthwhile viewing. The film is fast, funny and occasionally tender. 

Movie Review: Avengers: Endgame (2019)

This is the fourth of the Avengers movies including nearly all Marvel Cinematic Universe characters.

Joe and Anthony Russo’s sprawling and satisfying superhero ensemble Avengers: Endgame (B+) is likely the most emotional of the Marvel series. It comes after the previous film’s conceit of killing off half the world’s population, and much of this installment addresses how people grieve and marshal the will to move forward. Two favorite characters have some stunning physical transformations which are subjects of consistent humor. Characters’ witty jabs at each other are a franchise hallmark, and these too are in ample supply. Action sequences are rare but quite CGI heavy and almost seem perfunctory in a film more centered on human bonds. Jeremy Renner, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Evans and Chris Hemsworth get many of the highlights in a sometimes overstuffed narrative. Come for the action; stay for the interaction.

Video Review: Captain America: Civil War (2016)

This 2016 film set the stage for many of the events in Black Panther and the Disney+ series Falcon and the Winter Soldier.