‘Ant-Man And The Wasp’ Review: Don’t Judge A Superhero(ine) By Its Size

How can you release ‘Black Panther’ and ‘Avengers: Infinity War’, both films critically praised by critics and audiences alike, and still release a movie that tops both or equals the quality of these stories?

Well, apparently, Marvel can.

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Because ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp’ isn’t only a palate cleanser after ‘Avengers: Infinity War’.

‘Ant-Man And The Wasp’ is a great film about family and unique personalities, something that the studio has been able to pin down to a point were you’re not even interested about the powers a suit might have.

The story takes place a few years after ‘Ant-Man’, apparently slightly before ‘Avengers:Infinity War’. After Scott Lang helps Captain America against Tony Stark in ‘Captain America: Civil War’, he is placed under house arrest, ending the close relationship with Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne. When Hope and Pym find out a way to activate a device that transports you to the quantum realm, they recruit Scott once more while making sure the FBI still thinks he is under house arrest. All three will have to go under several attempts to open the quantum realm to save Hope’s mother, who went subatomical during a mission almost 30 years ago. Under the way, they’ll find a new compelling villain whose name is Ava, while they also deal with a black market dealer and the FBI.

The film does a really good job at explaining the stakes at hand and retelling the story of Janet Van Dyne and her disappearance, meaning that even a person who never saw the original ‘Ant-Man’ could easily follow the plot throughout the film. The explanation that sets up the whole plot from the very beginning allows the film to never stop, keeping its pace constant without rushing every scene. As we go through, Ant-Man’s involvement in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ is constantly hinted at, so you don’t need to necessarily watch the film to know what is going on. A round of applause to the screenwriters who were able to handle this amount of exposition in a short amount of time and still make it interesting. This compares drastically to ‘Guardians Of The Galaxy Vol. 2’, who was never really able to keep the story of Peter Quill’s father in a compelling way to get rid of to many scenes with exposition.

Because Scott Lang is under house arrest and Pym doesn’t trust him anymore, we se lots and lots of Wasp in the film. This is great to show her abilities besides the suit, because it really pays off after all the frustration Hope had of not being able to help during ‘Ant-Man’. The initial action sequences are filled with fun moments, easy to follow through, and very well directed by Peyton Reed. The movie is able to handle subplots that keep the main characters occupied while still evolving throughout the story, especially Scott trying to show Hank and Hope that he still can be useful for the mission.

Very early on we meet Ghost/Ava Starr, a villain with heart. She is mainly finding a way to stabilize herself, not making her a real villain besides the fact that she confronts the heroes out of frustration. This villain is one of the most empathetic characters from the Marvel Universe, so much that it competes with Killmonger’s ‘Black Panther’.

This movie differs from the comedic moments you might see from Marvel films, rather than the usual one liners, the movie focuses on great visual gags, especially in the final action sequences. I laughed from start to finish, while the movie still is able to deliver a lot of heart. ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp’ couldn’t be complete without Luis and the gang. They eventually become an important part of the mission. And who doesn’t want a good story from Luis’ himself?

The story of Hope’s mother keeps you interested to see if they will be able to achieve it throughout the film. The family story is the through line that keeps everything tight plot wise. ‘Ant-Man’ was all about Scott Lang and becoming the father his daughter thinks he is. ‘Ant-Man And The Wasp’ is about Hank Pym showing Hope he still cares about her and he always wanted to protect her after the disappearance of her mother.

Two end credits appear in the film. The first one directly relates to ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and clearly shuts down a possibility for the superheroes to be saved. The second end credit is a fun one, but it also could show a possibility were Ant-Man and The Wasp could be crucial in the next Avengers film.

‘Ant-Man And The Wasp’ just became my favorite Marvel movie since Guardians Of The Galaxy, and it will sure win your heart over. Yes, it is another superhero film, but Peyton Reed and the cast has been able to create a unique film that departs from the MCU, balancing the personal struggles of the characters with the really fun action sequences.

‘The Incredibles 2’ Review: A Deserved Sequel That Is Just Popcorn Fun

It is hard to release a sequel 14 years after the original film and still live up to its predecessor.

It is hard to release a sequel 14 years after that feels completely different from its predecessor.

It is hard to release a sequel 14 after that is able to compete will all the superhero films that have been released in the past years.

Brad Bird did all of these with ‘The Incredibles 2’.

Believe me when I said this. Some critics will say that this movie isn’t better than the first one, and they have the right to say so. But they can’t say that the film brings many elements that lives up to its predecessor.

It is difficult to pinpoint how ‘The Incredibles 2’ manages to achieve so much in the movie, so let’s begin with some specific aspects.

It Isn’t a Superhero Film

Yes, The Incredibles are superheroes, but the plot doesn’t necessarily revolve around this. More than that, this is a film about family and trying to live up to expectations (kinda meta for a sequel).

Helen Parr tries to have a superhero life so politicians can approve the work of supers, while Bob tries to be a good father with all his children who are in different stages of life. Violet deals with the mood swings of a teenager, while Dash tries to balance school life with having fun. And Jack-Jack tries to handle its superpower but he can’t.

Every single member of the family is dealing with its own problems, which makes the film much more complex than the first film. The fact that Brad Bird decided to make the sequel without time jumps, barely a few months after the first film, allows for these conflicts to work. They are all relatable, making it the ultimate family movie for this year’s summer season.

This isn’t your Marvel origin story. In fact, the film makes the superheroes feel like they are just doing their job. This is a welcome idea because of how many superhero films we have consumed over the years that is just about the superhero struggling to use its powers, having an all-evil villain, and later saving the day even though he barely knows how to use his powers.

The Action Sequences Should That Kevin Feige Envies

From the very first action sequence, there’s a style and a pacing that feels fresh, original, and impressive. Every single frame explains the actions in a clear, directed manner that even ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ struggles to do in its big action set pieces. This shows the ability that Brad Bird has to strip down every single detail that confuses the audience, using the camera from different angles to establish the movement.

The action sequences that ‘The Incredibles 2’ delivers has a clear through line and art direction that make them unique and different. The fight scene between Screenslaver and Elastigirl is one of the most impressive animation I’ve scene in a while, with and art direction that makes it unique.

Which is exactly what many action sequences miss in other superhero films. It isn’t only about the action sequence, but about how you can deliver insightful information and make it visually interesting besides the camera movement.

In this area, ‘The Incredibles 2’ gets an A+.

Pure Pixar Comedy

This film has so much comedy without feeling like the kind of comedy you could be used to from a Marvel film. Jack-Jack steals the show when we talk about comedy, but there are many subtle details and gags in the movie. What makes them original is that the comedy relates to the story and the gags are true to the situations of each character.

The interactions between Edna Mode and Jack-Jack are one of the highlights, creating a unique relationship to both characters. This is a clear example of how situations could be created in such a way to create funny moments that have more legs beyond the simple laughter.

It Is A Genre Film, Not An Animated Film

Brad Bird has created an action packed genre movie while using animation as a medium. This is something that gives ‘The Incredibles 2’ its own identity. It still feels like a Pixar film, but it deviates in many ways.

A Compelling Villain

In a world were superhero films are filled with disposable enemies, ‘The Incredibles 2’ has a villain that has a clear intention that relates to the conflict suggested throughout the film of legalizing supers. Evelyn Deavor fights against it with smart plans that really cornered the main characters in compelling ways.

Popcorn Fun

In the end, this is a fun film for everyone to enjoy. Even though the plot leads to some deep themes, it all works in favor of the story development. Many people will consider it is a superior film than its predecessor, others will think it lives up to the first film. It doesn’t matter what you think, this is a well written and spectacularly directed film from Brad Bird, whose taste for action movies has been translated from live action to the animated medium.

‘Solo’ Review: A Space Western Origin Story

Spoilers ahead. This is not the review you’re looking for.

Let’s get rid of the elephant in the room:

  • The movie is good.
  • Alden nailed a younger version of Han Solo.
  • Yes, it answers many questions.
  • The movie is good, really good to say the truth.

Like Q’ira would say: ‘You look good. A little rough around the edges, but good.’

‘Solo’ is the first character driven movie in the Star Wars franchise. Someone might consider the prequels character driven, but there are many elements at stake besides Anakin’s turn to the dark side. ‘Solo’ is just about the smuggler and his adventures that slowly turned him into the cynical guy we meet at the Mos Eisley Cantina. Even though it is an origin story, it doesn’t take the character as seriously, except when filling some gaps of his background.

While ‘Rogue One’ was focused on a big war event, ‘Solo’ goes the other way. Gone are the Rebellion and the Empire. Prepare to embark on some fun adventures that aren’t really important for the main events of the saga, but they are still tons of fun.

It is very difficult to watch ‘Solo’ without taking into consideration the western genre. Some motifs include people struggling in poverty, gangsters, gambling, train chases, bounty hunters, Indians attacked by cowboys to take their goods, uncommitted love, horses (the Falcon fits this purpose), and life debts. The more you understand these tropes and motifs, the more it makes sense many of the decisions Lawrence and Jon Kasdan did to develop the character.

Young Han, as portrayed by Alden Ehrenreich, is the total opposite of the smuggler from the original trilogy. While Han in the original trilogy ends up as the bad guy in a world of good guys, Han in ‘Solo’ is the good guy in a world of bad guys. He has the heart of gold, filled with innocence and few experiences that have given him a bad feeling about things. He’s struggling, trying to survive, doing his best to become a pilot and save the love of his life, only to be turned down by mostly everything he believes in. This contrast is mirrored with Lando and Q’ira, two characters that have had more experience in this hostile world. As the plot moves forward, we see how Han slowly morphs into the smuggler we know as portrayed by Harrison Ford.

This Star Wars Story doesn’t have the stakes that the saga films or ‘Rogue One’ do, and that’s fine. It has enough adventures to establish the characters, the kinds of adventures we’ve heard from lines of dialogue or the expanded universe. If you compare this movie to any origin story from the MCU, ‘Solo’ has more adventures that the character goes through instead of a single big event. The Kessel Run could be the main event, but there are other action scenes that also have the power that some Marvel origin stories lack. This is the first Marvel-like origin story from Star Wars and it has its own identity.

Because we already know that Han and Chewie are still alive, the film never plays that card too hard. They have some death defying moments, but the movie never takes these moments too seriously. They have enough tension to keep you on your toes. One of my favorite moments of the movie is when they use the coaxium to turn the engines of the Millenium Falcon and it fails the first time; that’s the kind of thing that the Corellian ship always do, but we know that everything will be fine at the end.

This is the movie with the fewest references of the Force, the Jedi, and the Sith except that unexpected Darth Maul appearance. This makes sense for the character because Han doesn’t believe in any of this, but it also allows the movie to be its own thing. In many ways, ‘Rogue One’ shoehorned a but too much the Force with Chirrut as a character. ‘Solo’ doesnt care about the Force; it only cares about smuggling, corruption, gangs, and survival. It is the world in between the Rebellion and the Empire.

Which leads us the the Darth Maul cameo. I can’t hide the fact that my jaw dropped because this appearance made two things clear:

  1. Lucasfilm isn’t scared of talking about the prequels.
  2. Lucasfilm is taking advantage of the animated series.

Some people won’t understand his appearance or how he’s even alive, but it doesn’t matter. People still enjoy the Marvel movies without understanding many of the nods and references of other characters or movies. These moments are for the fans who enjoy when different stories relate to other characters of the universe. Besides that, the scene gives Q’ira the motivations she need to get rid of her past and stay in the game as stated in her dialogue.

With the directorial transition of Lord & Miller to Ron Howard, the film has very few moments when you could see the seems between the original footage and the reshoots. Some bits of comedy seen taken from the original concept, but you can barely see the difference between one shot and the next. This is achieved thanks to Bradford Young, whose great cinematography keeps a consistent visual storytelling that blends in with the plot. The film starts with monochromatic tones, with blue, yellow, and red as the main colors. During the war times of Han, the colors are very grayed out. As the plot moves forward, Han’s reality start to be colored by his experiences, with more eye candy tones that fill the frame.

Lawrence Kasdan knows a thing or two about Star Wars after writing The Empire Strikes Back, Return Of The Jedi, and The Force Awakens. Besides, he wrote the very first Indiana Jones film, Raiders Of The Lost Ark. Teaming up with his son Jon, the plot moves from one action to the next with a clear storyline. Every ten minutes, something happens and the characters go on to the next adventure, just like an Indiana Jones film. As for Jon Kasdan, fans need to thank him for all the deep cut references in the movie, including the mentions of the expanded universe novels as well as the appearance of Darth Maul.

The questions from Han’s past are answered in such a casual way that allows the movie to deliver these moments without feeling like a Han documentary or Wikipedia article. I chuckled at how he got his last name, the Chewie introduction was a pleasant surprise, and had a great time as the Millenium Falcon turns into the piece of junk we all know and love. The movie is smart at doing some nods to the other films with some lines of dialogue, but it will only get the attention from the fanbase. The references don’t alienate the audience, but they wink and nod to fans of the Expanded Universe and the saga films, like that big gangster whose putting together a crew on Tatooine.

Michael Giachino had a tough job with Rogue One’s score; any composer will have a tough job trying to put on the shoes to keep up with John Williams’ masterpiece. But here’s John Powell doing an amazing job at blending his compositions with the arrangements of John Williams. The music at the very beginning got me pumped for the film as I clearly recognized Han’s theme composed by John Williams. John Powell blends his own notes with some better known pieces. During the Kessel Run, you can hear in the background some of the notes of ‘The Asteroid Field’ from The Empire Strikes Back, as well as the Millenium Falcon theme. It bows to the masterpieces of John Williams throughout the films, but John Powell takes his time to pump his own notes. He’s really smart at blending different styles of music. From ‘Chicken In The Pot’ from Dryden Vos’ yacht to Enfys Nest’s theme in ‘Savareen Stand Off’, Powell works with different styles of orchestration to establish these scenes.

The final veredict is that this is a fun movie that anyone, including non Star Wars fans, could watch. It is the first of the new films that could be an entry point for any Star Wars fan, showing the importance of doing these origin stories every once in a while to bring attention from new audiences. If this is part of their strategy, then its a smart move. Marvel has shown how different origin stories can attract new moviegoers that later watch more of these movies for the payoff, like it happened with Infinity War. The next few weeks will dictate if the initial response from ‘Solo’ could bring more people that were on the fence or believed that you had to be a hardcore fan to watch it. Even though is is a joy for galaxy connoisseurs, any moviegoer enjoys a good heist film filled with twists and turns.

“Avengers: Infinity War” Review: A Blank Canvas For The MCU

I went into the theater with the expectations of seeing some of my favorite superheroes crushed on screen; this was my only expectation about Infinity War. Thanos wasn’t as compelling of a villain for me, but I had to give him a chance. Recent superheroes like Guardians Of The Galaxy, Black Panther, Spider-Man (finally), and Doctor Strange would have an important role for this film.

When the credits started rolling, my uncertainty about the future couldn’t be worse. The film plays with your expectations from the very first minute to the end credits. Nothing prepares you for Infinity War, and this is a huge achievement after watching superheroes having huge stakes at hand and then winging it in the end. This isn’t the case and the Russo brothers take care of this masterfully.

In the first few minutes, Thanos as a character is well established. Not only do we understand its power, its merciless actions to find all of the Infinity stones, but its layers start peeling off as we comprehend its intentions. Similar to Killmonger in Black Panther, this is compelling, there dimensional villain. Many critics before the film wondered if this CG character could actually deliver the emotion behind all the digital wizardry, but Josh Brolin delivers a stunning performance for a Marvel villain.

The movie is very smart about introducing each character, working with small groups of three or four characters. This gives enough breathing room for each character, while slowly bringing them together at the same time. Screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely juggled all of the characters without making it feel populated. Each characters has enough screen time to develop over the movie, with small arcs that contribute to the overall battle. Some characters like Black Panther could have more screen time, but I believe this is a compromise the screenwriters had to do in order to develop other well established character for their fatal ending.

The balance between comedy and tragic moments blend perfectly when different characters that just met are involved in funny situations. If you loved Thor: Ragnarok, be prepared for great bits of comedy in between tense scenes.

In the release of Black Panther, I was extremely worried about the quality of the CGI for the next Marvel films. Black Panther, with all of this greatness, has some really cheesy CG parts that made me cringe, especially the rhinos. Infinity War, being one of the most expensive films ever made, doesn’t have this problem. From the expressions of Thanos to the backgrounds, they all look great on the screen. Compared to the criticisms of some visual effects on Age of Ultron, it seems that Marvel has understood the importance of taking care of these aspects when there is so much emotional investment on these characters.

This movie is about sacrifice. From the very beginning, the movie plays with your expectations that some characters will endure a sad farewell in order to move forward. At the very end, you’re still as crushed and unprepared to see the current state of the universe for these characters.

Personally, I don’t consider myself a huge Marvel fan, and this is why the movie made such an impression of me. The Russo brothers made me care about these characters in such a way that I didn’t expect. If it made me care about these characters that I’ve been watching in the past few years, it really shows how much emotion there is in here.

Next year’s sequel will have to balance between giving a blank slate for new MCU characters to appear and giving a righteous farewell to other characters. Behind all of the armory, the CGI, the fighting, the visuals and the subtle character moments, Infinity War has an emotional fiber that makes the movie work. Now that Thanos is the most powerful villain of the MCU, this time the stakes are actually high for every single superhero.