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What to expect from MARVEL’s PHASE 4

The last film of the Infinity Saga, Spider-Man: Far From Home, is in cinemas now, but Marvel clearly has no intention of slowing down their blockbuster movie output. Last night, in the prestigious Hall H at San Diego Comic Con, Kevin Feige took to the stage to reveal a slew of new products hitting screens, both big and small, over the next couple of years.

Many of the announcements had already been rumoured, but now that they’re all confirmed, it’s time to dive in and see what we’re dealing with.

Release Date: May 1st 2020

First up is the long-awaited Black Widow solo film. Due to the events of Avengers: Endgame, this film is a prequel. The film will, in part, take us to the oft-mentioned Budapest, where something crazy supposedly went down in both Black Widow and Hawkeye’s past. The film is directed by Cate Shortland (Berlin Syndrome) and joining her are Black Widow actress Scarlet Johansson, David Harbour (Stranger Things), Florence Pugh (Fighting With My Family), O-T Fagbenle (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Rachel Weisz (The Favourite).

According to the trailer (which is, unfortunately, yet to be released to the public) the film will see Black Widow taking on the famed skull-masked mercenary known as the Taskmaster, who, in the comics, can mimic the fighting style of anyone he observes. This power has allowed him to stand up to a variety of heroes from Captain America to Spider-Man, and it’ll be interesting to see how his abilities are depicted on the big screen.

Being a Black Widow movie, it’s also highly likely we’ll see the Red Room where Natasha was trained, and from the sounds of things, we’ll be seeing other graduates, as played by Florence Pugh (who plays Yelena Belova, another Black Widow in the comics) and Rachel Weisz, who has described her character as having been through the Red Room program ‘five times’, which leads me to speculate she may be the real villain of the piece, as I feel like a lot of Black Widow’s rivals are just fellow Red Room graduates who she’s shown up. Plus ‘Melina’ – Weisz’ character’s name, is the name of an obscure supervillain who has that exact origin, so…

Release Date: Fall 2020

The first of the Disney+ series’ is the one I’m personally most excited about, and was even before the developments of Endgame. Starring Anthony Mackie as the Falcon and Sebastian Stan as the Winter Soldier, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier will presumably explore the pairs relationship after the retirement of Steve Rogers as Captain America, and the growth of Samuel Wilson as he strives to take up the role himself after being gifted the shield.

Other returning castmembers include Emily VanCamp as Sharon Carter and Daniel Brühl as Zemo, both of whom played a big part in the last Captain America movie, Civil War. With so many big Captain America characters crammed in, it’s clear that this is another Captain America story in all but name, and it will interesting to see this new Cap/Bucky pairing grow into bigger stars in the Marvel Universe before they’re called back to the movie side of things.

Even more interesting is the fact that footage not shown outside the con apparently involved Zemo donning a purple mask, teasing his transformation into the full on supervillain we see in the comics. If Marvel are hoping to turn the characters from a rogue soldier to a full-on villain, it gives me hope that the character may show up again further down the line as a member of Marvel’s Suicide Squad-esque team, the Thunderbolts.

Release Date: November 6th 2020

Another long rumoured film, Eternals will be the second and final Marvel film of 2020. Based on what are essentially a group of space-gods, Eternals, according to director Chloé Zhao, will explore what it means to be human through the lens of a group of immortal beings.

Bringing that race to life will be Salma Hayek (Frida), Richard Madden (Game of Thrones), Angelina Jolie (Maleficent), Kumail Nanjiani (The Big Sick), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta), Dong-seok Ma (Train to Busan), Lia McHugh (The Lodge) and Lauren Ridloff (The Walking Dead). In the comics, the Eternals are created by the Celestials (briefly seen in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise) and boast an array of godlike powers including super-strength, flight and energy manipulation. A part of their group lived on the moon Titan, and gave way to Thanos himself.

While conventionally depicted as a group of predominantly white male deities (Thanos being an obvious exception), the characters in the film have been diversified to include more women and people-of-colour. For instance, Lauren Ridloff is playing the usually male speedster Makaris, who in this version will be a black, female, hearing-impaired character, while Dong-seok Ma’s Gilgamesh was often confused, in-universe, with the Greek demi-God Hercules.

So in a way, Marvel’s Hercules is finally hitting the big screen, and is being played by an Asian man. I imagine all those who found Idris Elba’s casting as an Asgardian God to be infuriating will probably be having a fit right about now. I love it.

Release Date: February 12th 2021

The idea of a Shang-Chi movie sounded cool to me, but I was curious how a man who’s powers are basically ‘I’m really good at Kung-Fu’ would slot into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. I theorised with a co-worker the other week that perhaps, due to the comic book characters links to the outdated racial sterotype villain Fu Manchu, that the movie version could instead adopt the Iron Man villain Mandarin as his new cinematic arch-nemesis, and apparently, that’s exactly what’s going down.

The film will be directed by Destin Daniel Cretton (Short Term 12) and stars Simu Liu (Kim’s Convenience) as Shang-Chi, Tony Chiu-Wai Leung (In the Mood for Love) as the Mandarin, and rapper Awkwafina (Crazy Rich Asians) in a supporting role.

The Legend of the Ten Rings will presumably follow the hero known as Shang-Chi (dubbed ‘the Master of the Kung-Fu’) and his interactions with the terrorist group known as the Ten Rings, who have previously appeared in Iron Man, Ant-Man as well as Marvel shorts. Unlike the Ben Kingsley/Guy Pearce variant of the villain seen in Iron Man Three, this new Mandarin will probably lean closer to the classic Iron Man villain from the comics, who boasted a set of ten magical rings (they were really alien tech, but whatever – they’re basically magic) and used them to become a warlord. As Shang-Chi’s comics often leaned into the fact that he was the son of the evil Fu Manchu, I imagine we’ll see the movie variant discover that his father is actually the Mandarin, and feel responsible for putting an end to his Dad’s terrorist plots.

Side-note: that title is awesome.

Release Date: Spring 2021

After Shang-Chi, we’re heading back to Disney+, this time to see the ongoing adventures of the Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen) and her supposedly deceased beau, the Vision (Paul Bettany). This one is a bit harder to predict, due to the fact the Vision died in Infinity War, and I can’t imagine this series will see Wanda going on a globe-trotting adventure to Wakanda to rebuild him. However, an angle I could foresee is the series exploring Wanda’s ever-growing powers, which somehow bring the Vision back to life.

While Wanda is plenty powerful in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she pales in comparison to her comic-book counterpart, who can tap into magic energies to manipulate reality itself. Seeing as this series has been described as ‘very weird’ and Wanda will also be starring in the upcoming Doctor Strange sequel that we’ll get into shortly, I imagine that we will be seeing a growth in Wanda’s powers, and be exploring her link to a chaotic magical force.

Release Date: May 7th 2021

Once again, Marvel has made me very excited for 2021 by dumping a super weird and lengthy title on us, this time with Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness. Fans have been clamouring to see more of the multiverse ever since Endgame introduced alternate timelines and Far From Home teased that Mysterio had arrived from another dimension. But really Doctor Strange is the place that makes the most sense to explore the multiverse, due to it being established in his first solo outing.

Returning director Scott Derrickson promises that this movie will be the first ‘scary’ Marvel movie, and the film has been described online as having tinges of ‘Gothic Horror’. Such claims lead me to believe that we’ll be seeing the likes of Nightmare (a rather obviously named demon lord of nightmares) and hopefully, Shuma-Gorath, an extra-dimensional tentacled being who looks like he’s been pulled right out of a H.P. Lovecraft story. If Strange is set to be transversing the multiverse with Wanda at his side, then I find it highly likely that we’ll at least get glimpses of the two monsters who are big parts of his rogues gallery, as well as potentially a load of other nasties.

Personally I’m just excited for a trippy Doctor Strange movie where he gets to do actual magic rather than just glowy martial arts – he is one of my favourite comic book characters after all, and I need to see his true potential realised in a solo outing.

Release Date: Spring 2021

Some characters just wont die, and despite Thanos’ claim that there will be ‘no resurrections this time’, before snapping the trickster God’s neck, that seemingly includes Loki.

Returning Tom Hiddleston to the MCU after his third supposed on-screen death, this time we’ll see Hiddleston as the star of the show, following on from his escape from the Avengers during the time heist portion of Endgame. Presumably, that means this Loki and the series as a whole will be showing his adventures in an alternate timeline, but seeing as Marvel themselves seem kind of confused about how time travel works in their universe (what’s the deal with old man Steve Rogers? I have my headcannon, but both the writers and the directors have said contradictory things), so I wont speculate too much.

This series will be penned by Rick and Morty scribe Michael Waldron, so expect some wild and wacky hi-jinks as Loki messes with some unsuspecting Earthlings.

Release Date: Summer 2021

As we get closer to the end of the list of announcements, we move onto Marvel Studios first big-time animated venture, What If..?

What If..? was a long running comic book series that explored alternative timelines and ‘What if’ scenarios. It was narrated by an enigmatic being known as the Watcher – an alien with a massive head who sees all, and is tasked with overseeing all the major events that befall the Earth, before reporting back to his own race of similarly massive headed beings who are doing the same across the Galaxy. The species was briefly seen in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, where it was revealed that Stan Lee’s cameos throughout the Infinity Saga were him playing their Earth-based informant.

With Stan now sadly departed, the new Watcher of Earth will be played by Jeffrey Wright (WestWorld), as he introduces alternate takes on Marvel movies in animated form. A wealth of actors from across the Infinity Saga will return to voice their characters, and a rumoured story-line involves Peggy Carter getting given the Super-Soldier Serum and becoming Captain America (or would that be Captain Britain?).

Release Date: Fall 2021

With Black Widow being the first movie of Phase Four, that leaves us with only one original Avenger who hasn’t had his chance to have his story told. Luckily, that will be remedied in 2021 as Jeremy Renner stars in the Hawkeye Disney+ series. The series will be based in part on Matt Fraction’s popular comic book run, and see Clint Barton tutoring a new hero called Kate Bishop to be the next Hawkeye. Jeremy Renner expressed enthusiasm for the projects focus on non-powered heroes, and the fact that it means anyone can be a superhero if they want to.

Feige added that Hawkeye will see more of Barton’s Ronin persona, so perhaps this means that we will see more of Clint coming to terms with what he did during ‘the Blip’, and deciding to finally retire for good – but not before making sure there’s still a Hawkeye about to keep the Avengers in line.

Speaking of the Avengers, while many knew this would be the focus of the Hawkeye TV series, its official announcement does add credence to the rumours that Marvel are hoping to do a Young Avengers adaptation. The Young Avengers was the comic book series that introduced Bishop as Hawkeye, before she went on to co-star in Fraction’s Hawkeye run, and featured her and a group of teens taking on aliases of their own to emulate the formation of the classic Avengers.

Release Date: November 5th 2021

There was a lot to be excited about in Feige’s Hall H presentation, with my personal highlights being The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings and Doctor Strange in the Multiverse of Madness, but a film I’ve long been anticipating ever since it was just a mere rumour was Thor 4.

And this week, it was officially announced that Taika Watiti, one of my favourite directors, was returning to Marvel Studios to write and direct the film.

The Thor segment of the Hall H presentation gave us even more juicy details, such as Tessa Thompson suggesting the film may see her character, Valkyrie, trying to find herself a Queen as she becomes the new King of Asgard, as well as the surprising return of Natalie Portman as Jane Foster, who famously dipped out of the Marvel films due to her dislike of the way things happened behind-the-scenes. That appears to have been remedied however, as Portman is back, and seemingly in a much bigger role, as Waititi suggested that this new film, Love and Thunder, will take cues from the Jason Aaron run of the Mighty Thor comics, in which original Thor is deemed unworthy of lifting Mjolnir, so Foster steps up to become the new female Thor.

With Mjolnir destroyed, things obviously wont go down like that, but I could see a rom-com in which Thor tries to win back the love of Jane Foster by giving her her own hammer and a portion of his powers.

When it comes to Waititi, anything is possible, but with yet another colourful title card and jazzy title, we can only assume it’s going to be a hilarious treat for the eyes.

While those were the only dated announcements, that wasn’t all that was revealed, as Kevin Feige ended the presentation by confirming sequels to Black Panther and Captain Marvel are in the works, and that the Fantastic Four and X-Men will of course eventually join their fellow Marvel heroes in the MCU. Finally, he revealed that Mahershala Ali will be the new Blade, after Ali called Feige and asked to be cast in the roll.

I must confess that I’ve yet to actually watch the Wesley Snipes films, but I enjoy the character in the comics, and I dig Magershala Ali in everything I see him in, so I will definitely be down to watch this new take on the daywalking vampire slayer.

Maybe he can start by killing Sony’s Morbius spin-off?

(Just kidding)

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Posted by on July 21, 2019 in What's Going On?

 

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THE INFINITY SAGA: All 23 ‘MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE’ Movies, Ranked

Marvel’s Infinity Saga comes to a close this week with Spider-Man: Far From Home. That means, once again, it’s time to rank all the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, from worst to best.

I originally wrote this post last year, however, as I mentioned last time, opinions change, and new films come out, so this time around, some films are in a different spot, and four new films have been added to the list.

That’s right, not three, four – I’m also throwing Venom into the mix, due to the fact Sony clearly want it to be a part of the MCU, and there have been a fair few rumours and speculative articles as of late regarding a potential Spider-Man/Venom crossover. God help us.

If you’re not caught up, there will be the occasional spoiler for these films, however, the one from Spider-Man: Far From Home isn’t major, in my opinion, and is something that people with knowledge of Spider-Man will probably already know.

*After rewatching Spider-Man: Far From Home I’ve altered the list to reflect my feelings on the newest Marvel movie.

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Posted by on July 3, 2019 in What's Going On?

 

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SPIDER-MAN: FAR FROM HOME | Film Review

“The next Iron Man?”

RELEASED: July 2nd 2019
DIRECTED BY: Jon Watts
WRITTEN BY: Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige & Amy Pascal
MUSIC BY: Michael Giacchino
STARRING: Tom Holland, Jake Gyllenhaal, Zendaya, Jacob Batalon, Angourie Rice, Tony Revolori, Remy Hii, Marisa Tomei, Jon Favreau, Martin Starr, J. B. Smoove, Cobie Smulders & Samuel L. Jackson

After the universe-shaking events of Avengers: Endgame, Spider-Man: Far From Home closes out the Infinity Saga with an epilogue of sorts, and follows Peter Parker recovering from the loss of Tony Stark and hoping to get away from it all by going on vacation with his classmates. However, his holiday is interrupted by the arrival of Nick Fury and Mysterio, who put Spider-Man to work saving Europe from the monstrous Elementals.

Much like Spider-Man: Homecoming, Far From Home presents audiences with a Peter Parker who is much closer to the classic Spider-Man than the depictions seen in the Raimi Trilogy and the Amazing duology. Tom Holland nails the depiction of Peter Parker, reaffirming that he is the greatest Spider-Man commited to film. His stories manage to perfectly juggle the superheroics with the high-school drama, and his chemistry with his fellow cast members is outstanding. The relationship between him and Zendaya’s MJ is particularly adorable and feels very genuine in regards to actual high school romances.

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AVENGERS: ENDGAME | Spoiler Review

I got up this morning to go and watch Avengers: Endgame a second time. After working the midnight release, and checking the screens, I continued to notice little things that I wanted to experience again – so with today being my day off, I went back to the cinema for a rewatch.

With that in mind, I’m going to discuss the film in full. However, it will be exceptionally spoiler heavy, so if you haven’t seen the film yet, do not read this review. Don’t click ‘read more’. Don’t even look at the tags. Go watch this movie. But if you’re needing something to read, my original review can be found here.

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Posted by on April 26, 2019 in MARVEL, Marvel Studios

 

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AVENGERS: ENDGAME | Film Review

“Whatever it takes”

RELEASED: April 25th 2019
DIRECTED BY: Joe & Anthony Russo
WRITTEN BY: Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige
MUSIC BY: Alan Silvestri
STARRING: Robert Downey Jr., Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo, Chris Hemsworth, Scarlett Johansson, Jeremy Renner, Don Cheadle, Paul Rudd, Karen Gillan, Bradley Cooper, Gwyneth Paltrow, Brie Larson & Josh Brolin

When I walked out of the screening of Avengers: Endgame on Tuesday night, I was conflicted. I knew what I had watched was good, and I enjoyed a lot of it, but something didn’t sit right with me. I’ll probably have to watch the movie again (at which point I’ll amend anything in here that’s off) and I may even do a spoiler review at that point, but here are my initial thoughts…

Avengers: Endgame sees a world where the bad guys won. After snapping his fingers and wiping out half the life in the universe, Thanos has retreated to a distant planet to live out his days, while the Avengers are left on Earth to pick up the pieces. But after discovering Thanos’ location, the Avengers reunite and decide to take one last shot at retrieving the Infinity Stones and bringing the fallen back to life.

I had a fairly decent sense of how this movie was going to play out. Between set photos I’d seen a year or two ago, and the trailers (which show even less of the movie than you’d think) I had a reasonably good idea of what the various beats of this film would be.

And while I wasn’t wrong, I think for most this film will hold a lot of surprises. The first ten minutes quickly let you know that things aren’t going to go the way you think, before the movie proceeds to do a hard right turn into ‘bonkers’ territory. The tone is a lot more upbeat and goofy than what the trailers promised, and at times, that can be a bit jarring when compared to the expectations you enter the cinema with (that’s not the fault of the film-makers of course, so much as it is the audience and marketing). There’s a lot of humour, and from some characters, in particular, it can seem like a little much.

But there’s also a lot of heart. This film is a very emotional journey, but unfortunately, for me, on first viewing – not all of it resonated. There are some pretty big hits, and I was watching them knowing I was meant to be feeling more than I was (or at least something) and coming up short. Maybe that was down to the offbeat tone. Or maybe I’m just soulless. We’ll see after I’ve watched the film again.

However, in spite of both that and the fact we all know Spider-Man: Far From Home is coming out in a few short months, and the MCU will continue, this very much does feel like the end of the story, regardless of whether or not all these ends resonate with you. Marvel Studios could just stop here, and the series, as a whole, would work. There’s not a lot in the way of set-up for the future, just a focus on making sure what’s on the table now is taken to the wholesome destination it needs to go.

In this regard, praise should be heaped upon screenwriters Christopher Markus and Stephen McFeely. Here, they’ve managed to write a three-hour movie, full of fan-service and pay-off, and yet at no point does it feel like a drag, nor overly rushed. The character work is generally quite strong, with every character getting their time in the spotlight. Along with the directors, they’ve managed to make a movie that’s both breezy and epic, yet without being as action-packed as it’s predecessor. Instead, it’s filled with love for these characters and a desire to tell a very different sort of story to what’s come before.

But when the action does come around, it’s great. Although I felt a bit conflicted about the film as a whole, one thing that I am 100% certain on is that the action is fantastic. In particular, there’s one particular one-on-one fight that continues to display the excellent choreography on the Russo brothers’ previous films, and there’s one particular sequence later in the film that’s even more spectacular than ‘the airport scene’. I’ve seen someone describe it as something like ‘the most epic superhero battle of all time’. They’re not wrong.

Overall, this isn’t the best Marvel film of the lot. In my opinion, it doesn’t quite reach the heights of Winter Soldier, Civil War or Infinity War. But maybe that’s not the point. It’s like watching a TV series. The penultimate episode is usually the most exciting – the one where the stakes are the highest. The final episode, in contrast, is more about closing things out in a satisfying way. And in that respect, I’d say Endgame succeeds.

However, I also feel like this is a similar feeling to how I felt about The Last Jedi. At first, there was a sense of melancholy (maybe I’m just depressed about the fates of some characters and I haven’t realised?), but as I continued to think about all the various factors in the film, the more I grew to love it. This is a very dense film, and I’m still processing it the next day, and for every **** bothered me a bit, there are five more instances of but I loved it when ***** did *****. But I’m confident with each subsequent rewatch I’ll grow to love it even more.


Due to my uncertainty about the film, my rating can be found on my spoiler review.

 

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CAPTAIN MARVEL | Film Review

“Higher, further, faster, baby”

RELEASED: March 8th 2019
DIRECTED BY: Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
WRITTEN BY: Nicole Perlman, Meg LeFauve, Geneva Robertson-Dworeet, Anna Boden & Ryan Fleck
PRODUCED BY: Kevin Feige
MUSIC BY: Pinar Toprak
STARRING:
Brie Larson, Samuel L. Jackson, Ben Mendelsohn, Jude Law, Lashana Lynch, Djimon Hounsou, Lee Pace, Gemma Chan, Clark Gregg & Annette Benning

Well, here we are. Marvel Cinematic Universe movie number 21. The last film before Endgame and the penultimate film of Phase Three, and the first MCU film to follow a solo female superhero. But how does it do?

Up top, I just want to say that this film starts with a great little tribute to Stan Lee. Fun and very touching.

Set in the 1990s,Captain Marvel follows Vers, a soldier and member of the Kree – a race of noble warrior heroes. As part of ‘Starforce’, Vers is tasked with combating the shape-shifting Skrull terrorists to keep their homeworld of Hala safe. However, after a mission to stop the Skrulls goes awry, Vers finds herself stranded on the planet Earth, where along with S.H.I.E.L.D. Agent Nick Fury, she must save the planet from an alien incursion.

For the first act of the movie, Captain Marvel boasts your standard mid-level science-fiction fare. Notorious Star Trek-looking baddies and slick, capable heroes bark words that will sound like nonsense to non-comic book fans, amidst gleaming metal cities and bleak ruins on deserted planets alike. While the cast is strong, it plays out like something you’ve seen a million times before. Furthermore, that’s blended with your classic Marvel humour that can be quite hit and miss and makes you wonder if this movie is going to lean more The Dark World than it is Infinity War.

Fortunately, the action then transitions to Earth, and ‘Captain Marvel’ (although I’m not sure she’s ever actually called that in the movie) gets to really prove herself. In Brie Larson, the hero finds a capable actress to fill out the role of our feisty new heroine. She revels in her immense power*, making a change from a lot of the male heroes who are weighed down by their past failures and responsibilities.

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All 20 ‘MARVEL CINEMATIC UNIVERSE’ Movies, Ranked

Having seen and reviewed the most recent film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man and the Wasp, it’s time to do a ranking of all twenty MCU movies, from worst to best. I did a similar thing over at Cultured Vultures (my answers are actually a little different over there), picking out my top five at the time, but my editor thought doing all of them may be a bit much.

Luckily, no such rules exist on this blog! Let’s get into it:

20. THOR: THE DARK WORLD

Thor

The reason writing a post like this can be fun is because between when I first watched the film and the present day, my opinions can change substantially, as you may notice further down the list. Unfortunately for Thor: The Dark World, no such change has happened. It’s still pretty bad.

Thor is one of my favourite Marvel characters, so after loving the first film and Avengers, I was very excited for his second solo outing. Needless to say, I was disappointed. While there are some touching emotional moments, the majority of this film is bland, messy and has perhaps the worst villain in the MCU. No offence Christopher Eccleston, I still love you.

19. IRON MAN 2

IronManMovie22

Another strong contender for worst movie in the MCU. While not terrible, Iron Man 2, like Thor: The Dark World, is similar in that it tries to do too much (more, in fact, than Thor) and the end result is a bloated mess.

However, considering this is a film featuring the MCU’s original quipster and the character that launched the whole franchise, it’s main fault is that it’s actually quite boring. Sure, you have that big explosive fight at the end, but considering what this film is trying to achieve, it ironically ends up being all style, no substance.

18. ANT-MAN AND THE WASP

AMatW

Harsh? Maybe. But Ant-Man and the Wasp just hasn’t clicked for me like it has other people. When I’m watching a superhero/comedy film (like Deadpool) and I can count the times I’d laughed throughout with minimal effort (like Deadpool 2) then that’s a pretty bad sign, and unfortunately that was also the case here.

Furthermore, the mass of writers who all seemingly wanted different things means that this film, despite having the chance to be the vision of one director, struggles to be one interesting and cohesive narrative.

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Posted by on August 27, 2018 in What's Going On?

 

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