Number three in the Ant-Man stand alone features – and sadly much of the irreverence and humour is lost in a dull, unengaging adventure narrative.
Turns out Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer – Hairspray, Dangerous Liaisons) wasn’t completely forthcoming in her time in the Quantum Realm. A whole convoluted universe (think Star Wars) exists where power struggles are fought – and Janet was a key member of the rebel forces against Kang (Jonathan Majors – Da 5 Bloods, Creed III). Dragged back into the realm, Scott (Paul Rudd – Ghostbusters: Afterlife, The Fundamentals of Caring)and now-teenage daughter Cassie (Kathryn Newton – Ben Is Back, TV’s Big Little Lies) find themselves separated from the Van Dynes. They need to find a way to come together and prevent Kang escaping the Quantum Realm into their real world.
Derivative storytelling and visuals, the third Ant-Man from director Peyton Reed is sadly lacking in any sense of excitement or urgency. Moving from scenario to scenario, there’s little in the way of connection between the combined saviours of the world. Dull.
The passing of Chadwick Boseman as King T’Challa/Black Panther respectfully and movingly prequels Black Panther: Wakanda Forever, his absence constantly felt.
And sadly, as grief pervades, so the narrative and focus of the feature struggles in Boseman’s absence. With the throne passing to his mother, Ramonda (Angela Bassett – What’s Love Got To Do With It, Black Panther), the world looks to unsettling the power base and gain access to vibranium. As T’Challa’s sister Suria (Letitia Wright – Black Panther, Ready Player One) attempts to create a new Black Panther to protect Wakanda, so an underwater empire led by Namor (Tenoch Huerta – Sin Nombre, Bel Canto) threatens both the African state and global stability.
Director Ryan Coogler (Black Panther, Fruitvale Station) returns but brings with him something of a plodding approach lacking in any real thrills.The power base certainly shifts as Wakandan women rise even more to the fore but the lack of focus as to the direction of the storyline undermines and confuses.
Nominated for 5 Oscars in 2023.
When Gorr looks to make the gods extinct, Thor enlists the help of Valkyrie, Korg and ex-lover, the dying Jane Foster (Natalie Portman – Black Swan, Thor) with her newly found superpowers.
After the irreverant humour of director Taika Waititi’s first foray into the world of Thor (Thor: Ragnarok), this latest episode somewhat overeggs the pudding with many of the jokes falling flat. As Hemsworth and Portman rekindle their love, so a splenetic Gorr (Christian Bale – The Dark Knight, Exodus) looks to total annhilation.
It’s a Marvel Cinematic Universe outing, so it’s inevitably all things visual with plenty of destructive battles. But Waikiki teeters on adventure versus comedy with a smattering of romance resulting in a somewhat juvenile hotchpotch (what’s with the two goats?).
Considering his seeming omnipotence over several of the recent Marvel films, its surprising this is only number two in the Steven Strange solo sagas. Far more visually impressive than the first, as a narrative it’s considerably more perplexing.
Teenager America Chavez (Xochitl Gomez – Shadow Wolves, Roped) appears in Strange’s dreams. She is being pursued by Wanda/Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen – Wind River, Avengers Infinity War) for her power of travelling across multiverses. Cue battles across those multiverses (including ones with himself) to prevent the Scarlet Witch obtaining the power.
Unquestionably a visual feast, director Sam Raimi (The Evil Dead, Spider-Man) fails to create a cohesive narrative of significant interest. It’s all so episodic as Strange, America and Wong (Benedict Wong – Doctor Strange, The Martian) confront different iterations of themselves and others across the multiverses.
Post Avengers/Endgame, Sam Wilson/The Falcon and Bucky Barnes/Winter Soldier team up – with Marvel diehards hating the scaling down to a TV miniseries. Ironically, the medium works perfectly for character development as both leads receive substantial screentime.
Sam (Anthony Mackie) returns to Louisiana after five years having been one of the missing. His sister Sarah (Adepero Oduye) is struggling with the family fishing business. But any hope of a normal life is soon dashed as, for morale purposes, a new Captain America (Wyatt Russell) is announced – and he ain’t too bright. With the serum that helped create the Winter Soldier (Sebastian Stan) suddenly found to be in circulation and in the hands of a militant global enviromentalist organisation, authorities need to act quickly.
As with all Marvel Comic storylines, reality is suspended as the Falcon finds himself back in service teaming up with Bucky – and clearing the mess created by the new Cap. The thrills and spills are somewhat predictable, but what distinguishes this particular entry into the Marvel canon is the social issues it addresses along with the sparring bromance between the two leads. Now further developments there would get those diehard fans crying out for a DC invasion….
A multiverse narrative in 2021’s biggest box-office success facilitates not one but three Spider-Man superheroes save the day.
With Peter Parker’s (Tom Holland – Uncharted, The Impossible) identity publicly exposed, he looks to Dr Strange (Benedict Cumberbatch – The Power of the Dog, Doctor Strange) for help. But things go drastically wrong as villains of the past – Doc Ock (Alfred Molina), Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) and Electro (Jamie Foxx) – reappear. As do past Spider-Men Andrew Garfield and Tobey Maguire.
Certainly more intriguing than previous outings, No Way Home pulls on the web strings of family drama, young love and loyalties and Holland steps up to face responsibilities. But it’s still a Spider-Man feature, so personal expectation remains low.
Nominated for the 2022 best visual effects Oscar.
Number two in the series for Tom Holland and the cheeky humour stands him in good stead for what is essentially a tedious and overblown yawn of a superhero tale.
Following events of Avengers: Endgame, there’s the need for the void to be filled. Chatty schoolboy Peter Parker prefers to not take the mantle, especially with the loss of his hero, Tony Stark, and his continued love interest with MJ (Zendaya – The Greatest Showman, Dune). But a school trip to Europe and an encounter with Quentin Beck aka Mysterio (Jake Gyllenhaal – Nightcrawler, Southpaw) places his schoolfriends (and the rest of the world) in danger.
Pubescent angst of the first half quickly gives way to templated Marvel destruction as Venice, Prague and London find themselves the Mysterio targets. And even the quirky one-liners from Holland and the enjoyable rapport he has with Ned (Jacob Batalon – Let It Snow, Every Day) fail to lift the monotony.
It’s hard to fathom why Oscar-winning director Chloé Zhao (Nomadland, The Rider) helmed what essentially follows the events of Avengers: Endgame in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon. An indie film maker exploring slow, observational narratives, Zhao instead is visualising the story of the ancient aliens who have been living on Earth in secret for thousands of years as they reunite to fight the return of the Deviants.
Living separated for centuries, it’s the death of their leader, Ajak (Salma Hayek – Frida, Savages) that brings the group back together. It’s to Sersi (Gemma Chan – Crazy Rich Asians, Let Them All Talk) the leadership is unexpectedly passed on to rather than her former lover, Ikaris (Richard Madden – Rocketman, Cinderella). But there’s reasons…
Eternals is sporadically interesting – many of the heroes go against ‘type’ – but at 156 minutes, it settles into an overlong, derivative stereotype of battles, internal power struggles and, just for good measure, a few more battles.
A sardonic Paul Rudd continues to charm, even if he is the bad books of Hope (Evangeline Lilly – The Hobbit, Real Steel) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas – Fatal Attraction, Behind the Candelabra), having ‘borrowed’ the Ant-Man suit to head off to Germany to help the Avengers.
Continuing a plotline from the first installment, Ant-Man, the father-daughter team are fugitives themselves. They need the help of Scott to travel in the quantum world to find Pym’s missing wife, Michelle Pfeiffer (The Fabulous Baker Boys, Hairspray). But they need to get him out of his house – and avoid Ava (Hannah John-Kamen – Ready Player One, Tomb Raider), the somewhat physically unstable woman who needs Pym’s technology to stabilise.
Lots of shrinking and enlarging of people, vehicles and buildings (!) abound with that technology in high demand, mixed with Hope in a suit of her own, Scott avoiding being caught out of home and the wonderfully funny Luis (Michael Peña – End of Watch, American Hustle) returning to continue where he and his team left off in the first film.
The focus has shifted to the law suit between Disney and Scarlett Johansson – which is a pity as the Cate Shortland-directed origin tale is one of the best in the Marvel Cinematic Universe canon.
As a child, Natasha Romanoff and her younger sister, Yelena, were taken from their ‘parents’ (a sleeper family based in Ohio) and trained as deadly assassins. Now an outlawed Avenger, the Black Widow must confront events tied to her Russian past alone – and deal with a sister (Florence Pugh – Little Women, Lady Macbeth) with her own agenda. The present includes faces from the past – so-called father David Harbour (Suicide Squad, Revolutionary Road) and mother, Rachel Weisz (The Constant Gardener, The Favourite). But more threatening to the sisters is the sadistic Dreykov (Ray Winstone – Sexy Beast, Hugo), former head of their training program.
There’s plenty of fast-paced action in a good old-fashioned spy thriller, 21st century style. But with Shortland (Somersault, Berlin Syndrome) at the helm, character, dialogue and an engrossing narrative are given equal focus. A Black Widow stand-alone has been a long time coming, but it’s worth the wait – with Harbour very nearly stealing the show from the two sisters.