Review: Ant-Man

image

Director: Peyton Reed
Cast: Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, Evangeline Lilly

The Marvel Cinematic machine rolls into its third phase with another new character, and a film which has seen much discussion and speculation over the troubled production.

Ant-Man sees Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a skilled thief who has just been released from prison.  Reuniting with his daughter, he wants to prove himself a positive role model and leave his life of crime behind.  However, he swiftly finds that it is hard to get gainful employment when you have a criminal record, and soon reunites with his old partner in crime, Luis (Michael Pena), on one last job that has landed on their laps.  Breaking into a secure vault of a wealthy industrialist, the score turns out to be a costume of some kind.  When he tries on the outfit, and triggers a switch on one of the gloves, he is suddenly reduced in size to that of an ant, and discovers that the chemicals released by the suit have granted him extraordinary abilities, with enhanced strength, agility, and speed being part of them.  He also discovers that the heist was all set up by the industrialist, Henry Pym (Michael Douglas), who wants to recruit Lang to help him stop the technology being sold for militaristic use.  Pym, and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), begin training Lang to be the Ant-Man.
image

In the early stages of production, the film was in the control of Edgar Wright, writer and director of films such as Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz, and Scott Pilgrim.  However, much was reported about some creative disagreements between Wright and the studio, which resulted in Wright exiting the process and the hiring of Peyton Reed in his place.  Naturally, as this was the first Marvel film where such disagreements and changes were reported, the knives were out and many anticipated it to be the first core Marvel film failure.  However, whilst it is early to report on the box office performance of the film, cinematically it is one of the strongest outings for the studio, and stands as one of the best origin tales to date.

The tightly paced script still has Wright’s name attached, and it is easy to see why.  Many sequences and moments echo the style that Wright brought to his previous comic book adaptation, Scott Pilgrim, along with the humoured tone.  Reed has picked up on the initial draft, and added a few extra elements of his own, then presented it in a snappy, fun, and vibrant fashion.  Running at just under 2 hours, the film never out stays it’s welcome, and uses the shrinking gimmick, and control of the legions of ants, in clever, witty, and visually striking ways to ensure that, whilst the overall film is predictable and generic, you can certainly say that you haven’t seen action like this before.
image

I am going to say something now that is rare for me to say, but if you get action chance to see this film in 3D, I urge you to do so!  Yes, despite my usual hatred of the format for comic book movies (it is pointless, and action sequences are a resultant mess because of it), with Ant-Man we actually have some creative use of the format.  Additionally the film has been tailored for the IMAX screen, and it is in this format that the visuals will truly impress.  When shrinking into miniature form, the 3D bends the world around him, and adds a vertigo inducing aspect to the world.  The action is handled well to not confuse with too much happening, and some standout miniature action (including a fight in a briefcase) are well planned and executed in the 3D format, making this the first Marvel film to have genuinely utilised it as more than a gimmick.

Throw in a support cast that are generally strong, although Corey Stoll as chief bad guy Darren Cross is given woefully little to work with and is instantly forgettable, and you have one of the highlights of the summer season.  Evangeline Lilly plays well alongside and against Douglas in a troubled father/daughter relationship, whilst Pena steals every scene as Luis.  Mix in an all too brief cameo by one of the Avengers, and some scattered references to cities being dropped, wall crawling heroes, and Tales to Astonish, and Ant-Man, whilst not a perfect film, is definitely one of the best films of the summer period, with the fun factor compensating well for any shortcomings.

A final note to be made about the score by Christophe Beck.  The theme and style of soundtrack has a very retro feel to it, harking back to heist movies and spy thrillers of yesteryear, which, in the end, is what Ant-Man is at its heart.

Phase 3 is off to a strong start, and two credits scenes signpost a little of what is to come, so be sure to stick around.

Advertisements

Review: Ted 2

image

With the success of Ted a few years ago, a sequel was inevitable even though there seemed no good reason to continue the story.  Ted 2 is the result, offering a forced attempt to recapture some of the magic that made the first film work so well, yet missing the whole point drastically.

Set a few years after the events of the first film, Ted 2 sees Ted and Tammy married and wanting to have children, whilst John is single again having seemingly proven that, contrary to the message of the first film, love won’t make opposites attract.  When Ted then has to legally prove that he is a person not an object, the thunder buddies seek assistance from a fresh faced lawyer (Siegfried) to help them.  Cue a series of sketches mashed together in a desperate attempt to pad out almost 2 hours of film.

What made the first film work was that, whilst it retained the MacFarlane style of comedy that we know from Family Guy, it was structured like a film with a flowing story to spin the gags off.  The sequel seems like it could very well just be a mash up of a few episodes of Family Guy, including those zany cutaway moments that the show is notorious for.  In fact, switch Ted with Brian, and you genuinely have a plot for the cartoon, the disadvantage being that Family Guy episodes are 20 minutes long, whereas this is almost 2 hours. 

image

"Seriously? Two hours?"

But, hey, who cares about plot?  This is a comedy!  Well, sadly the puns fall flat, with only two moments in the whole film managing to spark a chuckle put of me, whilst the rest of the film was spent in stony silence.  The sparkle that brought Ted to life is simply gone.  A sub plot involving Donny (Ribisi reprising his role from the first film) is not only familiar, but pretty much the exact same sub plot from before. By the time the action locates to New York Comic Con, and two background actors get to jokingly dress up as characters they used to play in old TV shows, boredom has set in so much that you just want it all to be over.

All in all, Ted 2 is the kind of comedy sequel that makes you think that perhaps Hangover 2 wasn’t too bad…Heck, even Hangover 3 was a better laugh!  The charm, wit, and magic is all missing, replaced with lazy, formulaic hack comedy, proving that, as expected, Ted was a film that didn’t need continuing.

Review: Terminator Genisys

There’s a brief moment toward the start of the film, during the scenes of the future war, where we find that after Judgement Day humans were rounded up and imprisoned in extermination camps.  At hearing the voice over announce this you immediately wonder why round them up, and why the machines didn’t just shoot them all (especially as we are shown the terminators stood with huge guns).  Then it dawns on you… The reason they do this is because the screenwriters didn’t have a clue, and thus the level of intelligence that went into the rest of the film could be ascertained.  Suffice to say, the rest of the film didn’t disappoint – it was every bit as bad as you would expect.

A brief synopsis to start us off…

When John Connor sends Kyle Reece back to 1984, something happens that changes the timeline.  He arrives to find Sarah and her pet terminator already prepared for the fight.  In addition there is a T-1000 in the mix, and before you know it another new design of terminator (which anyone who saw the trailer will already know the plot twist of…great marketing campaign there) which is, effectively,  a T-1000 but with little solid bits and a weakness for magnets.  The team set about stopping Skynet from going active by way of a plot the screenwriters stole directly from the Sarah Connor Chronicles TV series.  Cue chases, explosions, and lots of sequences of terminators throwing each other against walls.

image

This is genuinely a repeat gag throughout the film. Oh the hilarity!

Much like the recent trip back to Jurassic Park, this new entry to the Terminator franchise relies heavily on nostalgia for the original film, even copying the arrival moments from that film, whilst also hopes that you have forgotten the later films which it then proceeds to blatantly rip moments from to present to you like it is fresh cake.  The result is a series of sequences that seem like a mash up of key moments from the earlier films, only done by some bad cosplayers.  The one interesting segment is the early moments of the future war (if you ignore the aforementioned plot contrivance), as we get an extended look at that future in a much better way than Salvation spent a whole film on.  Sadly, once we are into the past/present (and anyone who says ‘spoilers’ at that point clearly didn’t watch the trailers) it all feels very humdrum and formulaic.  The action set pieces would have thrilled more if we hadn’t seen the same moments done better previously, and also if there weren’t some baffling moments where scale of objects goes a little haywire (especially with a school bus that flips unrealistically, and seems to grow in size from shot to shot as it does).

It’s not all a loss though.  The ever amazing JK Simmons adds so much to the sparse few scenes he is in that you hope he will come back for the next film, and actually be the lead actor.  He is the one member of the cast who seems to actually have a screen presence.  Even Arnie seems to just be going through the motions,  much as he did in T3. 

image

Is it just me, or did these effects look so much better in the 90s?

But where the film really fails is in the writing.  Unconvincing moments, contrived storytelling, and so much ambiguity that it seems clear they are trying to force further films out of the gaps in the script.  I always have a dislike of films that assume that their audience are brainless, and so play to that element (hence my dislike of a certain  Michael Bay), as I feel they are treating the audience with disdain so why should I treat the product with anything else.  Well, this is one of those films.  It doesn’t ask you to leave your brain at the door, it expects you to leave your taste at the door too.

Not quite as bad as Terminator 3, but not a patch on the rest of the franchise, Genisys serves as nought more than a ‘greatest hits’ by an obscure cover band.