Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania (2023)

Marvel’s first film of 2023 and the very first of Phase 5 of its masterplan, is this threequel in the popular Ant Man adventures. This is what you need to know.

After rescuing Janet Van Dyne from the Quantum Realm (a picoscopic universe far below our own), Scott Lang has decided to play it cool, spend more time with his daughter Cassie and his partner Hope Van Dyne, and her parents. Hope is frustrated because her mother won’t open up about her traumatic experience in the underworld, and Cassie is spreading her intellectual wings with the help of sneaky mischievous Hank Pym. Unfortunately, this involves building a portal to the Quantum Realm. Two seconds later they’re all sucked into the microvoid and the film begins.

And what a film. I mean, batshit crazy doesn’t cover it. Essentially its a CGI fest with very little model work or set design. Instead its a massive world of ridiculity, including cows with snails heads, a man with a spinning fire dynamo for a head, a glob of sentient pink goo who looks like a cross between Seth Rogen’s character from Monsters vs Aliens and Murf from Star Trek: Prodigy, various tribal females, a man that can read minds and Bill Murray. Theres even a man with broccoli for a head, which Hank Pym subtly points out with the script genius of “that man has broccoli for his head”.

The plot is devilishly simple considering the chaotic nature of the film. A stranger called Kang wants Janet to tell him where the time-core of his ruined spaceship is so he can escape to the real world.

However, we soon learn that this stranger cannot reach our universe, because he wants to utterly destroy it, much like he has done a million times before. He even informs us he has killed many Avengers before. EH?

Paul Rudd shines as Scott Lang, carrying the film on his shoulders with plenty of silly quips, Marvel-style, but with enough dramatic clout to ensure everyone is engaged. Similarly, despite being a little sidelined, Evangeline Lilly is fantastic as the Wasp. The older leads, Micheal Douglas and Michelle Pfieffer, spend the whole film having a ball, clearly not knowing what is going on and trusting their director.

Its hugely enjoyable even though your eyes are subjected to some of the silliest visuals you’ll ever see. This isn’t Dr Strange mental, this is another level. Think the clone wars mixed with some of the most outrageous anime you’ll ever see.

A particular highlight is when AntMan finds himself doubling / quadrupling exponentially, leading to an entire room full of AntMans. Antmen? Their pyramid building solution is genius…especially considering thats what REAL ants do…

Kang the Conqueror is (spoilers) the new Big Bad, introduced what seems like ages ago in Loki. I was always worried he wouldn’t stand up to the likes of the memorable Thanos…but i am proved wrong. He is menacing, ruthless and terrifying. The MCU is quivering before him.

Kevin Feige has already stated that this is the gear shift in the MCU. Phase 4 was distinctively soggy but now that the quantum-mania has begun, my pulse is skyrocketing.


Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (2022)

This was / is the only Marvel MCU film i didn’t see at the cinema. Work and anxiety issues prohibited me from it. So on its release on Disney +, it was a necessity to sit down and digest it over a seafood salad. Which was lovely, btw.

The tragic loss of our hero and friend Chadwick Boseman threw the fate of this sequel into indefinition but the writers have very fondly crafted his loss into the movie. The opening, silent Marvel Studios logo pays a wonderful homage to the fallen legend. Of course, the trailers have all spoiled the reveal of the new Panther, but if you ask me, the film would have stood happily by itself without the Panther character – its far more about Wakanda, and the greif of T’challa’s mother and sister.

Its first stumbling block is its choice of antagonists. Namora is a Hermes-style flying fish person. His people are BLUE. Live UNDER THE SEA. They may well have called the film “Aquaman: Avatar Forever”. They ride around on whales (like Aquaman), they live in an underwater city (like Aquaman), and Namora himself has the acting range of a coral reef (like Aquaman).

Basically a genius child prodigy (exactly like America in Dr Strange) has invented a Vibranium-detector and it turns out that Wakanda isn’t the only place on Earth you can find it. So us nasty humans try to steal it, get caught up in a huge revenge plot by the sea people and then Wakanda has to get stuck in the middle.

Plot is silly, check. Its MCU. But then the child builds a Mighty Morphin Power suit. “Ironheart.” Jeez. Talk about a drop in quality. In fact, the CGI throughout is awful. I mean, obviously, compared to films of ten years ago its good, but this is the MCU. This is post -Avatar: Way of Water – i really would have expected more from this cartoon of terrible.

Angela Basset and Letitia Wright absolutely steal the show – and make it worth the watch. My particular highlight (there weren’t many) was the banter between Shuri and her royal bodyguard Okoye (Danai Gurira); a classic double act.

The rest of the film is startlingly forgettable. The Queen gets some excellent scenes and theres a smattering of decent lines, but other than that is a bit average. Its nice exploring the world a bit more, but, ultimately, its a just another film in the franchise, and hardly stand out. Come on Marvel, you’re better than this.

That said, it truly is a love letter in memory of Chadwick, and for that it excels.

And…what the hell with Martin Freeman?

Thor: Love and Thunder (2022)

We’re back in the MCU again and this time no multiverse nonsense, which is nice. We don’t have to expect cameos from other variations of the franchise or anything. BUT that’s because the franchise is messy enough at the moment. The last time we saw Thor he was off with the Asgaardians of the Galaxy…

…and that’s where we join him. On another classic Thor adventure. In my opinion we’ve descended into too much self-parody; Thor isn’t a superhero we can adore and worship – he literally turns up, steals the thunder from the Guardians and then proceeds to wreck the place as he kicks the ass of some awesome looking bad guys. It reminds me of the scene in Ghostbusters when they went, saw and kicked Slimers ass – absolutely no care for the collateral expense. Now, if played for comedy value then okay, I understand…but what if you were the head of the people who’s entire city is rendered a pile of shattered glass simply because Thor wanted to make a spectacle of his victory.

The plot then: Gorr has a daughter, whom he loses to the desert in a rather harrowing scene, as he pledges faith to the Sun God via a pilgrimmage. Unfortunately, upon meeting the God, it turns out he’s an arrogant sod and cares not for his followers. Embracing a scary looking weapon called the Necrosword, Gorr slays the sun god and pledges himself to a dark cause; to rid the universe of Gods.

Of course, with Asgaardians being Gods, things start heating up for Thor as he then is called upon by Sith (yep, same actress) to help battle this God-Butcher. And so he has to return to New Asgaard on Earth, as Tessa Thompson (established in Ragnarock) needs help. Except she already has help… for Jane Foster is back, and has Mjolnir.

Thus beguns a romantic comedy. Doesn Thor still love Jane? Does Jane still love Thor? Does Thor still love Mjolnir? Where does that leave Stormbreaker? Can we all just be friends and stop the God-Butcher before he reaches “Eternity”, where his one wish will be granted? (presumably to rid the universe of Gods?)

DO NOT GET ME WRONG: the film is thoroughly entertaining in the way only Marvel can be. It draws the right line between true drama and utter silliness; its provides us with genuinely ridiculous concepts – the God Palace of Omnipotent City, the Rainbow-riding skyboat pulled by Goats – but you consume it all with nay a nod to sense because all the actors are so believable.

Chris H is obviously so comfortable in the role and loving every second of it. It was nice to see Natalie Portman back, certainly, and Tessa Thompson was amazing. But it was Christian Bale, throwing aside that stereotype of arseholiness to be both genuinely creepy and insane comic book villain. Russel Crowe’s cameo is both unforgettable and outrageous, as he proudly displays comedic timing and a sense of humour that would surprise you. Plus he retains his now trademark choice of awful accents. I’m looking forwards to the inevitable Russian submarine movie where he plays a Scotsman. Or something equally masterclass.

The films major success however falls to two things – 1) the use of the kids in the plot. They are central. Giving each and every one of the poor wee tots the power of Thor for the finale is a stroke of genius. All the kids watching are going to go home, immediately pick up something in their house and run off screaming, imaginary lightening streaming from their eyes and them embracing every moment of their wonderful childhood.

2) Stormbreaker. Steals every scene its in with more character presence / comedy timing / dramatic stares than the entire cast of Zack Snyder’s Justice League. You’ll think i’m mad reading this, but wait till you see the movie.

But its imperfect. Annoyingly so. The wackiness is so at odds with some of the more dramatic moments that you’re brought out of the flow; Jane is given amazing powers and yet those powers are killing her. Oh – we said something serious, quick, have the rock man say something funny to counter it. And if you didn’t think screaming goats are funny ten years ago then you’re going to have a whale of a time here.

Its an enjoyable dance of jokes and silliness, but it falls far from classic marvel. Its certainly nowhere near as good as its predecessor. It does however, standalone. It doesn’t set things up for a sequel until the traditional mid-credits scene, and even then we’re not sure whats being said. No hints as to what might happen in the future – in fact… I don’t even know what the next Marvel film is? Is there another one this year?