Sequel/reboot finds Task Force X being sent to the small South American island of Corto Maltese to destroy the ominous Project Starfish. Col. Flag (Joel Kinnamen) leads the charge, with the returning Harley Quinn (Margot Robbie), Captain Boomerang (Jai Courtney) and a host of other freakish, reluctant heroes. They take heavy loses and some are captured, as we soon find out they were a distraction for the real squad, Bloodsport (Idris Elba), Peacemaker (John Cena), Polka-Dot Man (David Dastmalchian), Ratcatcher 2 (Daniela Melchior) and King Shark (voiced by Sylvester Stallone). Now this new squad must make a few rescues along the way to accomplishing their mission.
Flick is written and directed by James Gunn and is basically a very simple plot dragged out over 132 minutes. It’s over two hours of juvenile humor, excessive gore—simply for the sake of being gory—and random action sequences, till we get to our last act confrontation with a giant alien starfish. It gets tedious quick as the colorful cast of characters meanders around for two hours before finally reaching their objective. There is a lot of blood and bullets along the way and that would be fine if it didn’t feel so made up as it goes along and rambles more than tells a story. A lot of the humor falls flat, the overblown CGI gore gets tiresome and the only thing that holds our interest somewhat is that Gunn has at least given some fairly ridiculous characters a little weight and depth. Even the climactic battle with the giant, alien starfish Starro feels like it could have used a bit more of the WOW factor. Iffy CGI blood aside, this foul-mouthed super hero flick—which wouldn’t be a bad thing if there was more wit to the vulgarity—has some top notch SPFX, some decent action scenes and a cast that is far better than the disappointing material. And speaking of that cast…
Once again Margot Robbie is the perfectly cast Harley Quinn in a sadly underwhelming movie. Harley is sidelined for a portion of the film in a silly and thankfully brief romance with a South American dictator sub-plot and once she does rejoin the squad, she is more of a second banana and seems to be written more dim-witted than her usual sarcastic cleverness. When will this actress get the flick she and her portrayal deserve? Elba is good as Bloodsport, who is basically a re-written Deadshot, as Will Smith wisely had had enough. Jai Courtney is fun as Boomerang, in a far too small part. John Cena is fun as the patriotic to the point of insane Peacemaker and one wishes he had some better dialogue and moments. KInnamen is fine as Flag and Davis is solid as a returning Amanda Waller. Real standouts amongst the new cast members are Stallone hilariously voicing the simpleton brute that is King Shark, David Dastmalchian is fun as the dour and sympathetic Polka-Dot Man and Daniela Melchior gives some nice heart to Ratcatcher 2. There are also a host of familiar faces in small supporting roles, such as Michael Rooker as Savant, Nathan Fillion as TDK and Alice Braga as rebel leader Sol Soria. A really good cast in a sadly underwhelming movie.
Overall, James Gunn writes and directs this flick like a giddy 13 year-old and, for the most part, not in a good way. He chooses vulgarity over wit, crudeness instead of cleverness and wastes a really good cast with a meandering mess of a superhero flick. As the Deadpool movies prove, R-rated superhero flicks can be a blast, but this one takes a real simple, basic story and stretches it out over two and a quarter hours. It’s tedious and rambles most of the time, with only a few standout sequences, such as Harley Quinn’s acrobatic and violent escape from captivity and Polka-Dot Man’s brief but triumphant moment in the last act. It’s a slight improvement over David Ayer’s awful original, but not by much and Gunn has shown he certainly can do better with his witty and fun Guardians of the Galaxy flicks and his gory, nostalgic Slither. Very disappointing.
Rated 2 (out of 4) underused Harley Quinns
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Lackluster sequel took five writers…including star Rudd…to write the script and still produces a somewhat disappointing flick. Follow-up finds Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) under house arrest after his stint in Germany with the civil warring Avengers. Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who are pissed at him for the blow-back from Germany, sneak him out to help them in an effort to rescue Pym’s wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum realm. In their way is a quantum phasing villain named Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who wants Pym’s equipment for her own purposes. If that’s not enough, slimy black market technology dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) wants Pym’s equipment for HIS own greedy ventures.
Peyton Reed returns to direct and can’t get a whole lot out of this writer heavy, but content weak screenplay. Biggest problem is that aside from Pym’s noble goal of rescuing his long lost wife, one never gets the feeling that there is all that much at stake here. There’s never a sense of urgency to the proceedings and it just seems like a game of who’s got the miniaturized lab as it goes from one set of hands to another. Ghost is a decent villain, but all she wants is to stop phasing in and out of dimensions and so she’s more of a nuisance than an actually threat. When the only other villain is the comical Burch, we have a film without a real menace to liven up the convoluted proceedings. Films like this need a strong villain to click. Sure after the intensity of Avengers: Infinity War we needed something lighter and more fun, but thin and light are two different things and this film simply could have used more weight and been a bit livelier in the fun department. This seems very by-the-numbers and could have gotten a lot more out of the dynamic between Rudd’s Ant-Man and Lilly’s Wasp. The actors work well together, but the material here is weak. On the bright side there are some fun action sequences, like a romp through the streets of San Francisco and Luis (Michael Peña), Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (Tip Harris) are back to provide laughs as Scott’s former gang turned legit security advisors. This superhero sandwich may be light on meat, but is still edible and at least never boring.
Except for Goggins, Hannah John Kamen, Pfeiffer and Larry Fishburn, as a former friend of Hank Pym, the cast are all returning from the first Ant-Man flick. Rudd is charming and fun as Lang/Ant-Man though we wish he and the other four writers gave him some far more clever punchlines. Evangeline Lilly fairs a bit better showing some real superhero potential as the smart-ass, kick-ass Hope/Wasp. She and Rudd have a nice chemistry, even if they play out the cliché “they broke up between films and now are rediscovering their attraction” scenario. Douglas is a veteran and again is charming as the grumpy Pym. Pfeiffer doesn’t have a lot of screen time, but makes an impression and is a welcome addition to the gang. Hannah John-Kamen is solid as Ghost and a bit sympathetic, though she isn’t portrayed as a real threat. Fishburn is fine as a former friend and associate of Pym who may…or may not…want to help Hank retrieve Janet. Goggins is OK as the more comical than diabolical Burch. Like his Tomb Raider villain, he could have been more intimidating, but isn’t. As our bumbling trio, Peña, Dastmalchian and Harris are fun, though their presence in this story seems a little forced. Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale and Abby Ryder Fortson also return as Lang’s “family”. A solid cast, but let down a bit by a sub-par script.
In conclusion, there was a lot of potential here with a good cast, but a weak screenplay keeps this more in the realm of mediocre than Marvel-ous. The story doesn’t present a scenario that evokes urgency or suspense and the one-liners are less imaginative and fun this time. The direction seems by-the-numbers and the creative spark of the first flick isn’t quite there. The actors help elevate this a bit with an energetic and fun Wasp from Evangeline Lilly and some amusing moments from Rudd and his trio of side-kicks. There is more than one villain, though none of them are truly villainous, so, at least there are some fun action/fight scenes to keep us somewhat entertained. Never boring, but never especially exciting either. Stay through the credits for two additional scenes that answer questions as to when this entry takes place in the scheme of Avengers: Infinity War.
Rated 2 and 1/2 ants.
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Not being a fan of the character or being at all familiar with him, I had low expectations for what sounded like a silly superhero movie but, was pleasantly surprised by Ant-Man for a number of reasons, though it’s not perfect.
The story finds thief with a heart of gold, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) getting out of prison only to be convinced to take on another heist when his Baskin Robbins job doesn’t work out. Instead of the assumed money and jewels, he finds a strange suit in the safe he robs. Scott soon discovers two things, one…the suit is capable of shrinking him to an insect level size (while retaining his human strength) and two…the suit belongs to a Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) who has set Scott up because, he needs his help. Hank Pym is a former super hero named Ant-Man. He has kept his suit and the formula that works it, secret for decades. His arch rival/former protégée Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is close to unveiling a suit of his own and he has far less noble plans for it. Hank and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) want Scott to don the Ant-Man suit and use his skills to break into Pym Technologies’ high security research facility to steal Cross’ Yellow Jacket suit and destroy all the research that created it.
As directed by Peyton Reed, from a script by four writers, including former director Edgar Wright, this is a fun movie and also, one with a far smaller scale than the last few Marvel epics. Sure, the fate of the world is still hanging in the balance, to a degree, but, the film concentrates on a more intimate heist scenario and focuses primarily on the preparations for it by it’s three main characters. This gives the film an almost separate feel from the other Marvel universe films, if not for the mentions and cameos by some other characters. It also gives it more time to focus on the main characters more and makes it a bit more accessible to a degree. Rudd makes a surprisingly good, reluctant hero and there is also a lot more humor than the last few flicks and, for the most part, it is not broad or intrusive. There is plenty of action and the film really moves when that action occurs and it is executed with the usual top notch special FX. If anything holds the film back a little is that the different tone takes a bit of getting used to and the film does take a little while to really get going. The pace is a bit more moderate than we are used to in the MCU and even with appearances and mentions, it never truly clicks as one of the Marvel universe movies. Rudd’s Lang doesn’t quite seem like he’d fit in with the rest of the heroes, despite his entertaining tussle with one of the Avengers…but, that might add some needed diversity. The villain is, again, a stereotypical greedy corporate douche and is on par with Thor: The Dark World’s Malekith. He’s serviceable but, never really impresses. Also, Lang’s partners in crime (Michael Peña, Tip Harris, David Dastmalchian) are a source for a lot of the humor in the film and while it works most of the time, sometimes the schtick gets a little much, especially when they get involved in the main story. Finally, while it worked, there is a very cliché sub-plot with down-on-his luck Lang being divorced and not allowed to see his little girl, Cassie (Abby Ryder) and his ex-wife (Judy Greer) now married to a jerk cop (Bobby Cannavale) who has it out for Lang. All the tropes of such a tired sub-plot are played out as expected…though well enough to still be effective.
We do have a good cast here, too. I am a huge fan of Douglas so, it was great to see him onscreen again with an important role and like Robert Redford in Winter Soldier, it adds a little extra dignity to the proceedings. He’s a veteran actor and very good in the part. Rudd gets to do something interesting with his usual smarmy, smart-ass persona and he makes for a different edition to the Marvel universe. He’s more down to earth than most characters and he was charming, fun and even a bit sympathetic as the dad who wants to do right by his little girl. Lilly is sexy and feisty, which seems to be the requirement to be a Marvel female character but, she does it well and there is indication we may see more of her. She and Rudd and Douglas all work very well together, too. As said, Stoll makes an adequate villain and gives it his all, but, he’s just not that impressive. It’s a problem a lot of these Marvel flicks have had, some mediocre villains for our heroes to face. The likable Michael Peña steals a few scenes as Luis but, his schtick does get a bit overplayed, at points, as does Harris and Dastmalchian. Rounding out, Greer is fine as Lang’s ex-wife, Ryder is adorable as his daughter and Cannavale is a stereotypical jerk-at-first, who comes to like Scott once getting to know him…again very cliché.
Overall, I did like Ant-Man and had a good time. It’s not as strong as the best of the Marvel flicks though, far much better than the borderline mess that was Iron Man 3. It’s a smaller scaled and more moderately paced film which works for and against it, but, does have a good cast. Rudd’s Ant-Man is a bit different than his soon-to-be fellow Avengers and that’s a good thing and he made a solid hero. I recommend it for a good time. It’s refreshingly lighter than Age Of Ultron and Winter Soldier and while it has flaws, it’s still engaging and fun. Remember to stay for the whole show, as there is both a mid-credits scene and an end credits scene…that one is especially interesting.