Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

Life is good for Scott Lang (Paul Rudd).  After helping the Avengers undo The Blip and defeat Thanos, everyone loves Ant-Man.  The movie’s funniest bit is when it shows Lang walking carefree around San Francisco to the chorus of “Welcome Back” graciously accepting free coffee and meals because people confuse him with Spider-Man.  (I would have chosen “Believe It or Not”, the theme song from “Greatest American Hero”.)  Aside from his heroic exploits, Scott  is just an all around good guy.  Problem is, he doesn’t know what to do with himself in this post-Endgame world.  As his daughter Cassie helpfully points out, he’s been content to rest on his laurels instead of choosing to engage with the world’s numerous problems.  Fortunately (or unfortunately) for Scott, he lives in the MCU.  Defeating one existential threat only means that an even bigger and badder one is on the way.

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Thor: Love and Thunder

What if all Gods are jerks who couldn’t care less about the suffering of the faithful?  For Gorr (Christian Bale), the sole surviving member of an extinct race whose daughter just died, the answer is simple: kill ‘em all!  If I didn’t know better, I’d accuse Thor: Love and Thunder (or Thor4) of appropriating Nietzsche’s most famous quote (God is dead) for a plot device.  Not to worry, this is the only deep thought the movie has to offer over its two hour run time.

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Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings

After the creative and dramatic pothole that was Black Widow, Marvel returns to form with Shang-Chi and the Ten Rings.  Simun Liu stars as Shawn, a slacker (by choice) who spends his days as a valet with (platonic) best friend and fellow karaoke enthusiast Katy (Awkwafina).  The past Shawn ran away from tracks him down, resulting in a bus ride that would have made even Sandra Bullock nervous.  From there, Shawn reunites with the sister he abandoned, Xialing (Meng’er Zhang), and the father he ran away from, Wenwu (Tony Leung).  After spending years hiding from his past, Shawn is forced to accept who he is, as well as confront his father, who’s plans may put the entire world in danger.

Like most Marvel origin stories, Shang-Chi follows the template, down to the obligatory training sequences that confirm what we already know.  Fortunately, Shang-Chi colors outside the lines in ways that make this MCU entry exciting and engaging.  Most importantly, the movie takes its time and gives scenes (and the audience) a chance to breathe, letting us become immersed in its world before the fireworks arrive in the end.  The acting is exceptional all around, and supporting turns by Michelle Yeoh (as Shawn’s aunt) and Ben Kingsley (as misfit actor Trevor Slattery) add texture and humanity to the proceedings.  Shang-Chi leaves the funny business to Awkwafina, who’s career ascent has been nothing short of remarkable.  The special effects here are truly special, creating a sense of wonder instead of merely underpinning action sequences.  Highly recommended.

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Black Widow

Black Widow is an odd entry in the MCU: a solo outing for a female superhero that has already died (see Avengers: Endgame), and who’s actor (Scarlett Johansson) has gone on record saying that she will not return to the role after this outing.  In spite of those headwinds, anticipation for Black Widow was high.  Unfortunately, Black Widow is of two minds: quirky indie dramedy interspersed with a Marvel movie.  The comedic elements are fine, but don’t mix well with the going through the motions action sequences.  Johansson and Florence Pugh, as younger sister Yelena, are fine, and David Harbour is funny as an over-the-hill Red Guardian.  The movie’s two villains are dull as dry toast, however.  We know Natasha survives all of the proceedings, so the stakes are non-existent.  Worse still, Black Widow references two events that would be much more exciting to see than anything we end up seeing.  A disappointment.  Not recommended.

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