Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
Written by Phil Lord & Rodney Rothman
Directed by Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, & Rodney Rothman
Spider-Man is the main hero of New York City and has been for decades. Meanwhile, Miles Morales is just a talented kid reluctantly attending a boarding school for the scientific minded. During a late excursion to tag a prime piece of real estate in the subway tunnels, Miles is bitten by a strange spider and begins to develop strange powers as a result. When Miles returns to the scene of the incident, he ends up dead center in a battle between Spider-Man and a host of villains in the employ of the Kingpin. The fight ends with Miles squarely set to inherit the mantle and in need of training. The result of Kingpin’s experiments is that the fabric of the multiverse is broken and a host of other Spider-people have found their way to Miles’ dimension. The clock is ticking as reality crumbles, and in a very short amount of time, our protagonist must learn to be the hero his universe needs him to be.
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Ant-Man & The Wasp (2018)
Written by Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd & Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari
Directed by Peyton Reed
Scott Lang has been under house arrest for two years, captured and extradited back to the United States after his role in Captain America’s insurrection. Lang only has a couple days left in his sentence when he is hit with visions of Janet van Dyne, the presumed dead wife of the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym. Before he knows it Lang is sneaking out of his home aiding Pym and his daughter Hope. They are trying to keep ahead of the pursuing FBI, a criminal cartel, and the mysterious phasing villain Ghost.
Ant-Man & The Wasp is not a terrible film, it’s a perfectly middle of the road, formulaic forgettable fare. What keeps the movie somewhat engaging is the always charismatic Paul Rudd and the film’s willingness to acknowledge some of the absurd tropes of the superhero genre. These elements were present in the first film but here there are moments where the director allows them to run wild. There are some short improvisational moments involving the trio of fellow ex-cons that work alongside Lang. The humor feels strained to say the least near the end of the picture.
If you step back and look at the picture as a whole, you find there is very little there other than an extremely stretched out plot that amounts to about 90 mins worth of material made to work for over two hours. There’s a car chase that is prolonged by playing with the shrinking and growing powers of our title characters but after a few iterations you sort of get the point and wonder what else there is to offer. I wasn’t an overjoyed fan of Black Panther or Avengers: Infinity War however both of those films do a much better job of creating emotional investment in characters because the stakes feel genuinely high. I never once felt that Lang and his cohorts were actually in peril. Maybe this is by design, but after seeing how wide in scope Infinity War reached it causes Ant-Man to feel diminished.
All of this said, Ant-Man highlights one of the problems in the ongoing DC V Marvel film debate. Ant-Man & The Wasp has much more in common with Richard Donner’s classic Superman film than a single picture released by Warner Brothers in the last six years. Donner managed to balance humor and more serious material which is what makes Superman a very charming film. While Peyton Reed doesn’t ascend to those heights he does remember something Mr. Snyder has forgotten: These movies should be fun.
Avengers: Infinity War (2018)
Written by Christopher Markus & Stephen McFeely
Directed by Anthony & Joe Russo
All of reality is threatened as the mad titan Thanos seeks out the Infinity Gems, objects forged in the creation of the universe that allows their wielder to manipulate everything from time to the fabric of reality and the very soul of living beings. Iron Man stands alongside Doctor Strange and Spider-Man when Thanos’ lackeys arrive in New York City to search for one of the gems. Meanwhile, the Guardians of the Galaxy come across what remains of the Asgardians and Thor deep in the void of space. Captain America and his rogue Avengers also come to the table when it becomes clear everything they know is in danger as long as Thanos is in possession of these items. Only Gamora, with her intimate knowledge as Thanos’ daughter, can help them, but is it already too late?
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Black Panther (2018)
Written by Ryan Coogler & Joe Robert Cole
Directed by Ryan Coogler
Prince T’Challa is still mourning his father’s death in the wake of Captain America: Civil War and he must be coronated the new monarch of Wakanda. After defeating his single challenger, M’Baku of the Mountain Gorilla Tribe. As his first act as the king, T’Challa decides to bring in fugitive Ulysses Klaue who is guilty of murdering multiple Wakandans and stealing their precious Vibranium. This leads our hero into crossing paths with Everett Ross again who becomes embroiled in the current drama overtaking the kingdom. Among Klaue’s ranks is an even more significant threat with deep ties to Wakanda and could be the undoing of everything T’Challa is fighting for.
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Thor: Ragnarok (2017)
Written by Eric Pearson, Craig Kyle & Christopher Yost
Directed by Taika Waititi
Since the events of Avengers: Age of Ultron, Thor the God of Thunder has been traveling across the Nine Worlds and the universe in search of the Infinity Stones with no luck. Meanwhile, his brother Loki has been posing as Odin since Thor: The Dark World. The two siblings are confronted with a significant change to the status quo in Asgard. The results of this shake-up send them hurtling across the universe to Sakaar, a junk planet run by The Grandmaster, the host of the Contest of Champions. Thor finds himself reconnecting with an old friend and discovering that another lost Asgardian has made their way to this strange corner of the galaxy. It will be up to Thor to gather a ragtag group of heroes to reclaim his home. Or, will the prophecy of Ragnarok, the death of the gods, come to pass?
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Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017)
Written by Jonathan Goldstein & John Francis Daley, Jon Watts & Christopher Ford, and Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers
Directed by Jon Watts
Peter Parker is riding the high from helping out Iron Man during the events of Captain America: Civil War. With his new Stark designed Spidey suit, he patrols Queens every afternoon after school and awaits the call for his next mission with the Avengers. However, he quickly learns that the primary focus of Tony Stark is for Peter to continue with his education and stay safe. Meanwhile, former salvage worker Adrian Toomes and his crew have had their livelihood taken from them by the newly formed Department of Damage Control, feds who come in and take over the recovery of tech from Avengers-related battles. Seeing that they are living in a new world, Toomes leads his men to steal and harvest this tech as weapons for ordinary criminals. Toomes himself wears a pair of vulture wings that allow him to swoop in and hijack shipments of technology. Peter and Toomes’ paths begin crossing, and our teenage hero has balance life as a high school student with the impending danger of these new weapons.
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Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 (2017, dir. James Gunn)
The Guardians have made a name for themselves and now act as heroes for hire. They finish up their latest job, protecting the energy source of The Sovereign, a genetically engineered “perfect race” but run into trouble on the way out. This leads to Peter Quill meeting his father for the first time, a strange man named Ego. Meanwhile, Yondu and his Ravagers are hired by a party disgruntled with The Guardians and wanting revenge. Gamora is also dealing with family issues (her vengeful sister Nebula), and everyone else seems to have their own interesting arcs as well.
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