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Review | Ant-Man

Posted in Film & Television

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Info:

Genre: Science-fiction, comic-book adaptation

Director/s: Peyton Reed

Running Time: 117 mins

Budget: $130 million

Released: 29 June 2015

Plot:

Armed with a super-suit with the astonishing ability to shrink in scale but increase in strength, cat burglar Scott Lang must embrace his inner hero and help his mentor, Dr. Hank Pym, plan and pull off a heist that will save the world.

Review:

Admittedly, Ant-Man was one of the Marvel films that I put on the back-burner, having no real desire to rush out to the cinema and see it as I would with say, The Avengers or Iron Man.  Indeed, Ant-Man doesn’t really have the cash-cow potential of the ‘bigger’ (sorry, couldn’t resist…) Marvel heroes, but that’s not to say that Ant-Man doesn’t deserve recognition as this film is extremely enjoyable and has all the right ingredients for a successful superhero entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

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The premise is a simple one, soon after ending a stint in prison, long-time cat burglar Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) goes back to his ways after he struggles to maintain employment due to his shaky history.  A heist goes “sour” after Scott breaks into an old vault that seems to have nothing of worth save for a strange suit and helmet which he steals anyway.  Turns out the suit belongs to Dr. Hank Pym, a brilliant scientist who has designed a special serum which works in conjunction with the suit allowing the wearer to shrink in scale and increase in strength.  Together with Dr. Pym and his daughter – Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), Scott must master the suit’s power and infiltrate Pym Technologies in order to steal (and destroy) a prototype serum (reverse-engineered) which Dr. Pym’s former protégé – Darren Cross, wishes to weaponize for military application.

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As expected, Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) is in the role of antagonist and also has his own prototype suit (intended for soldiers) – The Yellowjacket (a Yellow Jacket being a type of predatory wasp) which he will use to battle Ant-Man with.  Ant-Man is definitely on a smaller scale (again, couldn’t resist) compared to films like Guardians of the Galaxy and the aforementioned Avengers, there’s no world-ending premise or alien overlords but Stark is name-dropped several times as is The Avengers so much so that at one point Scott goes toe-to-toe with one of them.

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“…it’s clear that Marvel wish to fully integrate each one of their heroes into the MCU however minor they may be…”

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Hope is Scott’s love interest in the film (though initially the relationship is antagonistic, as expected) and is set to become Wasp for the sequel – Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018).  Ant-Man will also play a role in Captain America: Civil War so it’s clear that Marvel wish to fully integrate each one of their heroes into the MCU however minor they may be.  Interestingly enough, Dr. Hank Pym was originally the creator of Ultron in the comics however, it was decided to cast Tony Stark as the killer-robot’s father as the producer’s felt there would have been too many ‘scientist characters’ vying for screen time in Age of Ultron.  It’s also worth noting that in the comics, Scott Lang was the second Ant-Man, Hank Pym being the first (having created the super-suit and so forth).

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Perhaps the strongest aspect of Ant-man is its humour.  Paul Rudd does a fantastic job of keeping the audience engaged and entertained, whether it’s banter between allies or smack-talk against foes, Ant-Man will have you chuckling throughout the film’s duration.  Michael Douglas did a good job of portraying Hank Pym and while Darren Cross was definitely not in the same league as the likes of Ultron, Thanos and the other big bads, he did a fine job keeping us entertained as the malicious ex-protégé with a chip on his shoulder and something to prove.  It’s also worth noting that this film did a stellar job of making us care about ants (or perhaps one in particular) and managed to use them to great comedic effect at certain points.

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In terms of visual-effects, Ant-man is top-notch.  The shrinking effect is implemented well and all the ‘giant’ environments are wonderfully done, reminding me of the classic film Honey, I Shrunk the Kids – a film that I found utterly captivating and engrossing as a child.  Ant-Man managed to capture some of that aforementioned nostalgia for me (especially since Honey, I Shrunk the Kids also featured an ant ‘hero’).  The Ant-Man suit has also been brought to life wonderfully although, the central colours of the suit have been reversed – the primary colour now being black, accentuated by red on the chest and shoulders. Undoubtedly, this change was done in order to streamline the suit’s transition to the silver screen.  Needless to say, the Ant-man’s Formicidae compatriots are animated brilliantly too.

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Conclusion:

In conclusion, Ant-Man is a great addition to the MCU roster.  It’s funny, action-packed and certainly does its comic-book namesake justice.  Even though Ant-Man isn’t in the same league as the other flashier Marvel films, it holds its own, offering a hugely entertaining and interesting adventure despite the various predictable plot elements present here.

Score | B

One-Punch Man | ワンパンマン

Posted in Anime, and Film & Television

Not since Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann have I enjoyed an anime as much as One Punch Man.  Like many anime series’ before it, One Punch Man started out as a manga [漫画] – but not in the typical sense mind you, One Punch Man started out as a web comic in 2009 (ongoing) created by ONE (a pseudonym obviously), which he serializes on his own website, meaning he doesn’t get paid for it.  ONE is a manga artist in a hobbyist capacity, however, he has reached a level of success that many professional manga artists would be envious of after One Punch Man went viral surpassing 7.9 million hits by June 2012.

Yusuke Murata illustrates a digital remake of the manga series which has since been licensed for an English remake by Viz Media, which brings us to the anime adaptation which began airing last month.  Currently, 5 episodes have been released and I assure you that each one of them has been awesome.

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As pictured, the anime adaptation does a good job of reproducing the manga’s art style as well as capturing Saitama’s plight of finishing every opponent with a single blow.

One Punch Man centres around the story of Saitama, an exceptionally powerful ‘hero’ who battles countless villains and monsters who find their way into City Z, defeating them effortlessly in a single punch.  Unfortunately, Saitama’s immense power has made him bored and so he is constantly seeking out stronger opponents in the hopes that they may provide a decent challenge for him.

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I have yet to read the manga, and as far as the series goes for the moment, the source of Saitama’s power seems to be a complete mystery as his self-proclaimed source of strength is certainly questionable, as Genos (Saitama’s disciple) points out.  Saitama claims that he trained for 3 years (100 squats, 100 push-ups and a 10km run each day) to the point where he became so powerful that he went bald.  However, as determined in the series, his training regime is of moderate difficulty for the average person and would certainly not amount to the level of power that Saitama exudes, so I have my suspicions that Saitama is something else all together.

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One Punch Man has the perfect combination of humour and action making for an extremely fun viewing experience.  For the most part, Saitama is portrayed in an odd, potato-headed style that admittedly took a little while to get used to, but worry not for the moment he starts fighting, the visual style adjusts to match the intensity of the action.  The battle sequences are wonderfully animated in a crazy Naruto-esque style which is then offset by gruesome bouts of ultra-violence as monsters get shredded and torn apart indiscriminately in fountains of blood and viscera.  The level of violence creates a nice contrast to the subject matter which you’d be forgiven for thinking was purely comedy.  On the subject of comedy, Saitama puts out facial expressions that rival Great Teacher Onizuka’s, accentuated by Saitama’s ridiculous costume and overall attitude to any given situation.

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Blood and gore ensue as Saitama dispatches enemies with minimal effort.
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Saitama prior to his training.

Interestingly enough, Yusuke Murata entered a competition at age 12, in order to design Mega Man villains and won twice, and it’s interesting because like Mega Man, Genos is a cyborg-type character having been developed by a very Doctor Light-esque type scientist so perhaps it’s just mere coincidence that Murata would find himself involved in such a project.  Another key aspect of One Punch Man is that no one seems to know who he is with the result that Saitama receives no recognition at all, and in fact at one point in the series he and Genos enroll in a  Hero Test Exam with the result that Genos scores higher than Saitama because there are people after him/monitoring him who aren’t even aware of Saitama’s existence.

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The typical expression of Saitama’s enemies – dumb-founded and confused as monsters, aliens, mad scientists and more are all systematically defeated.

It’s worth mentioning that the opening sound track is one of the best that I’ve heard in a long time, composed by the Japanese group known as JAM Project, the opening track, entitled – The Hero!!, is reminiscent of Maximum the Hormone exhibiting the same amount of crazy, unrelenting energy and power synonymous with the band.  So do yourself a favour and pick up JAM Project’s single – The Hero!!

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Yes, in case you were wondering , that is indeed a kunai stuck in the back of the big guy’s head…

In conclusion, the first 5 episodes have really been outstanding and if they can keep up the momentum throughout the course of the series, then One Punch Man is set to be one of the greats.  I will make a point of reading the manga too (picked up the first 8 volumes) as it will no doubt be just as crazy as this anime adaptation.

So if you’re looking for something fun, yet action-packed, you can’t go wrong with One Punch Man.