Monthly Archives: May 2023

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania

The internet hated the third Ant-Man movie. This is no secret. And… as a movie, okay, I get it. It had maybe seven actors running around in front of green screens and emoting at explosions and creatures and whatever in the hopes that the CG people could keep their eyes pointing in the right direction. So when Martin Scorsese says whatever he said about superhero movies being soulless, I understand where people like him are coming from.

But this wasn’t Martin Scorsese, this was a broad cross-section of the kind of people who go to see all of the Marvel movies. And I just don’t really see the problem? The entire premise, as laid bare in the first ten minutes, was predicated on people who are nominally on the same team not talking to each other, nor apparently to their therapist.[1] So okay, that’s a little dumb. But really, when you get down to it, Quantumania only had one task, which was to introduce the viewing audience to Kang the Conqueror, and if they had to stretch credulity (but not violate any established character beats) to get there? Who cares.

They could have done a lot worse! I liked the crazy hunter-killer bot that I will steadfastly refuse to spoil. It was dumb, but it was fun dumb. I like this take on Scott Lang where his power isn’t that he can shrink or grow or talk to ants, it’s that he has an entire family to back him up. (I like that by implication Hank Pym was not a successful superhero because his powers were the inverse of Scott’s. It tracks.) I was a little disappointed, maybe, that the leader of the rebels wasn’t Jarella, but look, these movies are not for me, on some level. I’ve gone too deep![2]

Here’s what I will say in favor of the “not a good movie” camp. It was two hours, but it felt like two and a half, minimum. Still and all, and granted that I was primed by months of internet hate, but I really don’t think this was nearly so bad as what people say. It was bottom 50% of MCU movies, but was it bottom 25%? i’m not convinced it was. As a counterpoint, for example, I literally do not remember what Ant-Man and the Wasp was about. I know there were a lot of Pym particles and… I was about to say, and a geography defying bus chase, but that was Shang Chi. So, nope, nothing.

Well, unless you are Martin Scorsese, reading this review. From your perspective, sir, I get it, and this was a legitimately terrible movie. (But some of them have been pretty fantastic, and you’re just not the audience, is all. Don’t forget that it’s important to judge a movie from the viewpoint of its intended audience, not just from your own.)

[1] side-note: I wonder who acts as therapist to the superheroing community. I think I’ve seen Doc Samson do it, but he frankly wasn’t very good, plus he’s a superhero himself, so it seems sort of like a conflict of interest. I bet Marvel does something with this someday, but I’m surely at least 10-15 years away from it. But the MCU is in modern times, not in 1987, so you’d think this would have come up before now.
[2] get it?


I have a feeling that, with the loss of the original author, there’s at least a decent chance I have something like eighty Deathlands books left to read that all have randomly extruded titles. The somewhat better news is that the new author[1] has a better handle on the characters than in the last book.

Skydark does raise a logistical problem as the series gets ever longer. There are only so many years and so much geography in the continental (former) United States, for Ryan Cawdor to have history everywhere they go. Unless we are operating on Marvel time, it’s already straining credulity. Apparent solutions are a) talk about the pasts of the other characters from this time and place or b) continue on with recycled enemies and NPCs occasionally or c) you know, go somewhere and the characters don’t have a history there. And to be fair, b and c already happen with some regularity. Which leaves me sad about the broad absence of a.

This time out, anyway, the band of violent wrong-righters encounters a mutant who for once got himself a fairly beneficial mutation, as a result of which he leads an army of the most terrifying of all human mutations, the stickies, in numbers never before seen. The story is fine[2], but the science part of the science fiction went a bit off the rails, and you can tell that the last two chapters were reserved for the editor fixing some of the logistical and characterization continuity errors that this author introduced into the series.

Which was a relief, as I came into the final stretch of the book prepared to be pretty scathing and concerned about how many of these books I own. But now I think we’ll be back on the rails soon. I approve of gradually more epic plots, as long as the characters and the rules don’t change drastically. It’s a little late in the game for that, is all.

Last thing: I want to give a shoutout to the meaningless blurb phrases on each cover. Like, they’re always the most enigmatic version of a fortune cookie, but this one is just special. “When all is lost, there is always the future.”

I’d say you can’t write this stuff, but objectively, someone could.

[1] Or another, newer author? Ugh. I don’t think I’m going to look it up every single time.
[2] my complaints about Ryan’s overstuffed past notwithstanding

Beacon Pines

So walking simulators are a thing, right? Although I’m always leery of using the terminology, because am I trying to say “it’s like a game, but you don’t have to have any gaming skills to play it,” and more importantly, is that extra judgy / gatekeepery? I think I’m overthinking it, especially since I like both kinds of games, and others for that matter. Anyway, all of this to say that Beacon Pines is sort of that kind of game[1], but with a choose your own adventure twist.

See, you play as a tween elk/llama-looking semi-orphan in the titular town, with a best friend and a treehouse and a mysterious corporation and a dark past. Well, I got mixed up a bit; the kid has the first two, the town has the latter two. …although there’s some bleedover. Only, all of that is not exactly right, because what you actually play as is the reader of a book, except the book has a personality and is in search of a satisfying ending. Maybe even a happy one?

Anyway, easily recommendable way to spend 8 or 10 hours, unless you are allergic to anthropomorphic animals or implausible pseudoscience.

[1] which Wikipedia Pete helpfully calls a “narrative adventure”, which is probably a better name anyway