Phase IV Review

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It’s time to take a look at an old school horror film. This one naturally gets tricky because of course when animals are the focus you have to get a little nervous. If the ants win then they’ll probably still suffer collateral damage, but if they lose then animal violence is assured. As a result, it does feel like there is no winning at times right? Well, that’s basically the situation and unfortunately this film was not able to get past that. It was curtains from the start.

The film starts with a meteor hitting the Earth and granting the ants extra intelligence to help balance them against the humans on the food chain. The Ants decide to take over the world, but they are willing to play the long game. They decide to start off in the suburbs and quickly take the local town over. That’s when two scientists arrive to try and see what can be done about all of this. They may be in a little over their head this time though and when another family is murdered they are also forced to look after a teenage girl. Now they must either try to stay and survive in the base they have built or attempt to escape.

Ernest is the main researcher and he believes that the only way to deal with the ants is to wipe them out. He wants to beat the Ants at their best though so he toys with them for a while. Naturally the ants don’t take too kindly to this. Ernest has a serious superiority complex which also doesn’t mesh too well with the situation. He’s one of the main antagonists here as he tries to prevent Kendra from escaping the base and continually puts the heroes in a bad spot. I can’t say that he was likable.

Of course, Kendra isn’t any good either. She had a traumatic start of course since seeing your family get taken down by ants can be pretty rough. Still, she nearly sabotages the heroes from the start as she breaks a box of ants and causes Ernest to get bitten. She is pretty afraid of the ants the whole time and just can’t keep up with them. At the end she also makes a pretty poor decision which sums up her whole character arc in the film.

Finally we have James who is the last of the main character. He decided to come along and study the ants, but doesn’t realize just how serious the situation is at first. He came to have fun but is quickly thrown into this game of death. He wants a peaceful alternative to dealing with the ants, but that kind of thing never gets to work in these films. You can appreciate the attempt I guess, but at the same time it’s basically just him giving up.

As hinted at earlier the film does have animal violence which really hurts its chances. There is a dog who shows up and naturally doesn’t last long against the Ants. Any animal that gets in their way is quickly demolished. Then you’ve also got other animals like the Grasshopper who shows up and gets wrecked which is pretty unfortunate. I was rooting for him to take some names. The animal violence is pretty bad so the film was definitely sunk at this point.

It also has a bad habit of dragging on scenes forever as we just see the Ants walking around. This’ll just bore you to tears and it speaks to how low the budget must have been for this film. It was just trying to buy time throughout which was too bad. The final segment of the film at least tries to be a little interesting with the twist ending as the Ants learn how to mind control humans and reanimate the dead ones. That could make a sequel a lot more interesting, but since this only happens for the final 1-2 minutes of the film I certainly wouldn’t say that it really impacts the score. At least it didn’t end on a low note right?

I suppose the writing isn’t bad here. The characters may not be the smartest, but at least they don’t always panic right away. For the most part they make an effort to try and stay objective about the whole thing. Blowing up the Ants’ energy cannons was a good idea. I certainly do think they should have had better defenses against the Ants though. Ultimately the insects are just able to walk into their base and destroy them. Meanwhile I thought the ants did a much better job of defending themselves with their cool heat waves and such. They even had fighter Ants of various elements to try and counter whatever the humans had up their sleeves. Their army coordination was on point.

Overall, Between the animal violence and the very underwhelming trio of characters, I can’t say that Phase IV is a film I would recommend to anyone. The dog scene guarantees that and having insects as opponents is never a good idea in basically any form of media. There are a very limited amount of routes you can take here and they all lead to disaster. If you want to see a good horror film I would suggest turning back and watching Poltergeist III instead. Otherwise, you should back up and check out a different genre like Scooby Doo. Those films will always be happy to throw a few puns your way.

Overall 0/10

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A Bug’s Life Review

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Lets look at a Bug’s Life. The film itself is nothing all that special compared to some of the other big animated films of the last decade, but it’s still a quality film. It doesn’t really do anything wrong and will keep you engaged from start to finish. It’s a fun adventure with good pacing, but you will get the feeling that it’s just lacking something. That extra impact to raise the film from a solid 7 to a great 8. I don’t know what that something is though so maybe the film would bring it for a sequel.

The plot starts by introducing us to the Ant pack. These guys are very strong in number, but they are rather passive. They aren’t even confident about going around a leaf without being told how to do it by one of the elders. Their own insecurities have led them to be tamed by the Grasshoppers even though the Ants badly outnumber them. Flik decides that Ants shouldn’t be working for grasshoppers like this and has begun making inventions to help make their lives easier. Unfortunately his inventions often backfire so he is convinced to leave the tribe under the pretense of recruiting powerful allies. That’s when Flik discovers a circus of powerful creatures and realizes that this is his chance. Will the performers want to help? Even if they do, can they possibly win against trained Grasshoppers?

It’s a fun enough plot. Naturally when a film is based around animals this can get pretty dicey but the film never goes that route which is fortunate. You wouldn’t really expect animal violence in this film anyway but it’s always good to have confirmation. The Grasshoppers make for pretty good villains. Some of them are even pretty vicious like the leader, Hopper or the one who is always foaming at the mouth. It makes for intense visuals and you do realize that the Ants are doomed in one on one fights. Even as a team they better have really good combos because otherwise they would be wiped out. The leader of the Grasshoppers is also the kind of villain who doesn’t give up easily. Even at the end Hopper was trying to reclaim his dominance at the top of the food chain. Unfortunately he ran into the best character of the film and one doesn’t often walk away from such an encounter. It was actually a rather vicious end for the guy.

If the film has a weak point, it would be that most of the characters aren’t all that engaging. I didn’t really care for anyone from the circus. The Ladybug who talks tough never actually acts tough when it’s climax time so he’s out. The others didn’t even try fighting at the end even though some of them look like they should be able to put up a good fight. They were also quick to walk away with the circus owner although I won’t put too much blame on them since the Ants did not want them. That brings me over to the Ants. The Ant Princess is definitely not a quality character and her plans are no good. Even after she figures out the main character’s deception, why send the circus troupe back? They definitely don’t have enough time to meet the Grasshoppers’ demands now so making do with these guys was her only option. Instead she just puts the Ants in a position to be ganged up on and eliminated. As the leader she needed to make a better call. The ex leader, aka the Queen wasn’t great either. She didn’t really do anything the whole time and was content to be on the sidelines. That’s not leadership material either.

As mentioned before, this doesn’t apply to the villains though. The Grasshoppers are certainly quite intimidating and the leader knows how to control his pack. If they dare cross him then they must take a punishment. He’s also bold enough to be surrounded by Ants and not care. If only the Ants were as brave. I haven’t talked much about the main character, but I’m afraid that he’s not very good so he fits in with the Ants. Even when the villain threatens to destroy one of the kids Flik backs up and decides to keep the peace. That’s definitely not something that any true main character would do. If you won’t stick up for your friends then you can’t be a hero.

The graphics aren’t bad. All of the character models appear to be on point. It definitely has more jungle type landscapes than the average film since most of it takes place in a grassy environment. There isn’t really much of a soundtrack though so don’t expect any great tunes to jam to. The writing is pretty good with a sound script. None of the characters seem over the top, at most they are just very naive like the average Ant. It’s almost hard to root for those guys since the Grasshoppers just seem a lot smarter and more strategic. The Ants have every possible advantage if they would just use it.

Overall, A Bug’s Life is a good film. It reminds you of the strength in numbers tactic and that you can’t submit to another species without a fight. If you haven’t seen this film yet then I would recommend checking it out. It’s a solid adventure film with a bit of action which makes for a pretty solid combo. Maybe one day these characters will show up in Kingdom Hearts. The movie doesn’t really leave any cliffhangers as it’s a complete ending but you could easily follow up on it by having another species decide to move in when they hear that the Grasshoppers have fallen. There are a lot of possibilities there.

Overall 6/10

Ants Review

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It’s time to look at another animal based horror film. Fortunately it’s not about birds or dogs as that would give off even more warning bells right out of the gate. As it stands, the film actually manages to avoid any real violence against the ants which is pretty cool. Of course, we do get a montage which doesn’t help the film’s case but one thing at a time.

The film starts off with a wealthy member of corporate heading over to a family hotel to buy it out. The current owner doesn’t like this idea but she is getting very old and won’t be able to stand up to the power for very long. It doesn’t help that her daughter will not continue the legacy either. As the old lady gets ready to relent, the hotel gets overrun by bugs. Ants to be precise! They are biting everyone and plan to eventually take over the building. It is only a matter of time before they finally claim victory. How long can Mike The Construction Worker protect the hotel crew?

One thing you’ll notice right away is that the film relies an incredible amount on your suspense for disbelief. The Ants aren’t exactly subtle as they swarm everyplace they can find, but nobody ever notices them. Clearly they all need glasses as you can usually tell if around 6-10 Ants are cluttered, much less hundreds. Whether it be the kid in the dumpster or the cook in the kitchen, you can’t possibly expect us to believe that they didn’t notice hundreds of ants. That’s just not possible and the film probably knows it. It’s just that there is not really any other way to get the ants into place except by having them walk there. The film should have had them crawl in at night or something like that since the darkness would give a better reason as to why they couldn’t be spotted.

We also can’t forget the plot convenience of the ants deciding not to attack the guy who was trying to shut the place down. They mentioned that the ants won’t hurt you if you don’t move but this guy was lightly aggravating then by moving his hand around and yet they didn’t bite. I suppose they were just smart enough to realize that attacking someone like this just wasn’t worth it? I dunno, it’s a bit of a stretch but if you see this as a very sentient takeover by the Ants, then I guess it helps a bit.

As mentioned earlier, there is a montage where the ants destroy a bunch of other animals which definitely wasn’t a good idea. I don’t want to see them challenging a bunch of innocent animals. Keep their victims human, but don’t throw in the animals. It’s just not right, not right at all. I suppose it’s a good time to talk about the characters. Certainly an intriguing cast, but not a good one I’m afraid.

First off we have one of the supporting construction guys. He was tending to the front yard when a girl shows up and basically asks if he’s free. You can take that two different ways, if he’s not busy right now or if he’ll fool around with anyone. He basically says yes to both and their terrible/out of nowhere romance begins. Not only do these characters not add anything to the film but they aren’t even fun. I don’t see the point of including them here and that was probably a mistake on the film’s part. Another pair of big characters were the corporate takeover guy and the girl he was with. They certainly don’t get along very well as the guy constantly insults her intelligence. She always gets him to half apologize but this happens at least 3 times so talk about de ja vu. His corporate side was fun as he always seemed to have the edge when it came time for the talks. He was good at lying to a person’s face with no remorse. You can certainly tell that corporate taught him well. You know how his character arc is going to end right from the start but at least it’s a fun ride. He’ll stand up to anybody!

The old lady who wanted to keep the house was decent. At least she knew that if she sold the house it would probably be the end of the building. Still, it’s not like you can keep it forever anyway, eventually she would be forced to let it go. While she may have made the climax a little more difficult for the heroes, it wasn’t exactly her fault so she can’t be blamed for that. Her daughter is the main person running the show while the lady rests and she’s not a bad character. Her romance with Mike is pretty bad though. The trope of someone winning an argument by pulling the romance card just isn’t good. Mike had a good reason for barging into the hotel and should have just explained it better. Mike has a big role in the film and could probably be called the lead. He does figure out the true culprit of the attacks before anyone else so I’ll give him some kudos there. Beyond that, he doesn’t really have much character and I can’t say that I liked him. He does ultimately back off from the environmental protection guys and Mike could have handled the situation better.

The climax is another part of the film where you will have to shake your head. Ants have begun to surround the house so the main characters are trapped inside. It’s unfortunate for them, but they knew the risks. The problem is that they should be able to just run out of the house. The only decent case you can make here is that it would be tough for the old lady, but Mike could have carried her. The Ants are numerous but as long as you’re careful you should be okay. One character does run out of the house, but he puts his hand on the rail which is a big no no and then trips. Since the other characters know to respect the Ants, they’d run down the stairs without grabbing anything. It’s not like the Anta can fly and while they could jump off the walls, they didn’t do that in any of the other scenes so why start now? Don’t even get me started on how slowly they were getting into the helicopter. It’s a matter of life and death, you’d think that they would show more initiative. Then sitting still and hoping the Ants wouldn’t bite ends up being the right answer.

These Ants are mad because of the environment so I figure they would throw in some bites anyway. They don’t care about how normal Ants would act, these are Eco-Warriors and they will die fighting. The whole climax revolves around you believing that these are just normal ants again. It’s also a big gamble that the ants don’t bite when they are blasted by the sleeping gas. I certainly wouldn’t have gone along with the plan and I can safely say that I prefer not to have Ants crawling all over me.

Overall, Ants isn’t a very good film. In fact, it’s a bad one. It’s filled with so many leaps in logic that you will be wondering why the film made the decisions it did. If it really wanted to trap he heroes in the house, it should have had more Ants on the ground to show that with every step they would get bitten. Maybe the budget had something to say about it as well though. Seeing Ants crawling around on everyone definitely isn’t all that enjoyable and I think a film about any kind of insect like this would be rather difficult to get behind. Better luck next time I suppose. You’re better off watching THEM.

Overall 3/10