Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Real heroes. Not actual size.
If you haven’t been keeping track of the numbers, Marvel’s wacky, low-stakes 2015 heist movie Ant-Man stands as the studio’s third lowest grosser to date. This isn’t to say that the lightweight action-comedy is considered a failure, far from it actually, the bite-sized caper being praised for its ‘small’ scale silliness, along with Paul Rudd’s wonderful portrayal of the titular con-turned-superhero Scott Lang. Helmed once again by Peyton Reed, Bring It On (2000), this sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, pretty much delivers more of the same in terms of kooky comedy and size-shifting fun; instead of an action sequence that features Thomas The Tank Engine, we see a Hello Kitty Pez dispenser get blown up to the size of a car to dispense with a number of goons.
Taking place before Thanos clicked his purple fingers to deliver that wallop of an ending in Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Ant-Man and the Wasp opens by giving us an explanation as to why Scott was MIA from the aforementioned superhero smackdown. You see, it turns out that Lang has been under house arrest for the past two years, fitted with an ankle bracelet for violating the Sokovia Accords by helping the ‘Cap,’ aka Steve Rogers, in Captain America: Civil War (2016). Since then, the good natured goofball’s been keeping himself busy, stuffing round on a digital drum kit, learning magic tricks as well as the words to The Partridge Family (1970-74) theme song ‘Come On, Get Happy,’ whilst aiding his ex-con pals Luis (Michael Peña), Dave (Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) in managing their security firm named um, X-Con. Scott’s also trying his hardest to be a good divorced daddy to his kid daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), building an intricate cardboard fort inside of his home to keep her entertained on visits.
With three days to go until he’s free, Scott’s mind is hijacked by the original Wasp, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who got lost in the quantum realm some 30 years earlier, when she sacrificed herself by going sub-atomic to neutralize a deadly threat. Confused by his vision of Janet’s past, Lang contacts ex-S.H.I.E.L.D member Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who’s laying low with his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), after Scott used their fancy gizmos to aid the Cap in that infamous Germany air-port clash, Scott’s actions making the father-daughter duo wanted fugitives.
It quickly becomes apparent that Hank has spent the last couple of years working in a top-secret laboratory, where he’d constructed a ‘quantum tunnel’ that should, in theory, be able to transport him to the quantum realm so that he can rescue his long-lost wife before some scientific mambo-jumbo renders her unreachable forever — I think he’s speaking for all of us when Scott quips about the twosome’s need to stick the word ‘quantum’ in front of everything. Alas, the above-mentioned deadline also means that Hank and Hope (who’s got a special suit of her own) don’t have three days to wait around for Scott’s detainment to end, which means he’ll have to violate the conditions of his house arrest and risk spending 20 years in prison if he wishes to help ‘em out.
Sadly, that’s not their only problem because two other parties also want to get their mitts on the tech — which is housed inside of a building that can shrink (to the size of a suitcase) then expand with the simple click of a switch. The first of these threats is black-market technology trafficker Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), who’s introduced in a fancy hotel lobby, Hope agreeing to meet the Southern goon to attain the last doodad they need to finish their tunnel, Sonny a shady type that plans on stealing Hank’s gear to sell it to the highest bidder. The next of these obstacles is Ava, or Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a quivering bandit who, after being damaged as a young girl in a science accident that was conducted by her brainy father, Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), developed the ability to ‘phase’ through objects. Unfortunately, while her powers are visually impressive and kinda cool, they’re also a tad unclear/ undefined, and so too is her ultimate objective: to use Hank’s equipment to reverse her impairment.
Written by five, yes five scribes including Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers — the guys who wrote last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming — and actor Paul Rudd, Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t stray too far from the formula established in the first movie, filmmakers doubling down on the stuff that made the initial adventure so much fun — over/ under sized gags (one of which takes place in the hallways of Cassie’s elementary school), Peña’s legendary speed-ramping recaps (where he lip-syncs every character in his story), and those silly names for Scott’s six-legged pals (Ant-onio Banderas being my fave). The problem is, the baddies aren’t very ‘bad’ or threatening. The cruelty of Walton Goggins’ greedy kingpin doesn’t extend further than injecting a couple of people with 50 ccs of truth serum, whilst Ghost is given an overly sympathetic backstory that’s only kinda teased (not fully fleshed out), making her more of a misunderstood soul than a heavy. Heck, even the final battle, which sees our heroes race against Sonny’s white and gold SUV in the bumpy streets of San Francisco, is a bit of a letdown.
Thankfully, the visual effects are top notch, and leaps and bounds above the mediocre CGI that plagued Black Panther earlier this year. A kitchen-set confrontation that sees Lilly’s Wasp run on a knife’s edge (quite literally) before beating up a bunch of crooks is a real highlight, Rudd’s Ant-Man eventually joining the clash, the couple working in unison to take-out the bad guys; from enormous tomatoes to gigantic salt shakers, this one’s got it all. There are some pretty nifty de-aging FX as well, the prologue featuring a much younger Michael Douglas (who’s now 73-years-old) and Michelle Pfeiffer (around 60), the visual facelifting tech having clearly improved over time — for a minute there, I thought I was watching a movie from the mid-nineties. On the flipside, I wish more had been done with the quantum realm itself. Yeah, it’s trippy and colorful, but it’s also kinda boring.
This brings me to performances, which are pretty solid across the board. Reprising his role, Paul Rudd is terrific as superhero dad Scott Lang, Rudd sharing a spunky sorta chemistry with his new teammate/ co-star Evangeline Lilly — who’s too much of a stick-in-the-mud here (what happened to Girls Just Want To Have Fun?) Michael Douglas, Falling Down (1993), is decent as doc-on-the-run Hank Pym, whilst Michelle Pfeiffer, who apparently needed a little convincing to don another suit 26 years after playing Catwoman (in 1992’s Batman Returns), is glowing but underutilized as the missing family matriarch, Janet. Similarly, Laurence Fishburne, The Matrix (1999), doesn’t have much to do either; I guess the guy must’ve signed on to get a digital facelift like his older co-stars. Michael Peña is (still) a hoot as Luis, Scott’s former cellmate-turned business partner, as is Randall Park, Snatched (2017), who portrays clueless FBI Agent Jimmy Woo — the poor soul tasked with making sure that Scott doesn’t break the conditions of his parole. Lastly, it’s great seeing Judy Greer, Jurassic World (2015), and Bobby Cannavale, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle (2017), return as Soctt’s ex-wife Maggie and her agreeable new husband Paxton.
More about the importance of family than saving the world, Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t quite fly, even if it is an entertaining way to spend a couple of hours. When compared with what the MCU team (led by Kevin Feige) have been churning out lately, think the scope of Infinity War and the sheer inventiveness of last year’s Thor: Ragnarok, Marvel’s miniature hero, this time around, feels kinda … small.
3 / 5 – Good
Reviewed by Mr. Movie
Ant-Man and the Wasp is released through Marvel Studios