ANT-MAN AND THE WASP
Director: Peyton Reed
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Hannah John-Kamen, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, David Dastmalchian, T.I., Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer
If you’re up to date on your Marvel Cinematic Universe, you may remember the topical and powerful nature of Black Panther and the serious, and somewhat depressing, nature of Avengers: Infinity War. We still don’t know who lived and died in that film. Marvel head honcho Kevin Feige has lightened things up for their third film in 2018. One of the notable heroes missing from Infinity War was Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man. We last saw him in Captain America: Civil War, and now we pick up with Scott Lang/Ant-Man living under house arrest for the last two years following the events of that film. It’s easier if you just accept the timelines and move on versus trying to recollect what happened at the end of that film or the first Ant-Man. He’s doing the best he can at being a good father to his daughter, Cassie. Any sort of housebreak could result in twenty years behind bars. This poses a problem for our troublemaker of a hero who starts having visions of a young girl playing hide and seek with her mom.
These visions are of Hope van Dyne/Wasp (Lilly) and her mother, Janet (Pfeiffer). Janet was the original Wasp who risked her life to save others when Hope was just a kid. Hope, along with her father, Hank Pym (Douglas), have always believed she was still alive after transporting to the Quantum Realm. Once Scott successfully came back from the Realm, Hank has been working on a tunnel that could possibly rescue his wife. If only Pym’s lab could have stayed a secret. After being shrunk down to briefcase size, it’s stolen by a masked and hooded figured, known only as Ghost (Ready Player One’s Hannah John-Kamen), who can phase in and out of physical spaces making it all more complicated for Ant-Man and Wasp to pin her down. It’s a bit unknown as to who Ghost really is and what she’s really after. She’s not some henchman but a complicated antagonist with a connection to Hank Pym’s past.
The tone of Ant-Man and the Wasp is a stark contrast from the movies I mentioned earlier. Marvel needs to shake things up every few movies, much like we saw with the vibrant Thor: Ragnarok. They’re great at keeping themselves in check without ever taking their work too seriously, which is something that keeps them a step ahead of rival DC. The Ant-Man sequel is pure playful fun from start to finish. Director Peyton Reed who helmed the first one is back again with a five-person writing team. It’s a light, screwball comedy that fully gives in to the ridiculous nature of its premise of having our two heroes dressed as insects that can reduce their size for a quick getaway or enlarge themselves to reiterate their power and abilities. They’re not the only ones that can changes sizes on a whim. Pym’s technologies allow Ant-Man and the Wasp to blow up a salt shaker, a Hello Kitty Pez dispenser, toy cars, and a swarm of ants as their defense weapons. It makes these scenes somewhat unpredictable as anything can happen when size and physical state of being are no issue. Reed treats these big actions sequences like he’s a kid again playing with action figurines. You can almost hear him and Rudd making explosion noises when they crash into things and defeat the bad guys. Unlike Thor or The Hulk, this isn’t the kind of superhero that relies on brawn and muscles to save the day.
One key reason as to why Ant-Man works as well as he does is Paul Rudd who brings his usual sarcastic charm to the role. He’s never trying to be a hero. He was once a thief and still gets excited about the powers he has when he puts on the suit. It’s a great attitude to have to play off of Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym who is getting to be more and more of a curmudgeon as he gets older. In a surprise move, Ant-Man and the Wasp gives Douglas more to do than just roll his eyes at Rudd. The core basis of the story is less about Ant-Man but more about reuniting Hank and Hope with Janet, played effortlessly by Michelle Pfeiffer. The hope of being reunited is all they want. That eternal drive to be with our loved ones is the heart of the movie and showcases an appreciation for Douglas and Pfeiffer as actors. It’s a pleasure to see Pfeiffer back in a giant superhero movie given her iconic role as Catwoman in 1992’s Batman Returns.
I will fault the five screenwriters for having too many characters. Some work well like Scott’s buddies from the first movie played by Michael Peña, T.I., and David Dastmalchian who are all back in their scene-stealing roles. Peña gets to run his mouth but is never annoying about it. Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale also come back as Scott’s ex-wife and her new boyfriend and are basically unnecessary to the sequel. As Ghost, Hannah John-Kamen isn’t your traditional villain. She comes with her own understandable baggage without feeling like the obvious maniacal archetype. I wish the writing team would have trusted this character a bit more as they’ve underwritten some side henchmen led by Walton Goggins (The Hateful Eight). He’s underutilized as a greedy tech-dealer for Hope. He’s too good of an actor but falls back on standard tropes we’ve seen from him before.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is a welcome change of pace for Marvel. There’s an easy breezy summertime fun to it. It’s never trying too hard to be funny or sentimental at any given moment. It exists within the Marvel Cinematic Universe and connects itself briefly to Avengers: Infinity War. That being said, it’s perfectly enjoyable on its own without that pressure of having to go back and revisit previous Marvel movies to prep for it.
Is It Worth Your Trip to the Movies? There’s nothing wrong with Marvel-Lite
RATING: 4 out of 5 TICKET STUBS