Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Ant-Man and the Wasp *** ½ / *****
Directed by: Peyton Reed.
Written by: Chris McKenna & Erik Sommers and Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari and Paul Rudd based on the Marvel comics by Stan Lee and Larry Lieber and Jack Kirby.
Starring: Paul Rudd (Scott Lang / Ant-Man), Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne / The Wasp), Hannah John-Kamen (Ghost), Michael Douglas (Dr. Hank Pym), Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet van Dyne), Judy Greer (Maggie Lang), Walton Goggins (Sonny Burch), Michael Peña (Luis), Laurence Fishburne (Dr. Bill Foster), Abby Ryder Fortson (Cassie Lang), David Dastmalchian (Kurt), Randall Park (Jimmy Woo), Joshua Mike (Derek), T.I. (Dave).
It was probably smart of Marvel to follow-up Avengers: Infinity War with Ant-Man and the Wasp just a few month later – before taking a long (for them anyway) nine month break before Captain Marvel next March. Avengers Infinity was a big, dark movie that ended in tragedy – even if no one is really buying that the tragedy will be permanent and irreversible. Still, it was dark and it was heavy – which are two things Ant-Man is not. Like the original Ant-Man, the sequel is mainly fun and lightweight entertainment – a heist film of a sorts, but really almost more like a game of hot potato as the various characters spend a lot of time in the film toss a lab back and forth between them (if that doesn’t make sense, well, see the movie – it will). The stakes in the Ant-Man films are always smaller than in the other Marvel films – more personal, less world altering. And that allows them to be a little bit more laid back and fun.
As Ant-Man and the Wasp opens, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) only has a few days left of his house arrest before his sentence for violating the law by going to Germany and fighting alongside Captain America in Civil War comes to an end. He has tried to do right under his two years of house arrest – he has opened a business with his partners Luis, Kurt and Dave (Michael Pena, David Dastmalchian and T.I.) and made a loving second home for his beloved 10-year-daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). His relationship with his ex-wife and her new husband (Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale) has even massively improved (they are prone to group hugs). He has destroyed his relationship with Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and her father Hank (Michael Douglas) though –taking their suit to Germany, even without their permission, has made them fugitives from the FBI. They’ve spent the past two years in hiding – working on a super-secret project to try and retrieve Hank’s wife – Hope’s mother – Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Zone (trust me, when this film hits Netflix, college kids are going to give themselves alcohol poisoning by playing a drinking game where they drink every time the word quantum is said in the film). Of course, they’ll need Scot’s help eventually. And of course, there is not just one, but two villains who also want to get their hands on their technology – the mysterious Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who can disappear and reappear, phasing through solid objects, and black market dealer Sony Burch (Walton Goggins, doing a Southern accent, probably to keep himself entertained while playing a role so far below his actual talent).
The movie moves quickly from one inventive and fun action sequence to the next. Peyton Reed, who also helmed the first film, has great fun making things that should be small big, and things that should be big small. He also has a lot of fun with a recurring joke about Ant-Man’s malfunctioning suit that sometimes traps him the size of a small child.
Paul Rudd’s Lang is probably the most human and relatable of the heroes in the Avengers movies. In some ways, he is essentially a well-meaning man child – someone whose heart is always in the right place, and who tries his very best, but finds one way after another of messing up – which always results in those he loves getting hurt. The film gives Rudd plenty of chances to do what Paul Rudd does best – be funny and sweet and charming in ways you cannot help but like, even if you know you probably shouldn’t. I think Evangeline Lilly is given more to do this time than last time – when we severe bob cut told you that you were supposed to read her as humorless (they even make a joke about that in this film, courtesy of one of Luis’ great run-on stories). She’s Scott’s equal this time, and gets to be less of a nag than last time out. She could carry her own film, should Marvel decide they want that.
The actual story of Ant-Man and the Wasp is kind of secondary – it functions as a way to get the characters together, and string together action sequences, without ever really feeling urgent – which is odd since everyone always seems to need to do something right now, or be screwed forever. It’s effective, but my guess is I’ll forget most of the plot points in a week or two. But the film doesn’t really need them. These movies are about fun than anything – an excuse to hang out with characters you like doing fun things. While it’s hardly groundbreaking stuff here – and it lacks the ambition of something Black Panther or even Thor: Ragnarok – it delivers what you would want from a sequel to Ant-Man.

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