ANT-MAN AND THE WASP ½
PG-13, 118 mins.
2018, PG-13, 118 mins.
Paul Rudd as Scott Lang / Ant-Man / Evangeline Lilly as Hope van Dyne / The Wasp / Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost / Michael Douglas as Dr. Hank Pym / Michael Peña as Luis / Walton Goggins as Sonny Burch / Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Bill Foster / Goliath / Bobby Cannavale as Paxton / Judy Greer as Maggie Lang / Randall Park as Jimmy Woo / T.I. as Dave / David Dastmalchian as Kurt / Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne
Directed by Peyton Reed / Written by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari, and Paul Rudd
Considering the galactic solemnity and unfathomably dire stakes at the climax of the very recently released AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, one could easily argue that a return to the frivolous merriment of the ANT-MAN films would feel like relative comfort food right about now.
the singular pleasures for me from 2015's ANT-MAN
was the offbeat and atypical casting of Paul Rudd as the titular
insect-sized hero, not to mention the manner with which that film created
a worthy and epically scaled installment in the
larger Marvel Cinematic Universe that still managed to somehow feel
uniquely fresh and invigorating as a standalone effort apart from it.
Marrying elements of a heist thriller with a super hero action
comedy, ANT-MAN was an invitingly wacky departure for the MCU and was, for
my money, one of its most inviting entries.
Having said that,
though, the very specifically titled ANT-MAN AND THE WASP has decidedly
large creative shoes to fill coming off of the nightmarish cliffhanger climax of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, leaving it
somewhat in the unenviable position of leading the charge as the twentieth
MCU feature. In many ways,
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP maintains its prequel's bubbly energy, finely tuned
performances, and sense of visual effects playfulness, but its self aware
comedic detachment and overall lightness of tone sort of makes the stakes
here feel all the more perfunctory and (pardon the pun) small when
compared to the massive super hero extravaganza that preceded it. That's not to say that ANT-MAN AND THE WASP isn't giddily
enjoyable and entertaining in modest dosages, but it nevertheless doesn't
truly raise the bar very high as far as comic book inspired sequels go.
It comfortably maintains status quo formulas that were
established in the last film, but coming on the heels of not only AVENGERS, but
also the genre
busting BLACK PANTHER (also from
this year), ANT-MAN AND THE WASP doesn't innovatively bring much to the
To be fair, this
sequel does not take place directly after the events of AVENGERS: INFINITY
WAR, but rather just before it and after the events of the first ANT-MAN
and CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR.
It opens with Scott Lang (the everlastingly likeable Paul Rudd)
under house arrest for his participation in assisting Steve Rogers, now
considered a war criminal by his own country.
He seems to be taking his confinement in stride and is in the home
stretch of finishing it off, but severe repetitive boredom is starting to
settle in. Things change when
he has a strange vision, during which time he appears to be
interacting with the long lost elder Wasp, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle
Pfeiffer), who has been long since trapped in the quantum realm for years
(don't even begin to ask me to explain the garbley gook scientific nonsense that is
the quantum realm, because these films don't do a very good job of
explaining it either).
decides to act upon his odd dreams and seeks out his former mentor,
Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) for
guidance, which proves difficult seeing as (a) he can't leave his
own home and (b) both Hank and Hope are mightily sore that Scott used the
Ant-Man tech to help Captain America without consulting them and asking for
their assistance. Hope
engineers a rather ingenious jailbreak of Scott to ensure that no one will
be none the wiser that he has left his house, after which time she brings
him to Hank's secret laboratory to assist them with building a machine
that will help them all return to the quantum realm and hopefully be able to find
All of their efforts are thwarted by a black market dealer (Walton
Goggins) and a mysterious young woman known as Ghost (Hannah John Kamen),
who has a nifty ability to phase through matter, but requires - yup! -
quantum realm energy to survive. Assisting her is an old colleague from Hank's past (Lawrence
Fishburne), who may or may not be on the side of the law.
ANT-MAN AND THE
WASP gets by - especially during sections of the film when screenplay
inadequacies betray it (more on that in a bit) - on the effortless and
unforced chemistry and charm displayed by the successful trio of Rudd,
Lilly, and Douglas, especially the former two, who in tandem make for a
rather dynamic and successful super hero duo. Rudd, as always, can play loveable morons in over his head
better than any actor in Hollywood, and once again his portrayal of Scott
reinforces his sometimes hapless shortcomings, but well meaning attitude
to do the right thing...even though he frequently bumbles at his attempts
to do so. Lilly's presence in
the mostly sausage fest that is the larger MCU is also most welcoming, and
she commands the role with a straight laced sincerity and kick ass sex
appeal that helps cement her as a most worthy addiction to this cinematic
world. The interplay and
banter between Hope and Scott are some of the film's low key highlights,
and they help build upon the sense of overall looseness of approach of the
cast is also well assembled once again, in particular Michael Pena's motor
mouthed and perpetually hyperactive Luis, who returns as Scott's
friend and business partner, and seeing Michael Douglas and Michelle
Pfeiffer share screen time together (albeit a frustratingly limited amount)
is a real nostalgic treat, seeing as both were two of the most prominent
performers of the 1980s. Randal
Park's infectiously clueless FBI agent tasked to watch over Scott and
ensure that he doesn't break house arrest scores some of the film's best
laughs, which are tied to wonderful sequences showcasing Scott trying to
maintain his secluded and incarcerated sanity by building indoor forts out
of cardboard boxes with his visiting daughter Cassidy or karaoke-ing to
The Partridge Family. It's an
interesting and amusing dynamic to see a super hero forced against his
will to not be a super hero...because he's essentially and legally stuck
at home and can't leave.
Select action and
visual effects scenes here are also reliably stellar and sometimes
awe-inspiring. One thing that
films have failed to do over the history of the medium is create
moments when normal sized human beings are shrunk down to the size of a dime
and credibly interact with other normal sized people and items, but the two
ANT-MAN films seems to have perfected it.
Returning director Peyton Reed has a field day drumming up fight
and chase sequences of dazzling inventiveness that taps into all of the
limitless possibilities of having Scott be either incredibly small or, in
some case, the size of a building. One
kink in Scott's arsenal is a malfunctioning suit this go around, which
without warning - and to humorous effect - shrinks and expands him,
putting him in harm's way. I
liked how Hank, for example, shrinks his headquarters down to the size of
a carry on piece of luggage that he can pull behind him with a makeshift
handle, or another spectacular moment involving a wild chase through San Francisco's Fisherman's Warf that demonstrates that no expense was
spared to make ANT-MAN AND THE WASP as visually bold and appealing as any
MCU entry that's come before.
all of the aesthetic innovation, tonal cheerfulness, and well oiled
performances can't save this sequel from the weight of an overstuffed
script (the product of nearly more writers than I have fingers) that's
riddled with too many characters, too many distracting subplots, and a lot
of expositional heavy lifting in the early stages, which leaves the film
feeling like it's staggering out of the gate without a unified game plan.
There are instances when the overall aimlessness of the narrative takes
center stage, much to its detriment, not to mention that we once again are
given another example here of the MCU's continued villain problem with
many of their standalone films. The
underlining story thread of Ghost is tragic and could have been mined for
some compelling layers (the notion of a woman cursed with space-phasing
abilities that affects every aspect of her life is intriguing).
Regrettably, there are no real layers to her character, nor is she
afforded much depth as a villain. Then
there's the murky and vague romantic arc between Hope and Scott, which, I
think, is established here as former lovers.
Yet, ANT-MAN AND THE WASP - despite the mileage it gets out of the
terrific pairing of Lily and Rudd - never embellishes or furthers their
relationship to satisfying effect.
And, yes, the seismic dramatic heaviness of the last MCU effort seems to have been all but scrubbed away here, to both understandable and off-putting effect. No one entering an ANT-MAN film wants it to be ostensibly dark and moody (yuck), but Marvel has unluckily set up a situation where the bright pluckiness of these films comes right after AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, which seems like a miscalculation (like all MCU films, ANT-MAN AND THE WASP has a mid-end credits sequence that goes out of its way to tie itself to INFINITY WAR, but the results seem forced and falsely manipulative). This sequel is hard to qualify for me: I enjoyed its far out trippiness with its zippy action scenes and loved its game cast that relish in the improvisational gusto of the whole enterprise. ANT-MAN AND THE WASP is a hard film to hate, but it's undeniably messy and seems largely disposable. There's an emphasis on making the film bigger it terms of both visual delights and storytelling, but mournfully it's a sequel of tiny returns.