Ant Man and The Wasp

Ant Man and The WaspAnt Man and The Wasp is very much like its predecessor–a lightweight, likeable Marvel Universe flick that is still essentially a throw-away. It has the same cast as the first movie, the same tricks, and a little bit of story arc for an audience to invest in. Ant Man and The Wasp does introduce some potentially interesting new characters, but it is ultimately an exercise in getting from the first Ant Man to whichever Marvel blockbuster Scott Lang is meant to show up in next.

Some Minor Spoilers Ahead

The usual suspects are all back.  Paul Rudd is still charming as Ant Man, but he isn’t allowed to be as warm and funny as he was in the first movie. More emphasis is placed on his dad skills this time around. Evangeline Lilly continues to be intense and hyper-competent as Hope, while Michael Douglas continues to be snarky and arrogant as Hank Pym.

Michelle Pfeiffer joins the cast as Janet van Dyne, in a role so predictable I wonder why she did it. We also get Laurence Fishburne as Bill Foster, an old frenemy of Hank Pym from their SHIELD days, and Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost/Ava. I truly hope she gets her own movie someday. The perfunctory overview of her origins and her relationship with Foster raised a whole lot of questions I would like to see answered.

Despite the star power of the main characters, the secondaries are the real interesting ones. Michael Peña’s Luis owns every scene he is in. Randall Park is great as the awkward FBI agent Jimmy Woo, while Walton Goggins is cheerfully sleazy as black marketeer Sonny Burch. Unfortunately, T.I., David Dastmalchian, and Bobby Cannavale were given far less to do than in the first Antman–and the film suffers for it.

Stay On Target!

Overall, it’s a strange mix of too little and too much.

The plot comes across to me as flat and perfunctory, with the characters moving through the script without truly believing any of it. The action is solidly done but meaningless, since only some of the characters rise enough above caricature to make it worth caring about their outcomes. Which is a shame, because the cast is certainly capable.

Piling on that weak foundation are too many problems for any one of them to really matter. We are presented with a dangerous new antagonist in Ghost, a quest to bring the original Wasp out of the quantum realm where she has been trapped for the last thirty years, a persistent probation officer, and a wanna-be crime lord looking to steal Hank Pym’s discoveries. In between all that, our hero is doing his best to be a good dad to his daughter, despite being an ex-con superhero currently riding out house arrest.

The incredible shrinking quantum lab is pretty neat, as is giant Ant Man wading into the harbor to retrieve it. Scott Lang’s suit issues are an effective running gag, and the giant ant hanging out in Scott’s apartment is good silly fun. But the fun stuff isn’t enough to lift Ant Man and The Wasp above its issues.

What Bugs Me

I wanted to like Ant Man and The Wasp. I like the actors, I like the characters, I like the gimmicks. But the whole film ended up being less than the sum of its parts. Once again, Marvel puts Ant Man into a cotton-candy movie that is fun while it lasts but no longer–and, this time, less entertaining than it should have been.

It’s mid-way through the summer, and we need a refresher; a little light super hero entertainment. Nothing too massive and self-important—we had that already. Certainly nothing too serious. And now we have Ant ManIt’s hard to be epic when your hero is the size of an ant. But it’s easy to be pretty harmless fun.

A few minor spoilers lie ahead.

Ant Man ComicCon Poster courtesy Wikipedia
Ant Man ComicCon Poster courtesy Wikipedia

The frequent pingbacks to the Avengers and the larger Marvel Universe lend some substance to what is otherwise a very fluffy enterprise. While a few characters and critters meet their ends, Marvel doesn’t venture into Food of the Gods territory at any point. The peril to loved ones and faithful companions is moderate. The bad guys are, dare I say, cartoonish—almost more cranky than evil.

Our hero, Scott Lang, is supposed to be an electrical engineer ex-con trying to go straight for his daughter’s sake when he gets sucked into being a super hero. His prison stint taught him how to MacGyver pretty well, although it seems to have reduced his knowledge of electrical engineering to using a voltmeter correctly. No matter, though, because once he gets into his Ant Man suit it’s a whole new game.

While the backstory and set-up for all the comic book heroism drags on longer than it should in an action movie, the cast more than makes up for it until the action really kicks in.

The movie is peopled with familiar faces who all seem to be having a grand time with the material. Paul Rudd is his usual likeable self as our Ant Man. Rudd is a pleasant actor who lacks the commanding presence for a more substantial character, but he has plenty of charm to carry off this one.

Fortunately, Michael Douglas brings the gravitas, and also a snide crustiness that fits the reclusive genius Dr. Pym. Evangeline Lilly is intense and competent as Pym’s daughter, Hope, while Corey Stoll is intense and crazy as the primary villain, Darren Cross. Did anyone else notice that the bad guy’s initials are “DC”?

Rounding out the reluctant hero line-up, Ant Man’s literal partners in crime are played by Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian, and the surprisingly personable T.I. The trio are an excellent comic distraction when the story leans too far toward playing it straight. Peña especially provides some hysterical expository/connecting narration that both keeps things moving and drops a lot of hints about the sequels we all know are coming.

At various points, Ant Man seems to be channeling any number of other movies, not just foreshadowing Marvel films. There are some frenetic action sequences that are reminiscent of both Fantastic Voyage and Flushed Away, and one spectacular battle that fully embraces the silliness of an ant-sized superhero and his equally tiny nemesis that has overtones of Toy Story. The CGI of another pivotal scene seems to have been cribbed from Interstellar, and yet another brings to mind Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade. There are a lot of familiar bits referenced here, and I’m sure I’ve missed some. Fortunately, the familiar bits are better than simple pastiche. They are well executed, in-context, and create an immediate likeability because they are familiar. Not quite homage, but nicely played.

The bottom line, for me, anyway, is that Ant Man is a fine way to spend a hot summer evening. It’s good, not great. It’s fun, not epic. It exists primarily to get Marvel a little closer to Civil War. And it helps keep us entertained until we get there.

 

E.A. Ruppert contributes book and media reviews for NerdGoblin.com.  Thanks for checking this out. To keep up with the latest NerdGoblin developments, please like us on Facebook , follow us on Twitter and Pinterest, and sign up for the NerdGoblin Newsletter.

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