Friday, July 13, 2018

Film Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Sexuality/Nudity Acceptable
Violence Acceptable
Vulgarity Acceptable
Anti-Catholic Philosophy Acceptable

Of all of the movies in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man is one of my least favorite.  That doesn't mean that it is a bad movie, but it does not rise to the level of its other cinematic siblings.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is an improvement on the first but it never reaches great heights (no pun intended).

The movie takes place two years after Captain America: Civil War, but just before the events of Avengers: Infinity War.  Our Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), is days away from being done with house arrest at his home in San Fransisco.  This was part of a plea deal he made because of his participation with Captain America, who is currently a fugitive.  Scott's actions have also made the original Anti-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) fugtitives as well.  Pym has become obseesssed with finding his way into the Microverse, a subatomic universe that Scott went to and returned from in the previous film.  Hank's wife Janet (Michelle Pfeifer) was lost in the Microverse, so Hank and Hope want to retriever her, but they need Scott's help.  But to complicate matters, they must deal with a black market gangster Sonny Brunch (Walton Goggins) and the mysterious Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who can phase through objects and seems bent on thwarting Pym's plan.

My favorite part of the original Ant-Man was how it used it's size perspective to look at the world in a new and creative way.  Thankfully, the sequel has plenty of that, though it could use more for my tastes.  The advantage to a character like Ant-Man is that you can see the ordinary world in a way that makes it strange and kind of magical.

The performances are also as good as the last one.  Rudd makes for a solid leading man and Lilly earns her title billing.  The chemistry between the two characters is good, but it is strangely downplayed in this film, probably in an attempt to strain their relationship for dramatic purposes.  Or perhaps they thought the more overly romantic elements would make Hope appear to be weaker.  If that was the thinking, it was a mistake, because their flirtation helps bring life to both characters.  Douglas does a decent job as Hank, but does not really push himself.  Michael Pena steals the show again as Scott's best friend Luis.  His likability and sense of wonder continue to bring a smile.  John-Kamen does an excellent job as our conflicted villain and Laurence Fishburne brings his gravitas to the movie as an old colleague of Hanks, but the script does not give him much to do.

There isn't much thematic depth to the story, especially in contrast to the last Marvel movie.  But it doesn't have to be all that deep.  This movie isn't trying to be something other than light, popcorn fare.  Yes, the movie touches on issues like consequences of actions and responsibility for failure.  It also gives us one of the more interesting MCU villains since the Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming.  With that storyline, they bring up an essential pro-life question whether it is ever morally okay to kill a life in order to save a life.  But the movie does not plumb the depths of human profundity.  It is too busy making you laugh with a giant ant in a bathtub.

The most important thing to remember in order to enjoy this movie is that it is primarily a comedy.  Like the last film, director Peyton Reed leans heavily into the silliness of the concept so as not to strain credibility with the audience.  He knows this is ridiculous, but if you accept the ridiculousness, he offers to take you on a fun action ride, which is what this movie delivers.

The jokes work for the most part and the action set-pieces are creative.  Bobby Cannavale and Judy Greer return in this film but are given almost nothing to do, which is a waste of their talent.  In fact, the biggest criticism I have for the film is that perpetual sense of missed opportunities.  There are so many fun things you can do with a size-changing movie. And while this movie has a large share of those ( Ant-Man use a truck like a scooter was one of my favorites), it could have done so much more.

But if you want a fun time at the movies with laughs and action-spectacle, Ant-Man and the Wasp will scratch your itch.

image by Yasir72,Multan

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