Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp

2015's Ant-Man was a fun and lighthearted entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe that, while mostly enjoyable, would certainly rank among the weaker (and more forgettable) entries to the MCU. Ant-Man and the Wasp brings back former thief turned super-hero Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), the original Ant-Man Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), and most of the supporting cast and characters from the first film including Scott's former prison buddies and family. As in Ant-Man, several people are after Pym and his work. And given Scott's improbable return from the Quantum Realm at the end of the first movie, Hank Pym plans of his own.

Although the plot of the film is a bit too convoluted for its own good as it continues to juggle multiple plots and characters (many of whom get far more screentime than necessary), I found the sequel more enjoyable than the original playing off established relationships and concepts introduced in Ant-Man. Following Avengers: Infinity War, smaller stakes (both literally and figuratively) also prove to be a nice change of pace from the universe threatening death dealer.

On the last few days of his house arrest following his appearance in Captain America: Civil War, Scott reunites with Hank and Hope who believe he is the key to finding Hope's mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) trapped in the Quantum Realm for decades. However, there are some obstacles to overcome including the FBI tracking Scott and searching for Hank and Hope, local criminals supplying the scientist with tech (and wanting more in return than Hope and Hank are willing to give), and a mysterious new adversary who can phase in and out of solid form who also has keen interest in Pym's research.

While a fun popcorn flick, the movie does have its share of issues and unanswered questions. Sometime since the last film Hope has apparently become the best hand-to-hand fighter in the MCU, showing off skills that would rival Black Widow. How and when she picked up these skills is never explored. Hope and Hank's grudge at Scott for helping Captain America feels a bit forced. While their bruised feelings are expected, they treat him like a 15 year-old who comes home drunk after crashing the family car instead of helping the world's most noble super-hero. Scott's shifting level of intelligence, dependent on several jokes, is also problematic. While his tech/science naviete makes sense, some of his actions and dialogue make you wonder if he suffered brain damage when giant-sized in Civil War.

Killjoy's Hannah John-Kamen is intriguing as the Ghost, but (like the various street thugs, who are given an insane number of callbacks) is more of a plot device than a fully-developed character. The film's editing and ending feel a bit rushed in spots as well, and there are some ridiculous time-limits imposed in the final act that are included only to try and artificially inflate the tension of the movie's final act. Finally, the 3D doesn't always enhance the story being told on-screen. (If you see it in theaters, save your money.)

Without the need for set-up, Ant-Man and the Wasp gets off to a strong start with some cute scenes between Scott and his daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) that helps explain why we haven't seen him since Civil War. The film's script also makes great use of the shrinking technology with vehicles and buildings being shrunken and enlarged at will (although you wonder why the shrunken laboratory never experiences earthquakes when its being jostled around). The fact that the first follow-up to Infinity War lacks anything resembling a strong central villain is both problematic as the script meanders its way to a conclusion and also somewhat refreshing. It's a strong follow up that keeps and builds on what worked in the first Ant-Man and delivers yet another fun summer Marvel movie this summer.

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