Ant-Man and the Wasp (aka Ant-Man 2) review by Mark McPherson - Cinema Paradiso
There’s a simpler charm to Ant-Man’s return that ramps down the dark of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. A downgrade? Perhaps, when compared to the likes of the meatier movies of Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War, but maybe that’s what’s needed after such a heavy experience of top-tier Marvel films. It’s a summer cooldown of a picture, akin to Spider-Man: Homecoming as a simpler superhero outing. There’s no deep questioning of the cultural landscape, nor an epic quake of earth-shattering threats to be dealt with. No, Ant-Man finds fun and theatrics within smaller stories of quantum science and fast-paced chases.
Ant-Man and the Wasp quickly mop up the darkness left after Captain America: Civil War. You may recall that Scott “Ant-Man” Lang (Paul Rudd) was last seen being arrested by the government for his actions of going against Iron Man. No worries; everything is working out for Scott now. So long as he ditches the size-shifting suit, he can be under house arrest and still see his daughter while he serves his time. Not too shabby; especially since he has a new business venture in security waiting for him on the outside.
But there’s still unfinished business for his suit-developers of Doctor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his plucky daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). When they made the discovery in the last film that someone who shrinks down into the subatomic level can successfully return, perhaps there’s hope for Hank’s decades-long missing wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer). With Scott’s help, they may be able to accomplish this feat.
The problem is there are other people who want that subatomic tech. Too many in fact. Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) is a phase-shifting villain with a bad case of the quantum cold, the cure lies in Pym’s work. She carries out her science-stealing with a Pym co-worker-turned-hater Doctor Foster (Laurence Fishburne). There’s also a greedy weapons dealers, Sonny Burch, played by Walton Goggins at his most Goggian, who doesn’t realize how far out of the league he is for dealing with people that can shift dimensions and sizes. And then there’s FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) who just wants to keep that crazy quantum crap off the streets, the Pyms in jail and Lang is check. Thank goodness no other superheroes decided to take an interest in this venture as it’s already a crowded picture.
There’s far too much going on to truly appreciate the heavyweight of Ant-Man’s aspects of family and friendship. This specifically hurts the film’s titular addition of Evangeline Lilly in the role of Wasp, having all the Ant-Man powers plus wings and blasters. While she certainly gets to kick some major butt in the movie’s many action scenes, from kitchen battles to car chases, she felt more like a spectacle than a player. One would think she’d play a larger role in finding her mother, considering there’s an opportune moment for her to dive into the subatomic universe and save the day. I guess we’ll just have to settle for her scaling a kitchen knife and driving a tiny car from the bad guys.
Visually, the film is a marvel of special effects, playing around with the shifting of proportions and time. There’s a brilliantly hilarious moment of Scott on a secret mission inside a school where his size-suit malfunctions and has him stuck at half the size of his normal height. Another clever aspect is how Pym has added size-changing to everything he uses in his operations, from cars that fit neatly into a toy caddy and his lab that comes with wheels and pull-lever that can be hauled as luggage. Watching the film in 3D is a real treat for the great shifting in depth of field for the shrinking sequences, more pleasing to the eyes than any 3D film in recent memory.
There’s a gentler tone to Ant-Man’s sequel that makes me want to love the film all the more, nearly enough to look past its crowded story that hardly has time for the additional subplot of Michael Pena’s security firm he runs with Scott. The same themes of making sacrifices for the sake of family is still present, including Scott’s daughter that delivers another spot-on pep talk. Despite being repetitious of the previous film, I like how this theme carries deeper into the plot, leading a finale that doesn’t end with the villains being obliterated. It’s all kept so cheerful that I’m almost frustrated the film never goes from good to great. Still, it does a very good job at presenting a pleasing heist picture that always feels exciting if not entirely deep. It also keeps its distance from the events of Avengers: Infinity War but still does acknowledge them in one of the most shattering mid-credit sequences of any Marvel movie. Oh, yes, we’ll get back to that whole issue in the MCU, but for now, just enjoy boy-sized Ant-Man and a blaster-armed Wasp trying to save lives.