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Ant-Man and the Wasp Movie Review

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) movie poster Ant-Man and the Wasp

Theatrical Release: July 6, 2018 / Running Time: 120 Minutes / Rating: PG-13

Director: Peyton Reed / Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari (screenplay); Stan Lee, Larry Lieber, Jack Kirby (comic book)

Cast: Paul Rudd (Scott Lang/Ant-Man), Evangeline Lilly (Hope van Dyne), Michael Peña (Luis), Walton Goggins (Sonny Burch), Bobby Cannavale (Paxton), Judy Greer (Maggie), Tip "T.I." Harris (Dave), David Dastmalchian (Kurt), Hannah John-Kamen (Ava/Ghost), Abby Ryder Fortson (Cassie Lang), Randall Park (Jimmy Woo), Michelle Pfeiffer (Janet van Dyne/Wasp), Laurence Fishburne (Dr. Bill Foster), Michael Douglas (Dr. Hank Pym), Divian Ladwa (Uzman), Goran Kostic (Anitolov), Rob Archer (Knox), Tim Heidecker (Whale Boat Captain Daniel Goobler), Stan Lee (Driver - uncredited)

 

Unless you're referring to the youngest portion of their vast target audience, the word "minor" doesn't really apply to Marvel movies. And yet it's clear that Ant-Man is among the most minor Marvel movies we've gotten to date.
The 2015 film marked the second-lowest opening in the studio's Cinematic Universe. Along with Hawkeye, Ant-Man was the only surviving Avenger not to make an appearance in this year's epic Infinity War. Thus, any goodwill that supplies a commercial boost to Ant-Man and the Wasp, an inevitable sequel and the 20th entry to the MCU canon, is indirect and circumstantial.

Relative insignificance seems somehow appropriate for a series whose hero's principal super power is the ability to shrink down to the size of a small insect. There's a reason why Ant-Man got the feature film treatment only after heavyweights like Iron Man, Captain America, Thor, and even the Hulk had all gotten multiple movies of their own. He's a pretty minor character that doesn't lend to the big, flashy adventures of the universe's other mighty protectors.

Even so, there's really no such thing as a small Marvel movie and though it is dwarved by the costs of many comic book productions and other first-tier tentpoles, the original Ant-Man still boasts a nine digit budget like only a few dozen movies ever have. The most interesting plotline entering the first movie was how it would play after respected British writer-director Edgar Wright wound up being replaced by the less distinguished Peyton Reed over creative differences. With an IMDb user rating of 7.3 out of 10 and a Tomatometer critics score of 82%, the answer would seem to be just fine. Still, with a domestic gross comparable to movies whose series were either retooled (Thor: The Dark World, Captain America; The First Avenger) or outright scrapped (the second Hulk attempt), Ant-Man did not really generate enough passion to make this sequel pressing or must-see.

Reed returns as director, this time from square one, while Wright and Adam McKay no longer number among the writers, a class comprised of five scribes in two teams whose only holdover is leading man Paul Rudd.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) gets busted out of house arrest by Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) to help set things right with her father's company in Marvel's "Ant-Man and the Wasp."

Although I missed about half of it, fearing I arrived much more than one minute late to the middle of a three-screening day, this sequel opens with a pre-credits prologue involving scientist Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) talking to his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) about her long-lost mother, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), a hero in her own right.

Meanwhile, Ant-Man, a.k.a. reformed thief Scott Lang (Rudd), is winding down his second year of house arrest, having struck a deal after getting in trouble and burning bridges with his actions in 2016's Captain America: Civil War. The divorced dad enjoys elaborate playtime with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), while also overseeing Ex-Con, a security organization run by his fellow ex-thieves.

While Scott passes the time playing his electronic drum set and reading The Fault in Our Stars, we know he is meant for bigger things and he gets them when he calls up Dr. Pym, repentant and confused by an encounter he had with the missing Janet.

Dr. Pym has rebuilt an elaborate lab that he hides by shrinking the dingy apartment building that secretly houses it into an unassuming rolling suitcase of sorts. Hank has Hope meeting with a schmoozy black market weapons dealer (Walton Goggins) to secure a needed component.

While a giant cockroach stands in for him and his ankle bracelet at his apartment, Scott gets mixed up in Hank and Hope's quest to find Janet, whom they believe is still alive and out there. Among the other obstacles standing in their way are Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a powerful cipher who can walk through walls, and Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), a salty former partner who hasn't spoken to Hank in decades.

Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) becomes Giant-Man, towering over a San Francisco whale boat in the climax of "Ant-Man and the Wasp."

This second Ant-Man movie does not drastically change gears from its predecessor the way that Ragnarok breathed new life into Thor or the Captain America movies evolved into basically more Avengers adventures.
The mix of action and comedy again stems largely from playing with scale, whether it's turning Scott into a undersized child in a big blue sweatshirt on an elementary school mission or letting our heroes transform Matchbox cars into full-sized getaway vehicles.

This is as cheesy as Marvel has ever been and as cheesy as Rudd, who has hung around in film for over twenty years in an array of genres (mostly comedy), has been. And yet, it's undeniably pretty fun. There isn't the excitement or sheer entertainment value of the best superhero adventures. You never feel like you're watching a great movie, with the narrative underwhelming and the jokes only hitting about half the time. But Rudd has made taking a sip of coffee entertaining. He feels like he's better than this safe, family-friendly material and yet he also deserves the big payday and audience that comes with the territory as one of the most likable and least polarizing figures in contemporary cinema. Plus, with his writing credit and no doubt his improvised contributions, he's as responsible as anyone for the quality here.

Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn't give you a whole lot to think about or say. Yes, Lilly's upgrade to the title with near-equal screentime is kind of cool, with Marvel bridging the gap between DC's Wonder Woman and their own overdue female-driven superhero flick in next March's Captain Marvel, a Brie Larson-headlined film that is not teased even in either of the end credits scenes. Otherwise, Michael Peña gets to supply some formidable comic relief, including another "Drunk History"-type narrated segment that feels forced. There are recurring gags involving truth serum and "The Partridge Family" theme song. Rudd gets to channel Pfeiffer in a moderately humorous segment and villain duties get shared with nary an iconic presence in the lot.

By the time this opens, 2018 will be barely halfway done and yet we've already gotten three Marvel Cinematic Universe movies. All have been pretty good, with critics' assessment of Black Panther just as overstated as IMDb users' estimation of Infinity War. There will undoubtedly be much better (Incredibles 2) and worse (Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom) ways to spend two hours inside an air conditioned theater this summer. All reactions to this film will arrive through the filter of how fatigued the viewer is with superhero movies of the Marvel variety. I wouldn't be surprised if this suffers from some of that, but still fares okay.

Related Reviews:
Now in Theaters: Avengers: Infinity War • Incredibles 2 • Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom • Solo: A Star Wars Story • Deadpool 2
Ant-Man • Captain America: Civil War • Black Panther
Paul Rudd: I Love You, Man • Our Idiot Brother • Over Her Dead Body | Walton Goggins: The Hateful Eight • That Evening Sun
Evangeline Lilly: Real Steel • The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug | Michael Douglas: The Game • Last Vegas • Napoleon and Samantha

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Reviewed June 30, 2018.



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