Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp
The laws governing the very big and the very small are different, and this ant-hero story of a nice thief and outlaw physicists taking on big foes brings fragmented intimacy to the ever-expanding Marvel Comic Universe.
Ant-Man and The Wasp
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Michael Douglas, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Running time: 1 hr 58 mins
By Katherine Monk
When you go sub-atomic, the world doesn’t obey the rules of physics we’ve come to accept as immutable. Not even wizened particle specialists really understand the random jumps, multiple planes and co-existing realities that appear possible in the quantum realm. So it’s not all that surprising Ant-Man and The Wasp doesn’t behave according to the rules of the standard Marvel Comic Universe.
This franchise was always designed to be a little smaller, and far more intimate, than the explosive mega-movies that make up the Avengers series. For good reason: Ant-Man isn’t just able to get really, really small and really big. He’s also able to go sub-atomic.
In the first Ant-Man movie released in 2015, we were introduced to petty thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), physicist and inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his beautiful and talented daughter Hope van Dyne (Fort Saskatchewan’s own Evangeline Lilly — discovered on the streets of Kelowna). Ant-Man reappeared in Captain America: Civil War, and that’s when things really went splat — literally and metaphorically.
Scott was arrested for violating international conventions and destroying millions of dollars worth of property. Two years later, he’s just three days shy of completing his sentence and having his ankle bracelet removed. Scott doesn’t want to break the law anymore. He doesn’t even care about being Ant-Man. He just wants to hang out with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) and be able to leave his inexplicably well-appointed San Francisco house.
The last three days should be a piece of cake, he tells himself. Yet, woken by a strange dream that felt real, he decides to call Hank Pym. Scott thinks he saw Pym’s wife, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), floating around the quantum plane. Within minutes, Scott has been reduced in size, kidnapped and brought to the Pym’s portable, secret lab which now contains a tunnel to the quantum realm.
Pym believes he can get his wife back and reunite his family, but he needs Scott, a suit and a special piece of equipment he can only get on the black market. Enter greasy villain number one, Sonny Burch (Walter Goggins), an arms dealer with connections everywhere. He’s got the right part, but when he brings it to the meeting, villain number two shows up — sort of. Referred to as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), this human can’t keep her quarks together. Altered by an accident, her molecules don’t bind, allowing her to walk through walls and phase shift randomly. She wants the same part as Pym to cure her quirky ills, and that’s pretty much the whole dilemma. Pym and his daughter want to save Mom. Burch wants to get rich. Ghost wants to heal. Ant-Man wants to stay home with his ankle bracelet and finish his sentence so he can resume his paternal role.
Somewhere in this mix of insects and insane villains we get a brief nod to Kafka’s Metamorphosis — the story of Gregor Samsa’s transformation into Dung Beetle — as well as the whole Marvel gang. The rest of the references are steeped in Gen-X nostalgia, from the Hot Wheels Rally Carrying case, to the recurring Partridge Family theme music and an extended credit scene featuring what looks like classic plastic models of all the action we just witnessed.
For those born in the 1960s, it’s like walking back in time, opening your toy box and being small enough to drive every car. Kids love the world of miniatures because the real world is big and beyond their control. Yet, the small world is all theirs and completely unlimited by the laws of physics.
For those born in the 1960s, it’s like walking back in time, opening your toy box and being small enough to drive every car…
Reed and the writers tap into that vein of childhood empowerment, pushing us back into the wardrobe, making us feel small, and giving us the thrill of what it would look and feel like to be that tiny. It’s a cartoon take on Gulliver’s Travels, and it’s the delicious visual gimmick at the heart of the Ant-Man franchise, and with all the modern digital tools, it’s impossible to resist.
Who doesn’t want to get behind the wheel of their favourite Hot Wheels car or carry an entire office building in a wheeled suitcase? It’s cool, and it looks undeniably fantastic in digital 3D.
Paul Rudd gets ripped for his shirtless moment and he gets a bona fide romantic interest in Hope van Dyne, who emerges as his equal with a few improvements. Hope is the Wasp, Marvel’s first female superhero unveiled in the ‘60s, and easily the most likeable character in the whole film.
The shared billing is entirely appropriate, but in many ways, it feels like this is two movies in one — and they’re not always complementary. The arcs converge, but the edits don’t always feel seamless. At times, the audience is left to make notes about what happened in other MCU efforts to figure out where we are in the timeline, as well as what happened in the first Ant-Man movie. The plot minutiae become tedious, but the constant toggle between big and little is hugely entertaining, whether it’s seeing Dr. Pym’s army of ants operate at human scale, or watching a bad guy’s motorbike turned into a toy.
The shared billing is entirely appropriate, but in many ways, it feels like this is two movies in one — and they’re not always complementary. The arcs converge, but the edits don’t always feel seamless. At times, the audience is left to make notes about what happened in other MCU efforts to figure out where we are in the timeline, as well as what happened in the first Ant-Man movie.
Paul Rudd earned a writing credit for this one, which is probably where the recurring “close-up magic” gag comes from, as well as the character’s sweet brand of cynicism. Lilly’s character doesn’t quite find the same dimensions of personality, but then again, this is a world where things don’t always fit together. Some of the smallest moments deliver the biggest pleasures, while the big spectacles often fall short. If you can measure your expectations, Ant-Man and the Wasp will deliver a good buzz, and very possibly, make you look at the world beneath your feet a little bit closer.
THE EX-PRESS, July 6, 2018