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‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’ Stings With Humor, Heist Antics

Published on July 6th, 2018 | Updated on July 6th, 2018 | By FanFest

Ant-Man and The Wasp

Directed by Peyton Reed

Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, and Laurence Fishburne

118 Minutes

Reber’s Rating – B+

Ant-Man and The Wasp was announced just three months after Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man caught fire at the box office back in 2015. Of course, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is mightily packed lately with a slew of installments that created a slow build to April’s Avengers: Infinity War. Anthony and Joe Russo ripped our beating hearts out of our chests with the aftermath of the Mad Titan’s quest to tip the scales. Though the yucks were provided mostly by Tom Holland’s Spider-Man and Chris Pratt’s Peter Quill, there was a big void felt without Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man fiddling around. The three biggest questions a couple months ago were just how the Russo’s would tie up Phase 4, what Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye was up to this entire time, and how Ant-Man and The Wasp would tie into Infinity War. After all, Marvel has yet to make a movie that doesn’t have a purpose in the grand scheme of storytelling. Every puzzle piece fits in the bigger picture.

If anyone out there was hoping that the twentieth film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe was going to address the fall-out from Infinity War – I’m afraid I’ve got some harrowing news. Peyton Reed’s follow-up to his surprise 2015 summertime score is the tonal opposite of the Russo Brothers’ blockbuster, a lighthearted rip-roaring comedy unashamed of its hilarity. Seriously, after having sat through the emotional rollercoaster we endured earlier this summer a break ain’t all that much of a bad things, folks. Seeing as how we’ve got seven months to wait for March’s Captain Marvel, Ant-Man and The Wasp serves as a cool midsummer remedy to temper our hysteria. This is a check-your-brain-at-the-door type of film, a good old-fashioned heist film with parallel plots that race in tandem towards the climax with uproarious laughs and finely-tuned action sequences every minute, entertaining enough to forgive director Peyton Reed’s film for containing a shaky plot and roll with the punches as they fly furiously.

Minor spoilers are contained within – proceed at your own risk. You’ve been warned.

To play on words, the notion is typically that if something’s broke then go ahead and fix it. Ant-Man was a fun little ride but feeling like a tale of two scripts, different types of humor clashing with each other to establish an identity of its own. Instead of trying to balance comedy and Marvel’s flair of action, Ant-Man and The Wasp rather embraces its humor. Much like last November’s Thor: Ragnarok, this sequel relies heavily on the humor factor to reel in the audience. Taiki Waititi’s film played for laughs that heavily relied on improvisation, though Paul Rudd’s Scott Long is absolutely nothing like Chris Hemsworth’s braggart Thor. Peyton Reed’s laughs in Ant-Man and The Wasp play more toward Rudd’s strengths, whose wit is a mad marriage  of Adam McKay’s madcap and Judd Apatow’s deadpan delivery. We of course know Rudd to be a dynamo in comedies like The 40-Year-Old Virgin, and, most famously, Anchorman. To ensure the witticism is on point Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, the current architects of Marvel’s Spider-Man films, have successfully crafted a film that dials up the levity to balance camp with hard-hitting thrills, unafraid to embrace its comedic core. Factor in that Paul Rudd himself took a pass on the Ant-Man and The Wasp script, we’ve got a film that manages to shine well above its original. (I will admit that so far 2018 has surprisingly delivered sequels that are a step above their predecessors.)

The sequel serves more as a follow-up to the events of Captain America: Civil War by highlighting the repercussions of Scott Lang operating against Sokovia Accords, the sequel picking up during his last days under house arrest by the federal government. Lang, who’s out of touch with Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne, tries to stay busy stuck in his house. Lang’s helped form a new security company X-Con because, why not? Ex-cons need work to live. His home life with his daughter and ex-wife couldn’t be better. Hank and Hope have been on the run since Civil War – supplying Scott with his suit didn’t go unnoticed. Picking back up on a big subplot from the 2015 original, father and daughter are on the cusp of cracking into the Quantum Realm to rescue the 30-years-missing Janet Van Dyne from her long sojourn into the unknown. Scott just wants to be freed from being babysat by the FBI – yet his skills are needed once again. Will he survive long enough to lose his ankle bracelet and resume his somewhat-normal life?

Sure, the plot’s as basic as an old-school side-scrolling action/adventure game, but the humor is the driving mechanism at the film’s core. There is a major shift in distinct humorous nature from Edgar Wright and Joe Cornish’s script from before, grounded less in popular culture and more into playing with words. McKenna and Sommers found fame on NBC/Yahoo’s Community, just like Joe and Anthony Russo before them, so their ability to deliver puns on demand and cue is right on the money. Rudd’s no slouch with his words either. The realization that comedy was the cure for the first film’s problems is a major aide in dialing up the entertainment factor, slivers of pop culture riffs intertwined with the playful nature of each character’s relationship with the other. The lighthearted Lang, nary a serious fiber in his being, is the oil to Hank’s water, a more sober and serious fellow too obsessed with his quest. Lang’s crew return for more hi-jinx as well with Michael Pena’s Luis nabbing the most screen-time, his mile-a-minute mouth a worthy source of comedic gold. Randall Park, whose ABC sitcom Fresh Off The Boat has been a delight, joins in as Lang’s FBI handler, the two’s interactions a constant source of gut busting laughs and charming innocence with their affection for the other’s well-being.

Naturally, not all of Ant-Man and The Wasp can be for laughs. The film has enough dramatics weaved into the script to give the heist antics time to breathe. Crossing genre lines is Laurence Fishburne, who has made his disillusion of the DCEU known, as Hank Pym’s former partner Bill Foster, a duo that worked wonders during their S.H.I.E.L.D. days in the 1980’s. Like everything in Pym’s life the two had a long falling out, their disagreements on-screen making for some of the more exceptional drama as we’re able to perceive for their care towards one another. Michael Douglas, one of the best actors of his generation (but looking more like his father every day), works well with Fishburne’s acting caliber, creating an authentic-feeling kinship that stands tall alongside other relationships in the MCU. Though her time is limited Michelle Pfieffer’s Janet Van Dyne serves as the soothing rationale in her marriage to Hank, a sage and science whiz whose soul shines next to Pym’s stubbornness. The real stand-out is Evangeline Lilly, finally embracing her stature in nerd-dom and emboldening Hope Van Dyne as a fiery and passionate woman fueled by her desires, be it in finding her mom or just getting Scott to admit he needs a partner. (Yes, that is a double entendre, thank you for noticing.)

Not everything works in the long-run, tiny nitpicks dimming the waters by the credits. For starters, and while both being a blessing and a curse, Ant-Man and The Wasp doesn’t boast any real villains. Despite what the lusterless trailers have flashed over the last few months, Hannah-John Kamen’s Ghost isn’t much of a villain. At all. If anything, Ghost is on a collision course with our protagonists as they attempt to crack the lid on the Quantum Realm. Her plans may be in opposition to Hank Pym’s intentions but act in parallel with the rescue mission. Ghost and Pym both want the same thing – but without that race to the finish, we wouldn’t have much of a movie. Instead of accepting Ghost as a antagonist we actually become sympathetic to her situation, rooting for her in the long run. Walton Goggins, one of the more criminally-underrated character actors in Hollywood today, chews up the scenery as black market trader Sonny Burch but comes across more like a lower-level hoodlum out to get his big score to become a better restaurateur.

Also, when casting the absolutely divine Michelle Pfieffer, the audience is going to be fully aware of what the ending will be. The ending’s not hid behind a big curtain but at least getting to the big reveal is worth the wait. We know that we’ll eventually have Janet Van Dyne appear and the importance of the Quantum Realm explained, but getting to that moment feels like a slog. Though, with all three parties vying for the film’s Macguffin (ruined in the trailers if you’ve keenly paid attention), the theatrics are at least given a healthy boost with an emphasis on the heist aspects. The stratagems of both Ghost and Burch are a bit basic and far from insidious, sure, but contrarily their antics when combined make for some stand-out stagecraft. All of the characters working with and against each other at least save Ant-Man and The Wasp‘s shortfall of villainous presence.  This storytelling device – various parties vying for a piece of property and one-upping each other in perpetuum – is a gamble and big change of pace from the other MCU films that predate this latest chapter. There’s something oddly satisfying in seeing a larger emphasis in the art of the steal, the players each one-upping each other in their scheming.

Like its brethren before, Ant-man and The Wasp boasts a hell of a stinger. Unlike the 110 minutes that come before the mid-credit scenes, the drama that you’ve waited to see unfold finally makes a world of sense. Really though, did you expect Ant-Man and The Wasp to add another layer to Infinity War‘s fallout? This summer has already been rife with dour films that rely on stopping your heart on a dime, the trauma clung to you as you leave the theater. Ant-Man and The Wasp serves as the right amount of fluff to reset before the last two months of the summer. Sure, the agonizing wait for both Captain Marvel and Avengers 4 is going to be unconditionally dreadful. When you’re guffawing aloud with a packed house so frequently your sides hurt at times – Rudd and Lilly’s chemistry feeling charming and genuine – and the sublime blend of thrills and hilarity into a pleasing mix – really, you forget the dread that Infinity War ravaged on your emotions. Ant-Man and the Wasp is the type of crowd-pleasing blockbuster we’ve needed to shake up the tradtional MCU formula yet again.

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as seen on promo graphic

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as seen on promo graphic