“Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018)

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Running Time: 105 minutes

Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari

Directed by: Peyton Reed

Featuring: Paul Rudd,  Evangeline Lilly,  Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, and Michael Douglas

Scott Lang: “I do some dumb things, and the people I love the most – they pay the price.”

It may be difficult to believe but the release this month of “Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018) is the third MCU movie to arrive in theatres in 2018 after the culture reflecting “Black Panther” (2018) that at the time broke box office records, followed by the critical and box office behemoth “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018). This is also a sequel to the modestly budgeted (by MCU standards) “Ant-Man” (2016) that had been on the back burner for years, meaning it had a troubled production with original writer/director Edgar Wright being fired and replaced by an unproven director Peyton Reid. All signs had that first movie possibly being the biggest disappointment in the MCU franchise since the lamentable misfire that was “The Incredible Hulk” (2008). However don’t let it be said that producer Kevin Feige does not learn from mistakes or doesn’t have the experience to deal with a troubled production, turning “Ant-Man” into a hit, launching Paul Rudd as well as Evangeline Lilly into the Marvel Universe, making the aforementioned one of the scene stealers of “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) with that movie surviving here as a kind of prequel to this new movie.

As with many of the MCU movies “Ant-Man and the Wasp” merges a few genres into one, making a movie that serves many purposes as well as fleshing out characters in a three dimensional way through drama, action and in particular comedy. What made the original as well as this new entry different than other MCU movies is the addition of Scott Lang’s family as real people who he has to try mending his relationship with, as well as attempt to be some kind of honest, caring and present father to his daughter. These themes are echoed with Hank Pym, his daughter, Hope as well as his maybe not missing wife Janet. In these “Ant-Man” movies it is family that is the key to unlocking the importance as well as success of these stories, which serves to underline the standalone nature, which is becoming more common within the MCU movies.

One of the important aspects of these movies that cannot be underestimated is director Peyton Reed who previous to “Ant-Man” would not have been on anyone’s list of people  that would be a competent director of any MCU movie, let alone a niche property like “Ant-Man”. It required something special if it were to be a success especially after the exiting of fan favourite Edgar Wright. What Reed has been able to do in both movies is to harness a large cast that are committed to telling a story about family whether that be familial, unrelated or disparate in a way not explored in the MCU before or explored to the depths this has. This can be seen to be why Reed was recruited as well as remained for the sequel, he has been able to explore these themes without losing the comedy, drama or thrills perhaps in the way James Gunn missed the mark a little in his own ‘Guardians’ sequel. Reed has also seen fit to make the villain’s of the piece seem relatable as well as improving on that aspect from the first outing.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is et two years after the events of “Captain America: Civil War”, and before the events of “Avengers: Infinity War”, Scott Lang, now under house arrest after the events of ‘Civil War’, tries to balance his home life as a father with his responsibilities as Ant-Man. When Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym present him with a new mission to bring to light secrets from their past, Lang teams up with Van Dyne as the new Wasp.

If Reed is one of the most important factors behind the camera then it is Paul Rudd in front of the camera that is equally as important with a wit, charm and ability to play action that is rarely seen in these kinds of movies with the dramatic flair to be able to pull the story all together seemingly at ease with his new role onscreen, the hero. What works for Rudd in this role is the same thing that potentially holds him back in others, that is his roguish natural wit that shines through almost everywhere but with such an unusual hero in Ant-Man works extremely well, especially in contrast to his other co-stars, in particular Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne. Lilly who in many ways is his superior in almost every way, was always going to get an upgraded part from the first movie, she had great chemistry with all the cast, was an imposing presence, so she now becomes a titular hero, the first female hero to be named in a main title, she shows no sign of slowing down, embracing her character to be one of the best aspects of this movie. As with all the fantastic returning cast members including Michael Peña, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, and Michael Douglas who are all just as great as they were in the first movie, they welcome a handful of new actors who all perform specific roles. So we have, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne who have all almost been leads in their own movies, here they are playing the driving force behind the plot of this new movie, not only that they are all exceptionally great actors who lend this new movie some air of quality as well as legitimacy in terms of making the ‘Ant-Man’ franchise one to be respected.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is most definitely a stand-alone movie, much like many of the recent MCU movies, which is great for all audiences, especially those people that do not follow the wider story, which was reflected in the latest ‘Avengers’ movie. This instalment also answers the question regarding where the character of Ant-Man was when Thanos rid half the Universe of resource sucking life. What is refreshing to see is the delineation between both heroes, their abilities as well as their roles within the story, not only that this might be the first super hero movie where the female character is actually more powerful and cooler than the male, which given the actors talents they play with extremely well, which I hope follows through in the upcoming ‘Avengers’ sequel. The other important aspect of this movie is the reintroduction of the quantum/micro/multiverse, which was also touched upon in the “Doctor Strange” (2016) a few years ago. This side of the MCU is set to become important as it is a maguffin that not only is explored here but also might be important for future movies especially if there is another instalment of this franchise.

Finally, the Ant-Man character was always going to be a tough sell, not only because of who he is but his troubled comic book history especially when he was inhabited by Henry Pym. It was a masterstroke to let Scott Lang be the ‘first’ Ant-Man as this meant we did not have to go through some of the hoops that Pym went through, skipping the ‘Yellowjacket’ persona, logically going straight to ‘Giant-Man’ who I was a big fan of. It was fun seeing that identity in ‘Civil War’ and I have to say I welcome his return here and in the future. The other element of this new movie is to retcon the idea of a Giant-Man with the introduction of Bill Foster who was an instrumental part of the Marvel comics, hopefully now he will be a part of the MCU on some level as a scientist as well as possible hero or villain.

What is refreshing is the lack of plot holes or characters making stupid decisions just to drive the plot forward which is something I am sick of, I am looking at you “Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom” (2018) and “Solo: A Star Wars Story” (2018) where there were plot holes big enough to drive a Giant-Man through as well paper thin characterisations that audiences were supposed to buy into just because they were onscreen. With this new movie at least the story as well as characters are all coherent three dimensional as well as believable inhabiting the world they do. This is a solid MCU movie that never rises to some of the greatest but it is a smaller story being an antidote to some of the massively budgeted disappointments that we have seen recently. It is a nice stopgap between ‘Avengers’ movies without being too sweet.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is out now only in cinemas.

 

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