Movie Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

The latest Marvel film is aimed at a family audience, with more humor and toned-down action

Ant-Man and the Wasp
Directed by Peyton Reed
With 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, Michael Douglas

Some of the Marvel Cinematic Universe films have a smaller scale. Ant-Man and the Wasp follows quickly after the heavily hero laden Avengers: Infinity War, with a fresh, humorous tone, and not only smaller characters but a more personal story.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a sequel to the 2015 film Ant-Man, and improves on some of its flaws.

People wanting some hints on the sticky situation left after Infinity War will be disappointed as only the scantest clues are given, and those come in the end credits.

Ant-Man /Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) is under house arrest due to the events of Captain America: Civil War, and as a result was completely absent from Infinity War, though he was mentioned.

In Ant-Man and the Wasp, there is far more character development and fewer (but still some) massive CGI scenes than in most of the Marvel films.

Scott Lang spends a lot of time with his young daughter, Cassie, while waiting for his house arrest to end. His main concerns are being a good father and getting his new private security business started.

Rudd has a decent enough comic talent and uses it to make Ant-Man a very sympathetic superhero who is trying to do good, even if he bumbles around a lot.

But any time a deadline is stated in a film, some catastrophe has to happen to mess it up. Just as the house arrest enters its final days, Ant-Man has to go into action and not get caught outside of his house.

This sets up one comic line of action with the police always trying to catch him violating the rules, while he has to stay one step ahead.

Another theme has to do with size, shrinking things down often to sub-atomic size but also to the size of toys. And of course making things larger.

Some new characters are introduced including the Wasp / Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), who like Ant-man can shrink very small, and Ghost /Ava Starr, who suffers some sort of phasing problem from a botched experiment. (Hope van Dyne was in the first film, but not yet as the superhero Wasp.)

Big stars flocking to the Marvel series. Michael Douglas was in the original Ant-Man as a scientist and returns. He takes a rather broad approach, embracing the silly and ludicrous nature of the material. New to the cast is Michelle Pfeiffer in a role that becomes more clear as the film progresses.

Laurence Fishburne has long wanted to be part of the Marvel series and finally gets his chance as Bill Foster, someone associated with Ghost.

Director Peyton Reed stresses the comic potential of the story, going for a retro feel. A lot of scenes hark back especially to Disney's live-action comedies of the 1960s and sci-fi adventures like the 1966 film Fantastic Voyage as well as b-movies. Despite the reported $130 million budget, the film strives for a do-it-yourself look with off-the-shelf props like toy cars in a collector's carrying case. A portable lab is also rather humorous in its appearance.

There are some comic relief characters, too add even broader humor. Scott Lang's security firm has two inept employees: Luis (Michael Peña) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian). Kurt has some lines that are funnier in Central and Eastern Europe, as he become fixated on the mythological figure of Baba Yaga, a sort of witch, to explain some of the film's more curious incidents.

While Ant-Man and the Wasp avoids the truly massive battles of some of the other Marvel films, there is a lot of CGI in creating the subatomic world. Much of it is stunning, just like some of the landscapes in The Guardians of the Galaxy films. Great attention was spent on the most minute details.

There are some big fight scenes too, but just not on the scale of the Avengers or Black Panther.

Ant-Man and the Wasp might appeal especially to younger viewers, as much of the humor is pretty juvenile, and there is even some card magic thrown in. But it also works for older people, with plot arcs about relationships and responsibility.

The film is not a “must see” compared to some other Marvel films, but its friendlier demeanor, more accessible plot and emphasis on visual wonder make it a good option for people who want some simple escapism but don't want to be overwhelmed by an orgy of CGI mayhem and a plot where the fate of the entire universe is at stake.

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