Movie Review: "Ant-Man and the Wasp" (2018)
When I took my trip through the M.C.U., I walked away feeling that the original 2015's Ant-Man was a fun and funny little movie that had no bearing on the universe at large. It was entertaining, although it took until the 3rd act to really get rolling. I also admitted to not being a fan of Paul Rudd and feeling that there was very little chemistry between the cast as a whole. I still enjoyed the movie, mind you, I just thought there were some glaring issues to go with the snappy sense of humor and visual coolness.
I'm really glad to have walked out of the theater this time feeling very differently.
The sequel takes place nearly two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd, The 40 Year-Old Virgin) is on house arrest following his actions in Germany. He's essentially the world's most enforced stay-at-home Dad to his little girl, Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston). He's just trying to live out the last few days with his ankle bracelet before he can be free. Of course, along comes the complication in the form of a powerful dream that leads him to contact Dr. Hank Pym aka the orginal Ant-Man (Michael Douglas, Wall Street) in regards to his presumed dead wife, Dr. Janet Van Dyne aka the original Wasp (Michelle Pfeiffer, Batman Returns), who was lost in the Quantum Realm decades before. Two days before his return to freedom he's enlisted by Pym's daughter (and his former flame) Hope Van Dyne aka the new Wasp (Evangeline Lilly, LOST) in hopes of finding her mother. She and her father have been on the run since Germany, and some fences have to be mended. Along the way, they will have to face a new adversary in Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen, Ready Player One), who shifts through different phases of matter and can pass through solid objects due to exposure to the subatomic. Matters are also complicated by a greedy tech black marketeer, Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins, Justified) and Scott's personal FBI-assigned parole officer, Agent Woo (Randall Park, The Interview). Scott's buddies and new business partners are back to help and bumble their way through things, key among them being Luis (Michael Pena, End of Watch).
There are so many improvements in this it's hard to know where to begin. The pacing issues from the first are fixed beautifully. It hits the ground running and keeps a nice, three-act pace with a crescendo in each that leads neatly into the next. There was no early lag this time. Sure, some of that has to do with having a fully fleshed backstory (thus eliminating the need for too much exposition), but it's also simply better writing. That is somewhat surprising considering the main writer on the first was the great Edgar Wright, but these M.C.U. movies all have a ton of writers. Maybe there were simply too many cooks in the kitchen the first time.
The chemistry is totally there this time around, too. The trio of Rudd, Lilly, & Douglas seem to be speaking the same language now and fully settled in. They interact well with the true comic relief of "the homies" of X-Con security. The jokes come fast and furious...not Deadpool fast but definitely much more quickly than other movies in the M.C.U. What felt like almost a hindrance last time has become a huge benefit. You find yourself laughing a lot and grinning constantly. The whole cast is a mini-ensemble that clicks.
The new threat of Ghost is simply outstanding. Phasing out of solid matter from place to place gives the fight scenes a nice "Albert Wesker in RE5" vibe to them. Hannah John-Kamen is stunning and surprisingly menacing, and the suit looks very cool. Speaking of threats, who doesn't love Walton Goggins? The man is a national treasure. He takes Southern sleaze and being almost menacing to an entirely new level. He's comedic without trying and villainous in unique ways.
And Scott's little girl, Cassie? I'm loving the development of that character. Young Abby Ryder Forston is cute as a friggin' button, smart, & almost shockingly talented for her age. They didn't ask her to do a hell of a lot in this role, but it is cool when you see a young actor/actress that just has IT. This kid has IT in abundance. I smell one hell of a career.
It's still not one of the "serious" movies in the overall M.C.U., but Ant-Man and the Wasp has learned to wear that B-team status like a damn badge of honor. It plays more like a comedy, and there isn't any real threat of serious danger. It relies heavily, too, on the outstanding visuals at play throughout.
To that end I simply say "So what? They don't all have to be doom and gloom!"