Tuesday, July 3, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp - Review

There really isn’t anything that Marvel can’t spin into a franchise these days. Throughout all of their risky ventures, none seemed more out there than selling audiences on a hero named Ant-Man. And yet, here we are, just three years removed from the first with a sequel that adds another pint-sized hero in the Wasp, to the title and the film. With a clear vision from the start and no creative handoffs, Ant-Man and the Wasp looks to build off of the first film’s unlikely success and clear everyone’s mind after the devastation of Avengers: Infinity War. Luckily, it is successful on both fronts, by a wide margin.

Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is grappling with the consequences of his choices as both a superhero and a father. Approached by Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Lang must once again don the Ant-Man suit and fight alongside the Wasp. The urgent mission soon leads to secret revelations from the past as the dynamic duo finds itself in an epic battle against a powerful new enemy.

While the first film managed to be good despite everything it went through, the added benefit of time must have been a pleasure for director Peyton Reed. The story, while not terribly unique or complicated, is more focused, merging separated threads into one coherent narrative while never losing the sense of light-hearted fun that the franchise is ultimately striving for. The filmmakers recognize this as well, opting for a pace that is incredibly brisk as it moves from one set piece to the next with plenty of comedy in between.

Having Paul Rudd as your leading man certainly doesn’t hurt either, because who doesn’t love Paul Rudd? The thought surely crossed the minds of those at Marvel when casting him as the lovable criminal Scott Lang. Rudd’s comedic timing has always been a showcase for the actor, and Ant-Man and the Wasp is no exception, becoming somewhat of the comedic relief in his own film. And whereas Rudd does shine here once more, his counterpart, Evangeline Lilly, steals the entire show. As the far more capable hero, the Wasp, Lilly owns every moment she is given and even though she may not get the same screen time as Rudd, this is absolutely her film and her story.

They’re backed by some noteworthy supporting members as well. From the surprisingly compelling, both visually and narratively, villain Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen, to the ever-hilarious fast-talking Luis, played by Michael Peña. The cast from top to bottom is great, each fulfilling their specific roles well as the two heroes attempt to save the day.

And that’s just it, only the day is at stake here, not the entire universe. After the universe shattering consequences of Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp brings it all back to a very low-key, almost relaxing, reality. That doesn’t mean that the film isn’t exciting, far from it in fact, and the inventive action has the large part in that. Visually creative set pieces allow the action to be varied and distinctive amidst the sea of overblown, and sometimes over the top, scenes. Beyond the visual feats of size changing heroes working together to defeat a villain with the ability to phase through anything, the sheer beauty of scenes at a smaller size is mesmerizing, particularly a visit to the mind-bending Quantum Realm.

Overall, Ant-Man and the Wasp is an improvement on the first film. It doesn’t pretend to be game changing or do anything all that unexpected, but what it does, it does well. The leading duo is inherently fun to watch interact, both in and out of their suits, as they grow in their relationship with one another, personally and professionally. Creative action set pieces and the introduction of the Wasp will be the most talked about aspects of the film, and rightfully so, but more than anything Ant-Man and the Wasp is just a great dose of fun that will keep audiences of all sizes entertained.

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