Heroes Don’t Get Any Bigger
Following the events in Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang [Rudd] is nearing the end of his two year house arrest. In that time he has had no contact with Dr Hank Pym [Douglas] or his daughter Hope Van Dyne [Lilly] but when relaxing in the bath, a mere two days away from freedom, Scott has a vision of Hope’s supposedly deceased mother, Janet Van Dyne [Michelle Pfeiffer]. Freaked out, Scott contacts Dr Pym and we learn that this dream was no coincidence as Hope and Hank had been working on a quantum tunnel in an attempt to locate and retrieve Janet. But as wanted criminals, the scientists have been working with the nefarious Sonny Burch [Walton Goggins] and have got the attention of a mysterious quantum-shifting figure, known only as the ghost [John-Kamen].
When Ant-Man was released I was thoroughly disappointed. Avengers: Age Of Ultron had been a bit of a bust and the turbulent behind-the-scenes shift of directors left a strange chimera film with trails and remnants of Edgar Wright’s tropes and Reed’s direction. The final product was serviceable but I didn’t share the lauding that most critics and audiences were spouting. Subsequently, I was rather looking forward to an Ant-Man sequel, a chance to create something from the ground-up with a clear voice and, hopefully, a strong central female performance. Alas I only got one of those. One of the biggest problems this film encounters is the generally piss-poor, infantile, simplistic and flat comedy. From throw-away lines or setups to running magic jokes, nothing landed hard enough for me to laugh at and wholly enjoy. That isn’t to say it wasn’t entirely without humour, it simply failed to produce anything that I hadn’t seen before. On top of that there was a distinct lack of emotional resonance. Over the last decade, Marvel have wheeled out some pretty hefty emotional moments and connections between characters and while Ant-Man And The Wasp has the opportunity to, it rarely delivers. I will admit that the connection between Rudd and his daughter and the purveying theme of daughters and their screw-up dads is interesting but it’s nowhere near as gut-wrenching as something like the connection between Stark and Parker.
Sticking with performances for a second, I will absolutely defend everyone involved. Rudd tries his hardest and Lilly is wonderful but the script is so painfully cliché with abysmal dialogue, leading to stunted deliveries. From the completely mediocre jokes to the text-book “I thought I’d lost you” sentiments, nothing in this film feels fresh, realistic or relatable and while that may sound a bit harsh or stupid, you need some sort of grounding when the entire basis of the story is the fantastical. This film also drags Marvel back into the pit of questionable villains – which is a shame after the marvellous complexity of the last two. Ava Starr/Ghost is a decent enough sympathetic villain, even if she is never really fleshed out but Sonny is terrible and continues the weird trend of Goggins being fantastic on TV but getting terrible roles on film. And then there’s Woo (played by the genuinely funny Police Academy film.
Getting back to Ava for a second, the character highlights some of the film’s technical issues. While the ghost effect looked pleasing and felt like a simple layering technique harking back to silent movie techniques, the action was largely uninspired. Say what you will about the first Ant-Man film, at least it was creative. Here we have fights that suffer from rushed, fast-paced editing (which somehow seemed to be cut better in the trailer), far too many ropey floating-head CGI moments and shrinking/enlarging tech that fails to create anything of note. I mean, when a 2018 blockbuster is giving you flashbacks to 2003’s The Matrix Reloaded but never rising above it, something has to be going wrong. Having said all that, Christophe Beck’s score is magnificent, making great and sometimes playful use of the motif (something Marvel struggles with) while delivering something constantly fitting and appropriate. Additionally, the de-aging effects are remarkable, Marvel have been doing a stellar job with this innovative technology.. although I wasn’t as convinced by the de-aged Hope. That was a joke. Sorry. It was either that or a DC facial hair removal gag.
As with 2015’s Ant-Man, it came off the back of the high-stakes, ultra-scale Age Of Ultron and with its standalone, unique story, endeared a lot of people to it. Then Lang reappeared in Civil War and the character was cemented as a great asset to have others interact with, offering some fantastic levity and visuals. This sequel should have built on that momentum, giving audiences an opportunity for a light emotional lift after the dour close of Avengers: Infinity War. But it wasn’t. Missing is the outlandish comedic treatment of Thor: Ragnarok and the character/world building of Black Panther, in favour of some weirdly delivered dad jokes, call-backs and importance placed upon the quantum realm that still feels like a complete mystery. In truth, this whole corner of the MCU feels like an arc on Spider-Man: Homecoming – and that was amusing but this is ridiculous. All we see is an enlarged ant playing the drums in Scott’s absence – the scene takes place in the trailer! At this stage we have to ask, what’s the point? I know Marvel are expected to generate two sequences but that was an absolutely pointless piss-take and to have already shown it in not only the theatrical trailer but earlier in the film from a different angle emphasises its absurdity.
So I haven’t mentioned Michelle Pfeiffer, despite the fact she appears on the poster. On one hand, I really enjoyed Pfeiffer’s performance and on the other, it generated so many logistical questions that go completely unanswered. After Dr Pym enters the quantum realm, he discovers his not-dead wife and brings her back. She has been living down there for thirty years. Somehow. A single line of dialogue about the curative powers of the realm itself leading to a sort of evolution is all we get to explain how she has survived in this mostly barren plane of existence.. with perfect make-up. But to dissolve the tension between our heroes and the adversarial Ghost character, is to stretch out her hands and say, “I can feel your pain” before curing her. That. Right there. Is Sybok from Star Trek V: The Final Frontier. Nobody understands her frankly magic powers (almost as if the constant magic talk is merely foreshadowing) and I’m sure they’ll be explored later but for a film that spends so much time doing so little, you’d think they would have been able to etch out some time to even loosely cover it.
“Do you guys just put the word quantum in front of everything?”
In A Few Words:
“I went into this film with reasonable expectations and hope for something semi-decent, what I got was disappointingly sub-par but it’s still worth mentioning that at their worst, Marvel films are still better than the standard superhero cinematic fare”