Film Review: ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’

Paul Rudd is once again amongst the ants as he suits up for Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man’ sequel… 

Ant-Man & Wasp

Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly return in Marvel Studios’ ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ (image credit: Marvel Studios/Disney, used for illustrative purposes only).

 Spoiler free review

Starring:  Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Pena, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer

Directed by:  Peyton Reed / Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Farrari / 118 minutes

What’s it about?

Under house arrest after joining Captain America’s fight against Tony Stark’s Iron Man, Scott Lang finds he must become Ant-Man again and team-up with Hope Van Dyne – now the Wasp – when Hank Pym discovers a way to rescue his wife from the Quantum Realm…

In review

Following its U.S. release in July, Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp has finally arrived in U.K. cinemas.  The sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp provides essentially more of the same but is no less enjoyable for it.  Picking up two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War (and taking place prior to Avengers: Infinity War), we’re reintroduced to ex-con turned superhero Scott Lang, who has been sentenced to house arrest after siding with Captain America against Iron Man and the rest of the pro-Sokovia Accord heroes.  Days away from the end of his sentence, Lang focuses on being the best father he can be to his daughter Cassie and staying out of trouble.  But as Lang starts to experience strange ‘dreams’ about the Quantum Realm he finds himself reaching out to Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne – currently fugitives from the law – who believe they’ve found a way to rescue Pym’s wife, Janet from the sub-molecular dimension.

Ant-Man director Peyton Reed returns to helm this second instalment and together with the terrific cast delivers a fun popcorn adventure that has the same mix of action, humour and heart that entertained audiences the first time around.  It’s scale is more confined than the epic, galaxy-spanning Infinity War but a refreshing change of pace in the wake of that cinematic behemoth.  That’s not to say that Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t have some great set-pieces and Reed is once again skilful in staging inventive action scenes that make the most out of repeatedly shrinking/enlarging people – and objects – without it ever becoming tiresome or gimmicky.  Yet, at its core Ant-Man and the Wasp is a story about family and the lengths people will go to for those they care about which is something everyone can relate to and become invested in.

Paul Rudd confidently reprises the role of Scott Lang/Ant-Man, his playful approach to the part enhanced by the charm of his relationship with Cassie and the rapport he has with Abby Rider Forston.  Let’s not forget that this is called Ant-Man and the Wasp though and following through on the promise of Ant-Man’s post-credits scene, Evangeline Lilly is offered equal opportunity to get in on the action as Hope Van Dyne suits up as the Wasp and there are many great scenes for her, including a nifty kitchen-based fight sequence.  Lilly and Rudd share good chemistry as well and the pair really do feel like a team, their talents better utilised together than apart.  Michael Douglas also makes a welcome return as Hank Pym adding a cantankerous yet fatherly dynamic to the team.

Michael Pena’s Luis was Ant-Man’s secret weapon with numerous memorable comic moments and that’s more or less the same here although this time around it feels a little overplayed, particularly evident in the repetition of the hilarious ‘monologuing’ scene that, whilst amusing, isn’t quite as effective as it was originally.

Game of Thrones and Ready Palyer One actress Hannah John-Kamen plays the main antagonist, a meta-human known as ‘Ghost’ who is an interesting character with an intriguing backstory that promises depth but ultimately isn’t as fully explored as one would hope.  Adding to the threat is Walton Goggins (Predators) as underworld dealer Sonny Burch, similarly underdeveloped but provides an extra element of villainy non-the-less.

Laurence Fishburne brings further star value in a small albeit key role as Pym’s former colleague, Dr. Bill Foster facilitating some wonderfully tense rivalry between the two.  Unfortunately, Michelle Pfeiffer is surprisingly underserved as Janet Van Dyne – what moments she has are significant but the film’s screenplay doesn’t provide enough room for development.

Whilst the use of humour in some of Marvel’s other efforts can be overutilised and not always hit the mark, it’s pretty much perfectly executed here and in a similar vein to Guardians of the Galaxy it feels integral to the world of Ant-Man.  Making light of absurd concepts and situations is part of what makes this iteration of the character (coupled with Rudd’s performance and comic timing) work successfully and only adds to the appeal.

Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t do anything daring or different but it’s as enjoyable as the first film and the right sort of tonal shift for those still reeling from the emotional shocks of Infinity War whilst preparing viewers for what’s to come.

The bottom line:  Ant-Man and the Wasp provides more of the same in a comic book romp that amongst its inventive action is funny, exciting and heartfelt.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is in cinemas now.

Film Review: ‘Ant-Man’ (spoiler free)

Marvel recruits its tiniest Avenger…

Starring:  Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Corey Stoll, Michael Pena

Directed by:  Peyton Reed / Written by:  Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish & Adam McKay & Paul Rudd / 117 minutes

What’s it about?

Fresh from prison, ex-con Scott Lang is sought out by scientist and inventor Hank Pym to prevent his work from being developed into a dangerous weapon.  To do so, Lang must don Pym’s greatest creation, a super-suit that will allow him to shrink to the size of an insect whilst increasing in strength…he must become the ‘Ant-Man’…

In review

Is there anything Marvel Studios cannot achieve?  With Ant-Man the answer, at least for now, is an assured and confident “no”.  Surprising and delighting audiences last summer with Guardians of the Galaxy, Marvel sought to repeat that success once again with another obscure, lesser known property…yet this time facing the unenviable task of following a highly anticipated Avengers sequel.

Despite the exit of original director (and co-screenwriter) Edgar Wright, Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man successfully rises above those early production troubles, delivering an accessible, visually inventive and fun super-hero caper.  Not unlike Chris Pratt in Guardians of the Galaxy, leading star Paul Rudd brings a healthy dose of comedic talent and likeability to Ant-Man as central hero Scott Lang, a character whose struggles as an ex-con and absent father provide the narrative’s emotional backbone.

It helps that Rudd is surrounded by a great cast with a range of talents.  Leading the charge is A-lister Michael Douglas whose largely straight-faced performance as Hank Pym (father of the shrinking ‘Pym Particle’ and the original Ant-Man) provides a neat counter balance against the hilarity of Lang’s heist buddy Luis (Michael Pena), the maniacal pantomime evil of villain Darren Cross (House of Cards’ Corey Stoll) who seeks to ‘weaponise’ Pym’s work and the strength and determination of Pym’s daughter Hope (The Hobbit’s Evangeline Lilly).

It’s probably unsurprising that there’s a great deal of humour in Ant-Man and it feels appropriate given the premise of a shrinking super-hero able to command an army of ants.  The incredulity and bewilderment conveyed by Rudd’s performance (melded with some precise comic timing) aides in retaining audience investment and fosters a willingness to accept the outlandish and simply enjoy the ride.

Amongst the humour and occasional moments of drama (primarily played out via Lang’s afore-mentioned troubles and an emotional rift between Hank Pym and his daughter), Ant-Man delivers some wonderfully inventive action sequences, where the ability to shrink and enlarge at will is utilised to great advantage.  Coupled with the lavish visual effects that are part and parcel of today’s blockbusters Ant-Man really is visually striking at times and although it can evoke memories of Honey, I Shrunk the Kids it’s well realised, adeptly executed by director Peyton Reed and worth the extra premium of an IMAX 3D ticket.

Although it functions as a standalone film and origin tale, Ant-Man does provide connections to the wider Marvel Cinematic Universe which as always are pleasing from a fan perspective yet not as numerous as Avengers: Age of Ultron and don’t feel too extraneous.  If anything, what few connections there are would seem entirely necessary given that Rudd’s Ant-Man will be returning in next year’s Captain America: Civil War.

With Ant-Man, Marvel have taken a potentially hokey super-hero concept and via the creative talent employed made it believable, enjoyable and fun with a good measure of heart.  Whilst it may not be as solid or complex as Captain America: The Winter Soldier or as huge as the Avengers films it’s a worthy addition to the ever expanding Marvel cinematic pantheon.

The bottom line:  Ant-Man is a fun and action packed blockbuster ride with a great cast and bolstered by impressive visuals.

Ant-Man is in cinemas now.

Ready to go small...star Paul Rudd suits up in Marvel's 'Ant-Man'.

Ready to go small…star Paul Rudd suits up in Marvel’s ‘Ant-Man’.