Thursday, 30 August 2018

Film Review No. 43 Ant-Man and The Wasp (12+)

Strong Points:
More fun and interesting uses of the Pym Particle powers
A great script
Some brilliant one-liners
Interesting villain powers
More Luis lip-syncing
A better look at the Quantum Realm
Some great costumes
Mid-credit scene
Explains the repercussions of Captain America: Civil War and why Ant-Man wasn’t in Infinity War
Paul Rudd as Michelle Pfeiffer
A nice pallet-cleanser after Infinity War

Weak Points:
Felt like a filler episode before Avengers 4
Very quick pacing – because it has to take place in the same time-frame as Infinity War
Perhaps not to do with Ant-Man and The Wasp enough to justify the title
Some comedic breaks in tension fell flat

Spoiler warning for Ant-Man and the Wasp, Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War

Ant-Man and The Wasp faced an interesting conundrum: how to make a meaningful MCU film in the gap between Infinity War and Avengers 4 which not only adds and reacts to the events of Infinity War without giving away ‘what comes next’ but also continues the Ant-Man storyline. Of course, this has arguably been a conundrum since the beginning of the MCU but as, until now, everything had been building up to Infinity War, by adding and strengthening characters and drip feeding us information on the Infinity Stones, I’d never really seen it as a problem. However, now that we have been left in the cataclysmic wake of ‘The Snap’, the problems of having a Universe-based story structure, with parallel stories branching off from each other, rather than the classic direct-sequel-based story structure, have become more apparent. So, the question is: does Ant-Man and The Wasp succeed in solving this conundrum or does it feel like filler? The answer, is that it’s a bit of both.   

The actual story of the film builds upon the heist-like nature of the first one but is now more ‘Fast and Furious’ than ‘Mission Impossible’, with a bit of ‘The Martian’ thrown in for good measure.
In the first film, Scott Lang managed to get out of the Quantum Realm, something that Hank Pym thought was impossible. Therefore, Pym and his daughter Hope started researching a way to get back into Quantum Realm to rescue Hope’s mother, and the original Wasp, Janet. However, after the events of Civil War, Scott ‘Ant-Man’ Lang, has been put under house arrest for two years and has been banned from contact with the Pyms. In addition, because Scott used Pym Tech in his fight against Team Iron Man, Hank and Hope have also been forced on the run, which has strained their relationship with Scott. Therefore, due to their outlaw status, the Pyms have had to make do with living in a shrunk version of their lab, which has a handy handle. In addition, they have turned to the black market in order to build their Quantum Tunnel, inviting the unwanted attention of black market dealer Sonny Burch.

Furthermore, there are further consequences of Marvel’s favourite flaw, the ego, this time resulting in the daughter of Pym’s old S.H.I.E.L.D. partner Elihas becoming out of phase with reality. This results in her becoming the Ghost while causing her great pain and also allowing her to pass through solid objects. She wants to get the Quantum Tunnel so that she can drain Janet of Quantum Energy and become in-phase. However, Pym believes that this will kill Janet and so a race against time begins to find Janet and stop Ghost and Sonny from getting the tunnel. As if that wasn’t enough, the team also only have a couple of hours to find Janet, who has managed to reveal her location via becoming Quantumly Entangled with Scott, before the pathway between our world and the Quantum one move away from each other again. Therefore, while the stakes aren’t as high as Infinity War, Marvel certainly raises them enough to make the film feel tense.

There are also some great relationships between characters in the film. From the adorable father-daughter relationship between Scott and Cassie (played brilliantly by Abby Ryder Fortson), to the surprisingly complicated relationship between Scott and Hope, as well as Hope’s conflicting relationship with her father, Hank. Then you’ve got the protective Bill Foster, played by Lawrence Fishburne, and Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost and the frenemy relationship between Scott and Jimmy Woo. The characters are impressively complicated and prove that Marvel really knows how to make almost real-life people, even only in the span of a film. However, I would like to see some of the characters developed further, especially Ghost’s and Hope/Scott’s relationship (especially as the film didn’t really seem to live up to its title of Ant-Man and The Wasp, as it focused more on the Quantum Realm than anything), but I’m concerned that Infinity War may complicate this.

The previously mentioned Quantum Entanglement between Scott and Janet also leads to one of the funniest scenes in the film, which has Paul Rudd acting as Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet, much to the shock of Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym. The comedy is pretty high for the rest of the film as well, with a terrific script, including some fantastic, if not belly-laugh, one-liners (special credit to Randall Park as bumbling FBI agent Jimmy Woo as well). Another superb scene is the, ahem, measuring contest between Scott and Bill Foster. And, don’t worry, there’s more Luis dubbing, which is as superb as it was in the first film. And while there aren’t necessarily any ‘small’ sight gags that reach the level of the Thomas the Tank Engine fight of the first film, an ant playing the drums and a Hello Kitty Pez cannister try their best to reach it. However, like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy before it, some of the comedy falls flat and runs the risk of ruining some of the tenser and more dramatic sequences.

As I’ve previously mentioned, the film is more ‘Fast and Furious’ than ‘Mission Impossible’ this time around, and this lends itself to some terrific action sequences. Be it a car chase with Ant-Man using a truck as a scooter, or a The Wasp’s car that shrinks down and then enlarges to cause some choice explosions or more ant-based flight scenes (with more ant-based names, of course. My favourite? Ant-onio Banderas), this film makes use of the absurdity of the premise. And it benefits from it.

The visual effects are superb as well. The ‘size’ effects of Ant-man and The Wasp work brilliantly and succeed in being both funny and impressive.  The constantly phasing in and out of Ghost also works brilliantly and compliments Hannah John-Kamen’s acting as a woman who’s been in extreme pain for most of her life, both physically and psychologically. All worked and there were no real errors that I could notice. I’d also like to praise the costume designers for their designs of Ant-Man, The Wasp and Ghost’s superhero/villain suits, as well as Janet’s costume (although this one does suffer from the ‘wanderer’s cloth’ that also affected Master Chief in Halo 5 – where did they get it, why do they need it?).  

Conclusion – Overall, the film is a fun and energetic pallet-cleanser after the events of Infinity War (although Ghost’s storyline is darker than you think if you look into it). It both proves Marvel’s capabilities as puppet-master of a universe and individual storyteller, while showing some of the difficulties associated with doing both. Ultimately, however, at this present time, it is a movie saved by its mid-credit scene which finally links it back to Infinity War. Once it appeared, I realised just how much I had been waiting for it, which confirmed Ant-Man and The Wasp’s place for me. It’s a filler episode, but a very good one. And, to be fair, filler is generally better after the main episode has been and gone and I look forward to re-watching Ant-Man and The Wasp in a post-Avengers 4 world.

Rating: 82%

Goodbye for now, Harry

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