Ant-Man and the Wasp: the Stinging Sequel

I saw a joke about The Wasp that was floating around Twitter a few weeks ago involving Armie Hammer. Specifically that Armie Hammer should play The Wasp because he’s a WASP so he should be The Wasp.

*crickets*

Well that fell flat and it read better as a Twitter post which I can no longer find the link to, so let’s just shrug it off and move on, shall we? Ant-Man is back and this time he’s brought a partner! But before I get into the whys and wheretofores, a quick multiple choice doubling as refresher course:

Paul Rudd is:

  • an ageless vampire
  • the guy who played Josh in Clueless
  • the winner of the same genetic lottery as Keanu Reeves
  • all of the above

I used to think aging like fine wine was only limited to Sean Connery, but Paul Rudd, who is just a year shy of fifty, is still hot, still funny and just fiiiinnneee, girlfriend.  Paul Rudd can. I would let Paul Rudd, but Paul Rudd would definitely not let me, and neither would my lawfully wedded spouse if we’re being entirely honest here, so I’ll just have to settle for crumbs by paying the entry fee at the local Cineplex to see him as Ant-Man. Who says money can’t buy everything?

I loved the first Ant-Man movie. It sits right in the top five of my mental list of best Marvel Studio offerings, next to the first Iron Man and Thor: Ragnarok. So I came prepared to be amazed and left the theatre a trifle disappointed, which made me sort of wonder: is Marvel losing its touch? Is Ant-Man and The Wasp a victim of the dreaded sophomore slump?

Now that I’ve had some time to ruminate,  I realize it doesn’t quite feel like a Marvel movie because the stakes are refreshingly small. In Thor: Ragnarok, Asgard was at stake. In Black Panther, it was the future of Wakanda. In Avengers: Infinity War, it was the existence of Earth and everyone who lives in it. After that crazy collision of galaxies, superheroes and mystical jewels/ingots/McGuffins, we’re suddenly in San Francisco, where the only things at stake are a magically shrinking building and an electronic part available on the black market. (Cue the always arresting Walton Goggins as one of the baddies: “I got the lab!”).  It’s peanuts. And that’s the genius of Ant-Man as a superhero.

Ant-Man is all about scale. It’s life viewed from the perspective of someone who can grow and shrink at will, and it’s the little things that make it funny, like blowing up a Hello Kitty Pez dispenser and using it to wreak havoc through the streets of San Francisco. At it’s core, Ant-Man is really a story about an ex-con who really, truly, wants to make good and be a good dad but somehow life keeps getting in his way.

Slight spoilers ahead, read at your own risk!

Ant-Man and The Wasp opens with a setup that explains why none of us saw Ant-Man in Avengers: Infinity War. Scott Lang’s little stint helping out Cap and Co in Civil War led to some rather severe repercussions that prevent him ever leaving his house for a good couple of years. It’s also put him in the doghouse with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly, who’s thankfully ditched the busted wig), so he’s busy trying to fill the void and come up with ways to entertain  his little girl whenever she comes to visit. But Lang’s adventures in the quantum realm have convinced Pym that rescuing his wife Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) is possible, and a glitch in his latest experiment affects Scott, drawing him back into the Pym Particle fold.

I would like to establish that I don’t understand the inner workings of the MCU’s quantum realm. At all. To me, it’s a realm that exists at the bottom of a broken kaleidoscope which imbues you with weird powers if you stay in it long enough and that you can only get to it if you go really really really tiny and/or are Dr. Strange. Also, tardigrades. Look, if I could barely grasp the niceties of physics in high school (sorry, Ms. Erum!) I’m not going to start caring hard enough about physics now just to try to make sense of a comic book movie, no matter how entertaining. I’m just not.

If the quantum realm plays a large part in Ant-Man and The Wasp, so do its female leads – there’s the aforementioned Evangeline Lilly, kicking butt and taking names as The Wasp, whose upgraded suit, to Ant-Man’s envy, has wings and blasters. Her glee at finally getting to shine is palpable, and her sheer intensity makes Ant-Man look positively lackadaisical. There’s Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost, also kicking butt and taking names making us wonder if the outcome would’ve been different had she helped out during Thanos’ assault on Wakanda. Finally, we have Michelle Pfeiffer as the original Wasp, still as engaging in a body suit she was as Catwoman.

The usual sight gags are out in full force, my favourite being a particularly memorable appearance in San Francisco Bay. There’s an over-the-top car chase helped by a slightly egregious Hot Wheels product placement, and a flashback scene set to the cadence of Michael Peña. Did the weird space things not appear over San Francisco? No one here seems to be aware that Thanos and his minions are terrorizing Earth elsewhere, but I’ll let it slide.

Ant-Man and The Wasp is a solid follow-up to the first Ant-Man movie. It runs along at a good clip, and provides just enough comedic gags to give its own unique voice to the Marvel Cinematic Universe; not every superhero in it wants to save the world. Some just want to be able to move on, have a small business, and do joint custody in peace. Some just want to find their parents. While not nearly as madcap or as funny as the first outing (I still live for that epic showdown aboard Thomas the Train Engine), it’s a good effort and a nice palate cleanser from all the galaxy-endangered drama of the MCU. Go for the Paul Rudd shirtless scene, stay for the thrilling end credits.

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