Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Directed by Peyton Reed

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Okay, my first complaint with Ant-Man and the Wasp has nothing to do with the actual movie.  Using moviepass, I had to pay surge pricing for a movie that had six people in attendance.  It was also late, I had been traveling all day, and the point is that I probably didn’t give this movie enough of a chance.

From what I recall, I really enjoyed the first Ant-Man, but this sequel is long, loaded with too many characters, too many storylines and has way too many endings.  It’s a convoluted plot with too much made up science jargon to which Paul Rudd’s meta commentary can only provide so much enjoyment.

Maybe Ant-Man worked more because it was one of the first Marvel movies to be more of an outright comedy.  Scott Lang (Rudd) is the same Paul Rudd character as in all his other movies.  He’s witty, self-deprecating, goofy, etc.  The idea was to take that character and make him a superhero, and it contrasted well with the self-seriousness of Captain America, the Hulk and even the increasing gravity of the Iron Man character following his PTSD storyline after the first Avengers.

Things were starting to get a little heavy, and then here comes Ant-Man to lighten things up.  Except then you also had another Guardians of the Galaxy movie, Thor: Ragnarok which is a comedy, and even The Avengers tried to lighten things up a little by returning Tony Stark to his more snarky ways.  By the time this rolls around, the initial charm isn’t enough.  Well it wasn’t for me.

I hate writing negative reviews because part of me immediately feels like a fraud.  A lot of hard work went into this movie, and certain moments and car chases work pretty well.  There’s some to love, but not until at least an hour into the film.

The story takes too long to get going and forces us to deal with strained character relationships that we know will be resolved by the end.  Apparently Scott hasn’t spoken to Hope (Evangeline Lilly) or Hank (Michael Douglas) in a long time, but of course events will unfold that force them to work together.

The thing that fuels the plot is Hope’s and Hank’s hope to yank Hope’s mother, and Hank’s wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), from the Quantum Realm, meaning she’s been Honey I Shrunk the Kids’d to a molecular level.

If that’s not difficult enough, there is a new villain, Ghost, who shows up and wants to get in their way.  Why?  Well she’ll tell you in a long, uneven monologue halfway through the film that’s supposed to give her our empathy.  That monologue is a slog to get through, involving dead parents and childhood trauma as many superhero movies do, and instead of making us like her, it just makes us like Hank less.  Or maybe he was already unlikeable, I don’t know.

There’s so much to keep track of here.  Laurence Fishburne is in this too, did you know that?  His character is almost as tertiary as the one he played in Passengers.  He’s a great actor and does some great stuff with the role, but there’s nothing to work with there.  He’s an old associate of Hank’s, and they have some rivalry which is unimportant.  It’s just an excuse to get Laurence Fishburne in your movie.

As Hank, Michael Douglas is pretty great, even though the character is similarly unexciting.  Man, I’m really negative right now, but Hank is made out to be a complex, even bad dude.  He’s got a dark streak to him which the movie calls attention to and which Douglas plays with some nice intensity, but in the end we’re asked to see him as one of the good guys.

If there’s a third Ant-Man, then Hank has to be the villain.  This movie presented us with ideas that make such a thing plausible, and while I liked the initial nuance of what we learn, it’s all moot when the film ends the way it does, with just another conventionally happy super hero ending.

Okay, it’s too much to ask for anything but a conventionally happy ending, this being a Marvel movie and all, but Ant-Man and other Marvel movies have shown before that you can play around and make something worthwhile within certain studio restrictions.

There’s none of that fun here, at least not enough of it.  Scott’s daughter is adorable, and the movie squeezes as much potential from her time onscreen as possible.  Randall Park is always a fun hang, Walton Goggins too, and the movie even gives us a bit of Tim Heidecker, paying its cosmic debts to Greg Turkington’s cameo in the first movie.  *Heidecker and Turkington star in a little adult swim show called On Cinema.

There’s a lot going on, but the movie is scattered, characters don’t get enough screen time or too much, and the plot is unnecessarily convoluted, with several macguffins.  This just means that the story takes a long time to get going and a long time to end.

The middle has some stuff to play with, including a Bullitt-like car chase through the hilly streets of San Francisco, but while that 1968 film really raced muscle cars through the streets, this one just uses CGI to install motion blurred cars in aerial shots of the city.

Ant-Man and the Wasp might very well be better than I think.  I saw it in an empty theater in Indiana after too many previews and paying more than I wanted to.  The only line that got a laugh out of someone was Stan Lee’s cameo, in which he references a certain way of living in the 60’s.

Up Next: The Ladykillers (1955), Blue Collar (1978), Where Is My Friend’s House? (1987)

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