Marvel’s ANT-MAN AND THE WASP review by Mark Walters – Paul Rudd gets a cool partner

Marvel’s ANT-MAN AND THE WASP review by Mark Walters – Paul Rudd gets a cool partner

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In 2015, Marvel’s ANT-MAN was one of those films a lot of folks expected might not work. Outside of just being a weird character to begin with, the production had its publicized share of problems and setbacks, even a notable change of director… but the end result was surprisingly fun and effective. The sequel is ANT-MAN AND THE WASP, gives Paul Rudd’s co-star and pseudo-love interest Evangeline Lilly her own shrinking suit to play with, and a few upgrades including wings and blasters. Michael Douglas is back as Dr. Hank Pym (the original Ant-Man), along with Michael Peña, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, T.I. and David Dastmalchian from the first movie, and they’re joined by Laurence Fishburne, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Randall Park and Michelle Pfeiffer (as Janet van Dyne, the original Wasp). Peyton Reed is also back in the director chair. Considering Marvel’s rather amazing track record so far, could this be a let down for the comic book studio? Not likely.

Picking up after the events of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, Scott Lang (Rudd) is confined to his home, wearing an ankle monitor at all times. When his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) visits, they play rather creatively in the house, but we soon see that’s as far as their fun will go. His ex-wife Maggie (Greer) and her new beau Paxton (Cannavale) are all smiles when they pick up Cassie, as they now know exactly how good of a man Scott has become, despite his present confinement. Scott’s friend and former thief Luis (Peña) and his buddies Dave (T.I.) and Kurt (Dastmalchian) have started a security company with him, though things aren’t going too well. Dr. Hank Pym (Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Lilly) are trying to expand their research into the quantum realm, and Hank seems to think his long lost wife Janet / the original Wasp (Pfeiffer) may still be in there to rescue. Their journey leads them to acquiring rare technology through sometimes nefarious folks. Since Scott once entered the quantum realm (in the first ANT-MAN movie) and successfully returned, they enlist his help, and he watches as Hope tests out her own superpowered suit in a effort to retrieve a rather specific piece of tech from a crime boss named Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins). But things get more complicated when a new superpowered presence appears capable of phasing in and out of the physical realm… and they nickname her The Ghost (played by Hannah John-Kamen), and she has her own reasons for wanting the same tech they’re after. Scott must once again jump into action as Ant-Man, this time working side by side with Hope’s new version of The Wasp.

Like the first movie, this Ant-Man tale is a sort of heist caper film loaded with action and fun sequences that make heavy use of the shrinking and un-shrinking technology. There are great scenes where Hank Pym uses his science to enlarge what look like toy cars into full-size real vehicles, and a running gag where he shrinks and enlarges an entire building housing his lab. These sorts of gags are frequent and funny, and really make the film feel like it’s own specific universe in some ways. In fact this sequel, like the first one, feels like a very self-contained story that exists on its own while still loosely connected with the Marvel cinematic universe. There are references to CIVIL WAR showing it had an impact on Scott’s life, but it still allows for the story to play out naturally and sensibly.

Paul Rudd has really found his place in playing Scott Lang, both as a reluctant and inexperienced superhero, and as a struggling dad just trying to get things right. This role has helped the actor mature, and we see that confidence on screen in a big way this time around. It’s been said Rudd punched up a lot of his dialogue in the film, and if so it makes the performance even more impressive. Evangeline Lilly has become a Marvel superhero that will likely have fans cheering, and one of the coolest characters to inhabit the Marvel Cinematic Universe in years. It seems we’re seeing a cool trend in the newer Marvel movies, starting with THOR: RAGNAROK, continuing in BLACK PANTHER and AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, and culminating with ANT-MAN AND THE WASP. These movies are trying new and exciting things, while expanding and enhancing characters we already know and love. Even Michael Douglas gets some rather awesome moments in this film that feel more daring and experimental, and help the character grow into something more impressive for the audience. Hannah John-Kamen is terrific as Ghost, a character who has understandable motivations and cool powers, making for an unconventional villain that is more interesting that some standard foil for our heroes. There’s also great moments for Michael Peña, T.I. and David Dastmalchian, keeping up the amusing sub-team dynamic of Scott’s wacky friends established in the first movie. Only Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale feel a bit wasted, offering little more than a familiar pair of cameos of their characters shown more prominently in the first outing. Laurence Fishburne adds some gravitas to the proceedings as an old acquaintance of Hank Pym, and Michelle Pfeiffer is a welcome sight as Hank’s long lost wife, particularly impressive in an early flashback sequence where the special effects wizards made her look half her actual age.

Director Peyton Reed had a lot to overcome with the first ANT-MAN, but has given us that rare sequel that outshines the original, and really ramps things up to highly entertaining degrees. This is easily one of my favorite Marvel movies now, soaring to the top five of the list. Yes, it’s that good. So good I wonder if they can possibly top it with an inevitable third outing. And if they go that direction, what a set up they’ve given themselves. This movie also has one of the most emotionally powerful mid-credit sequences of ANY Marvel movie, drawing strong reactions from the screening crowd we had. Prepare yourself, this movie is going to wow you, especially if you’re a Marvel film fan.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP opens July 6, 2018

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About the Author

Born and raised in Dallas, Mark has been a movie critic since 1994, with reviews featured in print, radio and National TV. In 2001 he started the Entertainment section of the Herorealm website, where he contributed film reviews and celebrity interviews until 2004. After three years of service there, he started, which has become one of the Dallas film community's leading information websites. Bigfanboy hosts several movie screenings in the Texas area, and works closely with film and TV studios and promotional partners to host exciting events and contests. The site also features a variety of rare celebrity and filmmaker interviews, and regularly covers the film festival circuit as well. In addition to Hollywood reporting, Mark has worked for many years as an advertising and sci-fi/comic book artist. Clients have included Lucasfilm Ltd., Topps Trading Cards, The Dallas Mavericks and The Dallas Stars. From 2002 until 2015 he managed the Dallas Comic Con, Sci-Fi Expo and Fan Days events in the DFW area. He currently catalogs rare comic books and movie memorabilia for Heritage Auctions, and runs the Dallas Comic Show conventions, but remains an avid moviegoer and cinema buff.