Thursday, 2 August 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp - Review

When the original Ant-Man was released, it could be fair to say that some Marvel fans (this reviewer included) did not have high hopes following the departure of writer-director Edgar Wright.
It turned out however, that the finished film turned out to be a light, fluffy, bite-sized delight that was the perfect palette cleanser after the all-you-can-eat buffet that was Avengers: Age of Ultron.
Fast forward three years and seven films later and Ant-Man and the Wasp arrives, once again on the back of a super-sized Avengers main course. Will it be another fun-filled treat that will help lift the mood of Marvel fans following the events of Infinity War or is there another sting in the tale?
The sequel makes the wise move to distance itself from Infinity War in terms of tone but also in terms of timeline. Instead setting itself in the couple of weeks before Thanos's masterplan comes into effect.
Speaking of Thanos, any film following the biggest bad in the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have an impossible act to follow. That is why they make the smart move in that this film doesn't really have an out-and-out villain, despite what the trailers lead you to believe.
Instead, characters like the quantum phasing Ghost (Hannah John Kamen) and weapons dealer Sonny Birch (Walton Goggins) are more obstacles for the team to overcome in the main quest to bring the original Wasp back from the Quantum Realm.
The film begins with a flashback to 1987 when Hank and Janet go off on their ill-fated mission, saying goodbye to a young Hope. It is a nice scene that helps to develop the bond between mother and daughter and instantly increases the emotional investment.
It is also another opportunity for Marvel to give a pay raise to the team who de-age the actors in these movies because the work they do here on Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfieffer is breathtaking... that is up to the point when we meet her later in the film and you realise that she has hardly aged at all and clearly must be drinking from the same fountain of youth as co-star Paul Rudd.
Rudd once again has a writing credit on the screenplay, much like Ryan Reynolds in Deadpool, which means he has had a huge creative hand in developing the character into the likeable Everyman the audience wants to see win the day but at times is his own worst enemy. Particularly with his actions in Civil War having a dramatic impact on his life, his family and his relationship with Hope and Hank.
Rudd might still be the first name above the credits but he is not the only hero as this marks the first film in the MCU with a female hero in the title.
Evangeline Lilly grabs the brass ring with both hands and flies through the glass ceiling, paving the way for Captain Marvel to follow her.
Importantly the film reintroduces her with a solo action scene in which she defeats a group of armed goons singlehanded (without the need of a man to help her or bail her out of trouble).
Of course, the title suggests that this is the formation of a crime fighting duo and the two actors build on the chemistry from the original and it has developed into the best MCU partnership since Thor & Loki. Their constant verbal sparring (and flirtatious banter) is reminiscent of a 30s/40s screwball comedy.
One of the successes of Ant-Man was the uniqueness of the action set pieces that organically grew out of the hero's abilities in the suit and the gadgets and powers that came with it. Just like transforming from the size of an ant to a giant, this film expands on the visual flair of the fighting style to incorporate not only hand-to-hand combat but also now car chases and Innerspace-style journeys to the Quantum Realm.
It was a very self-contained story, similar in many respects to this year's Black Panther, but this could have major implications going forward for the MCU, particularly in the battle against Thanos, as we delve even deeper into the Quantum Realm and the effect and power it can provide those who interact with it.
So while it is very much the light comic relief when compared to the rest of the recent output (Thor Ragnarok aside), it is heartwarming to see it lean into it and embrace its role within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This reviewer found himself laughing out loud even before Birch asked Luis a question while under the effects of truth serum because you know what was coming. And it was glorious.
The jaw-dropping mid credit scene means that all bets are off as to the characters roles in Avengers 4 but it is safe to say that Ant-icipation levels are sky high now.

4 stars

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