By Tim Bustin, former Online Film & TV Editor 2017-2018
Marvel’s latest is so small-scale it might as well pass you by. Directly following Avengers: Infinity War’s brutal impact in the MCU filmography, Ant-Man and the Wasp fails in its task as the light comedic breather between blockbusters – it is, unfortunately, utterly forgettable.
The post-credits scene fades to black and life is unchanged. Attending the midnight screening stands out in that day’s events no more than going to the shops, breathing oxygen in and out, or rescuing a seagull with a broken wing to a spot only slightly safer than the car park it took damage in, and then going home to play Mario Kart Wii as a way to kill the summer and still failing to come above 11th place (even when you got your real driving license five years ago – okay, that one might have stood out slightly more). Life goes on.
Grown from pure absurdism – though still tamer than the utterly bonkers 60’s source material – how is it this well-developed hero of worker ants, quantum chaos, and giant ‘Hello Kitty’ Pez dispensers fails to re-explore the over-brimming potential of wild entertainment that its predecessor, 2015’s Ant-Man, managed?
Simply, the lack of Edgar Wright shows. This film’s two-minute hype trailers bleed a two-hour runtime creatively dry.
Ant-Man and the Wasp fails in its task as the light comedic breather between blockbusters – it is, unfortunately, utterly forgettable
The charm and passion of the film-makers manage to shine through, however, from Paul Rudd’s underdog charisma to the unique visuals. The villain, with phasing powers, leaves ghostly after-images, like a creature out of a Sci-Fi Horror; the Quantum Tunnel’s design of glowing sharp squares encased in each other gives a shrinking effect from a still image; and the highly-teased Quantum Realm’s mind-boggling aesthetic is a beautiful blend of Annihilation and Doctor Strange.
Yet the positives are muted in the context of a convoluted ride of false promises, starting with the film’s title. Director Peyton Reed admits the story’s spine is the desire of Hank Pym and daughter Hope (aka The Wasp) to recover long lost wife and mother Janet from the impossibly tiny Quantum Realm. Ant-Man and the Wasp aren’t given compelling reasons to team-up or even feel like a unit, besides a weak romance.
Throughout, Rudd’s Ant-Man is torn between helping his friends or staying under house arrest for the sake of his daughter (a predicament brought about by his reckless actions in Captain America: Civil War) but the story sees him land unsatisfyingly on both sides of the fence. Failing to follow through on juicy narrative threads for the sake of the A-story affects every side character, set-piece, and even the almost-compelling villain, again despite a strong performance and great character design. Even the Quantum Realm is treated only to a make-over and further teasing, dousing dozens of Reddit users’ theories.
Despite this, there’s rarely a moment you’re taken out of the film. Perhaps watching Marvel films has become as second nature as breathing in oxygen now, but Ant-Man and the Wasp is passable and never noticeably bad. What is sad is the loss of potential known to exist, and also the loss of genuine humour. It’s either tacked on, uncreative, or an awkward attempt at what feels like improvised subversion of conversation-based cinematic tropes. A car chase in a Hot Wheels car will never be unfunny, but its not quite Ant-Man’s typical hero versus villain high-speed train fight, played out on a normal-sized Thomas the Tank Engine set. The tale of a shrinking superhero who can talk to ants should never be less funny than the last Thor film. Or indeed Black Panther.
The positives are muted in the context of a convoluted ride of false promises
When a film’s stand-out scene comes after the credits have started, it’s time to consider folding these fantastic characters into the later Avengers movies. Comic book fans may get a kick out of the lightly sprinkled references and set-ups – Goliath, the Quantum Realm – but this is no ‘Honey I Shrunk the Superheroes: Part 2’.
More entertaining is pulling apart the film’s pseudo-science after the credits roll: if your principal technical explanation is ‘shrinking the space between molecules’, what happens when you enter the Quantum Realm, on a length-scale about 1024 times smaller than a molecule? How do you even breathe if you’re smaller than a molecule? Oxygen is made of molecules!
It’s no shame that these Ant-Man movies exist, but if they’d decided to play the original Ant-Man during that midnight screening instead, we would’ve been treated to a far more entertaining and memorable moviegoing experience. Or even that one scene from Captain America: Civil War if they’d really wanted – no-one would’ve complained.
Featured Image: Facebook / The Antman
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