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WATCHING THE MOVIES: Ant-Man and The Wasp

What's the modern equivalent of "straight to DVD?"

We’ve finally reached the end of our Marvel Infinity Saga rewatch. In a day or two, I’ll drop an article recapping the main beats of the Marvel movies’ plot in the proper order, so y’all can get a refresher before going to see the latest superhero beat-em-up flick next weekend.

I’ll be back with an Avengers: Endgame review next Saturday or sooner, and then Watching The Movies will continue through the summer months focusing on in-theater fare.

ANT-MAN AND THE WASP

This movie is fine.

Oh, you want me to keep going? Because I could literally end it there, and this review would contain about as much effort as Marvel put into this film.

…OK, OK, that’s an exaggeration. Lots of things here should amaze and astonish. Yet the movie has an insipid aftertaste. Its stakes are small, which actually works against it. Especially when the plot relies on piling contrivance on top of blah writing.

Plot-wise, we find Scott Lang under house arrest after his sojourn helping Cap in Germany during Civil War. When he has an odd dream about Hope’s mom, he notifies her and her crotchety inventor dad Hank, the first Ant-Man. They’re none too happy with him jetting off across the Atlantic, forcing them to go on the run. 

What follows is a variegated mess that I think has the main thread of “the gang saves Hope’s mom/Hank’s wife from the quantum realm.” But also “the gang stays one step ahead of primary villain Ghost, sometimes villain Goliath, some arms dealer played by that guy from some Tarantino movies, and the FBI.” But ALSO “the gang but mostly Scott outwits the doof in charge of the FBI so he can finish his term of house arrest while fighting crime.” BUT ALSO “the comedic side characters try to start a side business selling security stuff.”

I’ll start with the good. The effects are excellent, no problem there. The shrinking/growing effect is used marvelously in a number of action scenes. Environment-wise, they blew their budget on the quantum realm and it’s suitably quantum-y. (Quantum-esque? Quantum-riffic?)

Almost everyone’s trying, except maybe Michael Douglas and Lawrence Fishburne, but they rarely need to emote much. The standouts are the aforementioned FBI doof and Ghost, who actually works well as a sympathetic villain.

Some of the jokes land, especially those delivered by Michael Pena. He’s on par with Dave Bautista’s Drax as Marvel comedic relief par excellence.

And now to the bad. The plot of this movie is nonsense; overbloated and undercooked at the same time; vaulting in so many directions that it harms the experience. It’s rare that I’m both entertained and bored by a film at the same time, but Ant-Man and the Wasp accomplishes that feat.

The story depends on you, the watcher, knowing who these characters are and what they went through in both Ant-Man (the original) and Civil War (for Scott). It’s odd to see the sudden shift in Scott’s relationship with Hope and Hank. The estrangement’s occurrence offscreen is jarring. It would be worse if the average Marvel fan cared about these characters, but they don’t. This is the equivalent of giving Heimdall his own film franchise. Remember him? The Idris-Elba-looking chap in the Thor films?

To make our plot work, not only do we need shifts in relationship, but in tone. The film jitters between serious and profoundly silly, refusing to pick one. Of course a movie can be both funny and dramatic, but either comedy or tragedy needs to be primary. Ant-Man and The Wasp tries to do both and succeeds (mostly) at the comedy. But the drama falls flat due to those aforementioned small stakes and uninteresting characters.

Lapses in logic or plot are largely handwaved away. The shrinking tech now works more like magic than science, undergoing the same Flanderization that vibranium received in Black Panther. And as in its predecessor, it’s never explained how Scott is so masterfully good at all the complex machinations needed to control whole armies of ants with seemingly little practice.

It used to be that you could say an inconsequential movie “should have gone straight to DVD.” But that technology’s obsolete. What’s the modern equivalent? “Straight to Netflix?” Regardless, that’s where Ant-Man and The Wasp should have gone – and ironically, that’s where it is now.

RATING: 4/10

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