By Jim Slotek
Now that every Marvel movie seems to be turning into a super-hero version of that Oscar “selfie” that crammed two full rows of Hollywood stars into one frame, I appreciate self-contained stories more and more.
Which is one reason I liked the stand-alone Black Panther and the first Ant-Man movie. They had stories to tell, and they didn’t waste time inventing a reason for various Avengers to show up (yes, I know, Falcon appeared up in Ant-Man for a minute, but not long enough to be a distraction).
Other than lines of hero-worshipping dialogue about what went down in Captain America: Civil War, Ant-Man and the Wasp is still its own story. I just don’t like this story as much, though it's still a pretty peppy ride the second time around.
The first instalment differentiated itself by being a heist adventure augmented with super-powers. My least favourite part of the movie: the deus ex machina last act, where Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) disobeys inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and shrinks himself down to the quantum realm where anything can happen.
So, naturally, the entire plot of Ant-Man and the Wasp is about that one thing I hated. And it turns out there actually is a plot device more annoying than time travel.
Everybody wants in on the quantum universe in Ant Man and the Wasp. Seems Hank lost his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) and mother of the current Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) to the quantum world while saving the day as the original AMatW 30 years earlier. So, he thinks he can rescue her if he applies just the right jargon (at times there is so much meaningless science talk in this movie that it’s like a lazy episode of Star Trek - a criticism the scriptwriters seem to be aware of when Lang says, “Do you guys just put 'quantum' in front of everything?”).
Also coveting Pym’s quantum lab is his former colleague Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), and Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) a young woman who was damaged by her dad’s own quantum experiments, giving her super speed and the ability to walk through walls, but a tenuous existence that eventually could see her dissipate into nothingness.
Add to that the fact that the giant lab building itself is literally portable, shrunk down to the size of a dollhouse when not in use (so… no plumbing I’m guessing).
The Loony Toons plot of Ant-Man and the Wasp is basically that Ghost steals the building. Then Ant-Man steals it back. Then she steals it again, then the Wasp snags it, the building getting passed around like a rugby ball. All that violent jostling should bust the lab inside into a million pieces, but no.
The make-it-up-as-we-go-along plot aside, director Peyton Reed still has a flair for using the toys at his disposal – shrinking/growing devices that develop glitches, sight gags, Scott’s giant ant pals, etc. And the amiable wiseguys who were Scott’s accomplices in the last movie (Michael Peña, Bobby Cannavale and David Dastmalchian) are around trying to run a security agency and providing civilian assistance. They help keep the patter flowing, which is AMatW’s single best attribute.
Its worst attribute: Reed’s depiction of the quantum world, which is pretty prosaic (and for some reason, is full of tardigrades, which are actual animals, which would be made up of the very subatomic particles they seem to be smaller than).
Ant-Man and the Wasp moves, mainly on the strength of snappy repartee and visuals. Ignore the plot and live in the moment – kind of a quantum concept right there – and it’s entertaining enough.
And-Man and the Wasp. Directed by Peyton Reed. Starring Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lily. Opens wide Friday, July 6.