Large and Small on screen, but just ends up middling.
So, for the first time we divided last night at the cinema. I went off to watch “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and my wife – not a Marvel fan – went to see “Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again” (for the THIRD time!). Incidentally, Mamma Mia 2 seems to be the movie phenomenon of the summer, taking over from “The Greatest Showman” as the movie phenomenon of the winter. It’s been out three weeks now and the shows are still selling out, with people (mostly groups of women) being turned away at the ticket desk. I can see this one running in theatres until October, when they bring out a sing-a-long edition and it carries on running ‘til Christmas. Extraordinary.
But, let’s turn from big things to small things. In a prologue we see a young Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) torn apart as Janet miniturises herself into the “quantum realm” to save the world from nuclear disaster. But in the present day Hank thinks there might be a way to find and retrieve Janet with the help of their superhero daughter Hope (“The Wasp”, played by Evangeline Lilly). (“What the f*** have you been thinking about instead for the last 30 years while I’ve been sat here avoiding neutrons”, would be the imagined response from Janet, but we don’t go there!).
But Scott Lang (aka “Ant Man”, Paul Rudd), having also been to the quantum realm, holds a key part of the puzzle. To add to their problems, a strange ghost-like girl called Ava has her own reasons for retrieving the lost soul, but in ways that will tear Janet limb from limb. Can Hank, Hope and Scott succeed, while dodging both The Ghost, the FBI and other criminal forces intent on seizing Pym’s technology?
I must admit that I’d somewhat forgotten how “Ant Man” ended three years ago, which together with the one film missing from my Marvel-watching canon being “Captain America: Civil War” left me somewhat confused by why we start the film with our hero Lang under two-year’s house arrest. But much fun is had with Lang’s curfew and the frustration of FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) in trying to catch him breaking the rules.
For we are again at the comedic end of the Marvel universe. However the comedy is extremely uneven this time and doesn’t sit particularly well with the dramatic and emotional elements of the film. It’s certainly nowhere near the consistently funny content of the surprisingly good “Thor: Ragnarok”. Some of Rudd’s lines just smell of “trying too hard”.
Adding comedic value is Michael Peña returning here as Scott’s partner Luis. His motor-mouth routine after taking a truth drug (“not a truth drug”!) was hilarious, with the rest of the cast miming his words in flashback.
It has to be said though that there are some truly great sight-gags, to rival the Thomas the Tank Engine scenes in the first film. The expanding salt-cellar; the expanding / contracting car and building moments; and the “skateboard” scenes. But all – and I mean ALL – of these scenes were universally spoiled by the trailer, such that the reaction to them was “oh, that’s that bit then”. NEVER has there been a better case for a teaser trailer that basically said “Ant Man’s back; here’s ONE wow-factor visual”. It’s just criminal. Interestingly, re the trailer, there was also at least one scene (the “you go high, I’ll go low” one, which I thought was very funny) that didn’t make the cut I saw.
Acting wise you can’t fault the cast with Lilly just great as “The Wasp”. If I was her, I would have said “OK… I’ll do the film, but I get to keep the suit!”. That would be her age monitoring device for years to come…. “Does the zip still do up at the back? Do my impossibly pert breasts still align with these impossibly well-moulded contours?”. It’s also great to see Michael Douglas and Laurence Fishburne going head-to-head in the acting stakes. Walton Goggins again crops up as a believable bad-guy, a performance I really enjoyed, but the star turn for me in the whole film was a career-making performance by Hannah John-Kamen as Ava/The Ghost: she’s previously only had small supporting roles in “Tomb Raider” and “Ready Player One”. Looking like a Star Wars sand-person in her outfit she removes her mask to reveal a stunningly piercing gaze and great screen presence. One to watch for the future.
Directed by original “Ant Man” director Peyton Reed, it’s a perfectly entertaining watch for a summer night, but it is uneven in tone, perhaps the result of the team of five credited with the writing. Ask me in two months’ time to tell you anything about it and I will probably struggle. It’s a “meh” sort of film for me.
Fad Rating: FFF.