Ant-Man and the Wasp

 

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The sequel to Ant-Man (2015) proves to be every bit as entertaining and mentally stimulating as its predecessor.

 

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Size matters: Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly

  

Ava Starr has a problem. Due to an accidental case of molecular disequilibrium, her atomic structure is in flux. Or, in plain English, she keeps on slipping between dimensions, enabling her to ‘phase’ through physical objects. It’s a life-threatening condition and in order to save herself Ava needs to tap into the molecular energy of The Wasp (Michelle Pfeiffer), who has been trapped in the quantum realm for thirty years. So it’s in Ava’s interest to apprehend the futuristic technology of the brilliant physicist Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). But Pym is desperate to implement the technology himself in order to retrieve his wife, Janet, aka The Wasp. So, it’s a battle of wills, with the good doctor’s own daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), and Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), harnessing their own sub-atomic powers to protect Pym’s portable laboratory and find Hope’s long-lost mother. In effect, they’re all fighting to attain the same goal – to calibrate the science to save the lives of those damaged by the misappropriation of quantum research.

 

The really interesting thing about Ant-Man himself is that he’s a flawed hero and a great dad. And he’s got some really nifty superpowers. In a nano-beat, he can shrink to the size of a hornet, dash across the room and then transmute back into a full-sized human being. It does have its advantages. In the guise of Paul Rudd, he’s also a hugely engaging protagonist, a guy as quick with a quip as he is with a beat of his wings. It’s always seemed odd that Paul Rudd has not attained a greater degree of stardom. He’s a talented actor, a handsome guy and a very funny comic, having enlivened a number of hits from Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy (2004) and The 40-Year-Old Virgin (2005) to Knocked Up (2007) and I Love You, Man (2009). He even romanced Michelle Pfeiffer in the winning, occasionally poignant romcom I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007), but is now, aged 49, hitting on her daughter, played by the Canadian actress Evangeline Lilly. Fans of Ms Pfeiffer, though, get a treat during the prologue of Ant-Man and the Wasp, when we see a digitally youthened version of the actress, along with a dashing Michael Douglas. Having said that, she is still a supremely beautiful woman. As is the Anglo-Nigerian actress Hannah John-Kamen who, following a career in British TV, plays Ava with a touching intensity.

 

As Hollywood has traded in ever bigger and more spectacular escapism, a healthy new direction would seem to be less-is-more, from the microscopic marvels of the first Ant-Man (2015) to the miniature miracles of Alexander Payne's profound and funny Downsizing (2017). Here, the accent is not so much on visceral thrills, or emotional impact, as a general sense of fun and physical comedy. And there’s something for everyone: a handsome hero with a self-deprecating sense of humour, a cute kid (Ant-Man’s adorable daughter, played with mischievous charm by the ten-year-old Abby Ryder Fortson), an array of mind-stretching special effects, lashings of rousing action, a slew of funny one-liners, a couple of Hollywood legends (Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer), giant insects and enough techno-babble to intoxicate physics freaks of every persuasion. Above all, though, it’s an overarching love story, as Dr Hank Pym invests his life’s work into retrieving the woman he adores. In a summer of popcorn overdrive, the last few weeks have proved a bonus for audiences, with the sheer life-enhancing exuberance of Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again, the gut-churning thrills of Mission: Impossible – Fallout and now this. To hell with the heatwave.

 

JAMES CAMERON-WILSON

 

Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, David Dastmalchian, Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, Randall Park, Abby Ryder Fortson, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Douglas, Stan Lee.

 

Dir Peyton Reed, Pro Kevin Feige and Stephen Broussard, Screenplay Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari, Ph Dante Spinotti, Pro Des Shepherd Frankel, Ed Dan Lebental and Craig Wood, Music Christophe Beck, Costumes Louise Frogley, Production Assistant Yul Brynner.

 

Marvel Studios-Walt Disney.

117 mins. USA. 2018. Rel: 3 August 2018. Cert. 12A.