Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Ant-Man and the Wasp

Just Another Phase
"Putting 'Quantum' in Front of Everything"

Ant-Man and the Wasp begins without any sort of preamble or warning. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) recalls the day that his wife and partner Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer, who takes a LOT less CGI trickery to de-age her in the flashback sequence) was lost on a mission to stop a renegade rocket aimed at a large city. In order to gain access to the rocket's interior, Van Dyne, in her guise as The Wasp (original), had to go "sub-atomic" and was lost forever in "The Quantum Realm" never to return. Since that fateful day, Pym and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) have sought to reach her, and until the time that current Ant-Man Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) entered the Realm (in the last film) and survived, they have been working to try and find a way into the Realm to rescue her, with the help of the information that Scott might have retained that allowed their not-exactly-reliable ally to not only enter the Realm, but to return, as well.  Even if he could remember what it was he did. The odds, like everything else in this movie, are shrinking.
It does not help that Scott, due to his mis-adventures in Germany in Captain America: Civil War, is under two-year house arrest by the FBI, confined to his house with an ankle bracelet for both violating parole and crossing international borders, and getting media-attention-noticing giant-size while doing it. He's getting a little buggy doing it, learning magic with an online course (of COURSE, it's going to become a plot-point later on!) and restricting his Dad-time with daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) during his custody-weekends.
Well...ya know...not really. Because, before you know, it Scott has been shrunk too small to keep his ankle-bracelet on, replaced with a large size ant, and kidnapped in a super-tiny car by Hope. Seems that Scott has been having "Quantum Realm dreams" in which it is thought that he might be channeling the small thoughts of Janet and, of course, Hank and Hope believe that Scott just might hold the key to finding her in the vast infinite expanse of what used to be a completely unknowable and scary dimension...when it manages to suit dramatic purposes.
Pym has improved his shrinking technology, so he can do it remotely, with seemingly no range and with no limitations to shrink things to absurd levels—he can take his research anywhere he wants by merely shrinking his office building to a handy portable size and expand it anywhere he can find a city-block size area (I hope the lights and toilets are self-contained). This seemingly limitless tech has caught the attention of arms-trader Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins in a performance that can best be described as "unfocused"), especially as he's been approached by Pym for a super-power-cell needed to juice up his "Quantum Tunnel." But, Burch's ambitions—they are never much explained beyond sheer avarice—are to steal the research lab (I suppose) once he learns its expanded and shrinking capabilities.
Geez, talk about taking your work home...
Also wanting it is "The Ghost" aka Ava Starr (Hannah John-Kamen), who has the rather ubiquitous power of "phasing"—becoming intangible and tangible at will— an unstable (except when dramatically necessary) power developed after her father, a researcher who had a falling out with Pym, attempted to activate his own in-development Quantum Tunnel causing a massive explosion.* Ava became a government orphan—we've all seen how well that works—who was supervised by Prof. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), another in the seemingly endless disgruntled employees of Hank Pym. Foster's determined to cure Ava of her condition, and, somehow, he seems to think it involves finding Janet Van Dyne in the Quantum Realm...
Hey, maybe, these guys should work TOGETHER as they seem to want the same thi...Oh! Oh, yeah,  I forgot, it's a superhero movie. "When Titans Clash" and all that.
So, that (and Scott's issues with a suspicious clutch of FBI-minders) are all dealt with in the first hour and fifteen minutes. The following half an hour is, basically, an extended chase throughout the Chase-Scene Capitol of the U.S., San Francisco, as the various participants play "who's got the lab" keep-away, allowing Pym to travel through the Quantum Tunnel to the Quantum Realm (at one point, Scott says "Do you guys just put the word "quantum" in front of everything?") to try to find some quantum of solace with Janet (in a completely arbitrary time-limit straight out of "Star Trek") before she's trapped there for the next one hundred years...for some reason.
"Ghost" goes through a phase...and a mini-van.
This is one of the side-issues with Ant-Man and the Wasp: the sort of "magical thinking" when it comes to science (if you can call this stuff "science"). It's more like dramatically challenging mumbo-jumbo that offers the most conveniently dramatic challenges at the most appropriate stages of the story—it's the science of Star Wars, in other words. One can imagine Neil deGrasse Tyson holding his head throughout the thing.
It's just plain sloppy.  That goes for the film-making, too, as this one is again directed by Peyton Reed, but without the rigorous planning and plotting that Edgar Wright brought to the first one before he was fired by Marvel Studios over "creative differences." There are points in the movie with rough transitions (this thing had five writers), dicey motivations, unbelievable "saves" (how DOES tiny little Ant-Man TRAVEL so fast?!) and a mandate to "call-back" things that were clever in the first movie, but seem less clever when trotted out to remind you that this one's supposed to be clever, too—Scott ran across a pistol in the first one and the Wasp gets to run across thrown knives here (anybody thought of using "Raid?") or when Scott's business partner Luis (National Treasure Michael Peña is given truth serum—no, actually it IS truth serum and goes off on a rant that is lip-synced by many members of the cast.
Ant-Man and the Wasp, despite not having the "2" digit in it, runs afoul of the same issue most of the Marvel Studio's** "freshman" movies in their series seem to have***—they're eager to please but not eager to innovate, **** that is, until somebody comes in and shakes things up a bit...if it escapes Kevin Feige's attention, that is.
But, what am I griping about? At least the Marvel series manage to actually MAKE it to a no. 2 movie....
The "Quantum Realm" looks like recycled bits from the Fantastic Voyage re-boot.
Entertaining in fits and starts, but you really see the Quantum gears grinding on this one.  Oh...and stay for the mid-credit sequence, it ties in nicely with Avengers: Infinity War. (Somehow, I think they'll find a way out of it.)

* Lesson: don't do your highly unstable experiments around your kids.

** Their logo is starting to threaten becoming its own mini-movie these days.

*** The one exception to the rule being Captain America: The Winter Soldier, which had the dramatic advantage of not being set in the past, like its predecessor...and one can also point to Spider-Man 2 (but that wasn't a Marvel Studios movie).

**** I find that a shame, but if Marvel (and their Disney owners) are listening to all the gnashing of Star Wars fans' fangs, there is no incentive to.

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