Considering all its pre-production woes, it was a lovely surprise that ‘Ant-Man’ (2015) turned out to be as entertaining as it did. Among the high-concept and often dour Marvel films at the time, its easy irreverence felt like a pleasant breath of fresh air, if not a particularly memorable one. On the heels of the operatic ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ comes ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’, which further cements these films as some of the more entertaining entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
For the past two years, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been under house arrest after the events of ‘Captain America: Civil War’ (2016), while Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) are on the run from the FBI. With only days left, Scott is plucked from house arrest by Hank and Hope, who need his help locating their wife and mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) who has been trapped in the Quantum Realm, using advanced quantum technology they’ve created. But other nefarious parties are also after Hank’s technology, and the clock is ticking before they’ll be too late to find Janet.
As a counterbalance to the scale and noise of most superhero films, ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ once again offers a breezy and throughly entertaining antidote, bolstered by its easy charm and goofy humour. No longer haunted by the ghost of Edgar Wright, director Peyton Reed approaches this film with a more confident step, and despite a bevy of screenwriters (five in total, including Paul Rudd), the screenplay is snappy and narratively consistent. That’s not to say that the film breaks any kind of mould; in many ways, this sequel is a little less idiosyncratic, the humour a little less irreverent, but it certainly feels like the series is settling into its mould. For one thing, the shrinking/expanding conceit at its heart is no longer treated as something special, but rather a given function of this part of the Marvel universe. It also comfortably embraces some of its sci-fi elements, so that the Quantum Realm feels very logical within what is one of the more grounded arcs in the MCU. Perhaps most refreshing of all, it never goes too deep into cheap emotion or dramatics, balancing the more intimate character moments with off-the-cuff goofiness. It also helps that the film doesn’t need to set anything up for future films, probably thanks to taking place in the gap between ‘Civil War’ and ‘Infinity War’, a period of the MCU less devoted to the wider narrative. The visual effects are among the stronger we’ve seen from Marvel in a while, and while Reed doesn’t have the kind of directorial flair that Taika Waititi brought to and elevated ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ (2017), his intentions are clear and crisp, and carry the film where it needs to go.
I’d also go as far as to say that the Ant-Man films have one of the stronger ensembles of the MCU, further solidified here. Paul Rudd doesn’t allow the everyman quality of Scott to sap the character of personality, and his easy charm continue to make him an endearing hero. Evangeline Lilly complements that tremendously, offering a more driven and sturdy partner to Scott without also falling into the trap of denying her of charm. There’s also great work from the rest of the ensemble, including Douglas, Pfeiffer and the always wonderful Michael Peña, while new cast members Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne and Walter Goggins offer perfectly acceptable villains with a bit more to them than most.
Much like its predecessor, ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ isn’t a particularly memorable film, but it’s a damn entertaining one when you’re sitting in front of it. It feels like a kind of superhero movie we don’t get to see much of anymore - one that offers wholesome entertainment that appeals across generations, whose only intention is to give you a really good time. Considering the often overly-complex nature of the genre these days, this makes the Ant-Man films a bit of an anomaly, but a very welcome one. The events of ‘Infinity War’ have obviously thrown out any ability to predict the next moves of the MCU, but here’s hoping we see more adventures with Ant-Man and the Wasp in the future.
‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ once again offers a breezy and throughly entertaining antidote, bolstered by its easy charm and goofy humour.
PICTURE & SOUND
As you would expect, the 4K UHD presentation of ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ is excellent. The 2160p 2.39:1 transfer (upscaled from a 2K DI) offers superb levels of clarity and a gorgeously subtle use of HDR, lending the film a very realistic and clean look. In many ways, the colour balance in the transfer really serves the verisimilitude of the film. The video is complemented by a terrific Dolby Atmos TrueHD 7.1 track, one that doesn’t fall prey to Disney’s tendency of late to undermine their 4K UHD Atmos tracks. The design of the film is wonderfully active, and the balance in the Atmos track is excellent, offering some great oomph during the action sequences (especially the terrific car chase in the first act). Overall, Disney have done a great job with this presentation, offering subtle but noticeable improvement over the Blu-ray release.
The Marvel films have never been known for their bonus content, and the collection here (all on the included Blu-ray disc) is no different. There are a series of four making-of featurettes (which can be played together at a running time of 22:30), which focus on Scott, Hope, Hank and Janet, and the overall look of the film. There’s also a series of gag reels (running together at 3:47), the best featuring outtakes of Stan Lee trying out different one-lines for his cameo, all which are gold. The package is rounded off with an audio commentary from Reed, along with a series of forgettable deleted scenes, also with optional commentary.