It takes an anthill to raise a hero

Review: Ant-Man and The Wasp (PG)

Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Micheal Douglas, Michelle Pheiffer

Ant-man and The Wasp has stepped up Marvel’s game in the comedy stakes. While the original Ant-man was a breath of fresh air in 2015 and gave us a hybrid comedic heist film, its sequel doesn’t focus on the man himself so much as the people around him, while making the most of the comedy inherent in being able to shrink and enlarge items at will.

This outing is set before Avengers: Infinity War, and finds Scott dealing with the fallout of his decision to join Team Cap in Captain America: Civil War. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne finally gets to don the superhero costume teased in the end credits of the original film, and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), Hope and Scott (Paul Rudd) venture into the Quantum Realm on a rescue mission to find Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp.

Director Peyton Reed appears to revel in the comedic potential that being able to enlarge and shrink items at will can bring to the story. So there are gigantic pez dispensers and salt shakers used as handy weapons, dog-sized ants playing the drums — and a personal favouirte – a whole garage of cars kept in a Hotwheels case. There is also entire scene that is designed to make the most of the comedy of a toddler-sized hero.

Ant-Man and The Wasp is perhaps the first Marvel film to give its female cast some much needed screen time. The film’s mother and daughter relationship between Hope and Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) gives the film the stakes it needs, while The Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) is a genuinely convincing and well-realised villain with an equally complicated backstory.

Often the villains in these films are one note, but Ghost’s motivation is simple even if her morals are somewhat complex, and Hannah John-Kamen’s portrayal is firmly on the side of menacing, due in large part to desperation.

In a lot of ways Ant-Man the hero is sidelined in favour of Scott the devoted father, which also gives Cassie his daughter more than a mere cameo. There is also the complicated relationship between Hope and Scott, all the better for some of the main relationships to give the film its beating heart.

Story mechanics also dictate that we have a lot of science talk when dealing with the rescue of Janet from decades in the Quantum Realm and these scenes, hinted at in the first film take front and centre. The journey through the Quantum Realm feels like a psychedelic mind trip reminiscent of science fiction films of the 60s.

It’s clear from the title that Scott (Ant-Man) needed a partner and the film finally gives the Wasp the title billing she deserves. Let’s face it, Marvel films have been light-on with female heroes and with Black Panther earlier this year it seems these issues are being addressed. Although comic book fans will be aware that the Wasp was one of the Avengers founding members, the films have – as yet – not capitalised on this.

The film is full of partnerships fit for this family-friendly film – father-daughter, mother-daughter, husband-wife – that provide the emotional heft the film needs. There are two Ant-Mans and two Wasps in the movie. And a team of ex-cons-turned security consultants. And a precocious kid. And her supportive divorced parents and step-dad.

It might take a village to raise a child, but in Ant-Man’s life, it takes an anthill to raise a hero.

Adrian Drayton




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