Director: Peyton Reed
Writers: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari
Paul Rudd: Scott Lang/Ant-Man
Evangeline Lilly: Hope Van dyne/The Wasp
Michael Douglas: Dr. Hank Pym
Michelle Pfeiffer: Janet Van Dyne/The Wasp
Laurence Fishburn: Dr. Bill Foster
Abby Ryder Fortson: Cassie
Michael Pena: Luis
Randall Park: Jimmy Woo
Hannah John-Kamen: Ava/Ghost
My review of Ant Man (2015) began:
The Marvel universe provides virtually unlimited resources for storytelling, but that is not enough. The best stories feature archetypal themes, interesting and appealing characters, dynamic rather than static characters, peril, resolution, and perhaps above all, the willingness of central characters to sacrifice for the good of others. Heroism isn’t truly heroic unless the hero risks something of great value, perhaps, everything.
And so it is with the sequel, Ant Man And The Wasp, and a delightful sequel it is. Above all, this is a story about love, but before we delve into that, let’s take a quick trip into the dark alley of political correctness, and an article in The Daily Beast, written by one Kristen Lopez.
A little background first. Hannah John-Kamen plays Ava, AKA The Ghost, a young woman suffering the effects of the Quantum Realm. In Ant Man, we’re introduced to the Quantum Realm, when Scott Lang/Ant Man descends into the sub microscopic realm, but is able to return. Unfortunately, Michael Douglas’ Dr. Hank Pym’s wife, the original Wasp–Janet Van Dyne–sacrificed herself, and lost in the Quantum Realm, is believed dead–for awhile.
Ava, the ward of Laurence Fishburn’s Dr. Bill Foster, is phasing in and out of our reality–which also allows her to disappear and walk through solid objects–and unless Dr. Foster can come up with a cure, she’s going to die, and before the end of the movie. Her phasing is also painful, hence in politically correct terms, a disability, particularly because Ava is black, and female, though she doesn’t look very black–who knows what she “identifies” as?–but she does look female… And that’s where Lopez takes a flight of fancy into The Twilight Zone:
Instead of helping Ava find a way to cope (and not necessarily eradicate) her disability, the film seeks to provide a cure. It does so with its own version of ‘white science,’ a term coined by author Carol Clover in her psychoanalytic exploration of horror films, Men, Women, and Chainsaws. It refers to anything considered to be ‘Western traditional medicine,’ usually dispensed or controlled by a white man. The quantum realm functions as this film’s white science, a magical but wholly scientific world discovered by Hank Pym. Once she is freed from the realm, Janet offers to save Ava by transferring her quantum energy into her. She lays her hands on Ava—a technique often associated with tent revival preachers who ‘cured’ poor, afflicted people by touch—and saves the woman through scientific technology.
Progressivism: a compulsion to drive every ounce of joy out of life (and the movies).
Lopez is apparently unable to understand it’s a movie! This particular movie does not engage in social commentary; reading politics into it is an exercise in Scrooge-like navel gazing. Ava is a bad guy–sort of–who becomes a good guy, and there’s no doubt she’ll eventually be saved. Her suffering is a vehicle for making an apparently good girl do bad things out of desperation, which makes the plot more dramatic, which happens in plots. Her race and sex have absolutely nothing to do with the essential elements of the plot, nor does anyone oppress her the way Lopez is oppressing rationality.
Back to Marvel Universe reality. The movie begins after the events of Captain America: Civil War. As a result of his part of trashing a German airport, Scott Lang has been under house arrest for two years, and will get his ankle monitor off in three days, but oh dear, do a great many things happen in three days. Abby Ryder Fortson plays Cassie, Scott’s daughter. She’s as cute as cute little girls get, and is absolutely devoted to her father, who hasn’t been able to be Ant Man for two years.
In short order, Scott is drawn back into the orbit of Hank Pym and his daughter, Hope Van Dyne, played by Angeline Lilly.
The motivation for most of the action is that Pym has discovered his wife, Janet, played by Michelle Pfeiffer, just might be alive. Of course, the audience knows she is, otherwise, what’s the point of that discovery? Pym and Hope have constructed a massive device that will transport Pym into the Quantum Realm and find Janet.
And there are black market technology thugs that try to grab Pym’s discoveries. Ava and Dr. Foster, who loves and cares for her, wants to do the same thing so he can use it to somehow cure her. How exactly is never explained, but that’s OK: it’s science stuff. Scott wants to help, but he has to figure out creative ways to get out of his house without FBI agent Jimmy Woo, played by Randall Park, knowing. If Scott gets caught out of his home, he’s going back to jail. He can’t let his daughter down, and he can’t let Hope down because even though they’ve been estranged by events, he loves her (OK: she loves him too).
The movie is fast-paced, has an unusual and funny car chase, a great deal of action of all kinds, and as is expected of Marvel movies, first rate CGI and special effects. Sets, costumes (Hope looks particularly good in hers), props, all the production values are excellent. Also like the first movie, there is a great deal of Marvel’s trademark witty jokes and sight gags. What made the original movie delightful was the clever use of size, and the same is true in this movie, as when a Pez container is blown up in a chase scene to gigantic size to flatten two motorcycle riding bad guys.
The acting is also first rate and appears effortless. Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang is a likeable, generous and self-sacrificing man whose love for his daughter shines brightly, as does his devotion to his friends, and his willingness to sacrifice everything to help save Janet, and to do the right thing in general. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope is also a kind and dedicated woman, who is also scientifically brilliant and scary-tough.
Hank Pym is something of a stereotype, as is Fishburn’s Bill Foster. They used to work together, but had a falling out. Both men are grumpy scientists, dedicated to their work, but not particularly good with people, yet they do the right thing in the end.
Michael Pena again plays Luis, a fast-talking, gregarious ex-criminal, now involved with Scott in a security business. He’s the focus of several hilarious scenes. Ava doesn’t have much opportunity to demonstrate her acting skills. She’s either writhing in pain, completely concealed in her Ghost costume and attacking people, or being angry with Foster, but she does well with what the script provides.
Do I have to tell you Janet is rescued? Do I have to explain that her reunions with Hank and Hope are touching? And I could explain how Ava is cured, but you’ll have to see the movie for that.
Stan Lee makes his usual funny cameo. At 95, one hopes he’ll be able to continue that tradition for awhile longer.
In many ways, the plot has been seen before–many times. What makes this movie different is the characters, even though there is little or no character development.
There are, of course, holes in the plot here and there. We have no idea how Janet survived for 30 years in a surreal landscape that appears to have no food or water sources, to say nothing of shelter. And there are other issues, but who cares?
No one saves the world from destruction, but love wins, and that’s the point. That’s the secret to life, and the only real point; love has to win.
Ant Man And The Wasp is worth seeing in the theater, and certainly worth buying on DVD. It does not inspire one to seek the meaning of life and the nature of the universe, but it’s a great deal of fun, an entertaining movie to which one can take the entire family, and they’ll all have a great time.