It’s both the greatest strength and biggest weakness of Ant-Man and The Wasp that it followed up the box office busting comic book cliffhanger epic Infinity War with a story that’s rather (must resist urge to use obvious pun… ah screw it!) small. The sequel to Marvel Studio’s most notoriously troubled production doesn’t attempt to top the massive movie that proceeded it by a few months because that’s frigging impossible. Instead, this is a superhero spin on an old timey action buddy/romance picture, more along the lines Romancing the Stone than The Avengers. In fact, whenever the charming little time-waster diverts into more fantastical comic book shenanigans is when it flails. Sure, this sequel will never go down as one of the finest entries in the genre. But it is a fun romp and palate cleanser. That’ll do for now.
The plot is both simple and overstuffed. Paul Rudd’s gentle criminal/superhero is currently under house arrest for his Civil War crimes. That leads to a great montage, some charming family bonding, and the introduction of Randal Park as a hilariously awkward FBI agent Jimmy Woo. Then Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly show up and force him back into superhero heisting through blackmail. Why? To find their long lost wife/mamma played by Michelle Pfeiffer, of course. It should be a fairly straightforward task, but then some monkey wrenches get thrown into the mix in the form of a generic gangster-ish bad guy (Walton Goggins, cramming in as much personality as possible) and the empathetic supervillain-esque character Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Eventually it all leads to charming character comedy and goofy effects driven action scenes. It just takes some dead ends to get there.
At this point, all Marvel movies have to deal with cross-franchise continuity, multi-movie story arcs, and contractual obligations in addition to telling a story and that’s a challenge. So while director Peyton Reed wants nothing more than Ant-Man And The Wasp to be a light hearted lark of Marvel romp, he’s also burdened by other obligations. There’s a thread involving Rudd’s family that never fully develops (and wastes Judy Greer, something that happens so often in the film industry that it’s turning into a tragedy) as well as too much time wasted on the Ghost character that feels like it belongs in another more sombre movie and never gets enough screen time or weight to deliver whatever the hell was intended.
Thankfully, those clunky subplots and diversions don’t distract from the good stuff. Ant-Man and The Wasp is hilarious, breezily entertaining, and occasionally even thrilling. Paul Rudd is as charmingly lost as before and Michael Pena steals almost as many scenes. Peyton Reed again manages to squeeze as much inspired visual humour and action out of the “shrinking hero” concept as last time. The climatic car chase is spectacular and amusingly silly. Evangeline Lilly and Michelle Pfeiffer light up the screen and deliver the noble heroism the goofball dudes at the center can’t provide. The emotional core is sweet. The interactions with the larger Marvel Universe are cleverly incorporated (especially the Avengers 4 teasing mid-credits scene). And the retro sci-fi fantasies designs are delightfully eye-tickling. It’s as fun as superhero movies are supposed to be and even the slightless of the project makes for a charming strength. Sure, it’s not a movie destined to be much more than a footnote in the history of Marvel Studios, but that’s fine. Not all superhero stories have to be genre-redefining epics. Sometimes just charming side story is enough, especially when it’s this joyfully crafted by all involved.
Well, this is another Disney home release of a Marvel movie. Know what that means? The best possible technical presentation of a blockbuster available on home media. The blinding primary colors of Ant-Man And The Wasp resemble a 70s Marvel comic in all the right ways and absolutely pop off the screen in HD. The soundmix obviously isn’t as thunderous as the recent Infinity War Blu, but it’s no slouch either, providing plenty of atmosphere and boom-boom in the set pieces. This may not give your home theater a workout, but it will at least show off what it can do during the peaks.
Kicking off the special features is a 22-minute making-of documentary broken up into four chapters for the attention span challenged. Like the movie itself, the whole thing is a bit of a lark. Filled with fawning interviews with the stars, director Peyton Reed, and key crew members, you get a sense that this $160 million production was mostly just a goofy good time for all involved. Paul Rudd talks about the influence of Bill Murray on his performance, Evangeline Lilly delves into why her character’s transformation into The Wasp is so important, everyone struggles to make Ghost seem like a compelling character, Michael Douglas trots out some fresh false teeth, etc. It’s everything you’d come to expect from Marvel movie making-of featurettes. They are a step above puff pieces and informative without really giving away too many secrets of how Marvel actually weaves their particular brand of movie magic.
If you want more in-depth behind the scenes tales, then director Peyton Reed sits down for a lively audio commentary filled with such enthusiasm for the source material and his cast/crew that you can’t help but get lost in his rambles. Since Reed’s not holding onto secrets that can affect any immediate Marvel releases, he goes into his motivations behind everything and illuminates the intentions beyond all of the highs and lows of his deliberately silly sequel. Peyton pops up again to give commentary on two deleted scenes run a minute and a half total and add very little of value.
Finally there’s an outtakes reel that undoubtedly played well at the wrap party but isn’t particularly funny for those who didn’t work on the movie as well as a pretty funny collection of alternate lines for Stan Lee and Tim Heidecker’s cameos that’ll please fans of both cult figures for very different reasons. Since Kevin Feige and co. are maintaining absolute secrecy for all future Marvel projects, there are no previews of upcoming releases or short films. That’s a shame, but look. At this point, Marvel discs have a formula and come off an assembly line. You know what you’re getting in advance and if you enjoyed watching Ant-Man And The Wasp as much as Peyton Reed clearly enjoyed making it, then you’ll want to buy this disc. If not, why did you even read this review?
Blu-ray & Digital:
- Director’s Intro by Peyton Reed – The talented creator behind some of Marvel Studios’ funniest and most charming films will invite home audiences deeper into the world of “Ant-Man and The Wasp.”
- Making-of Featurettes:
- Back in the Ant Suit: Scott Lang – Hero and all-star dad Scott Lang keeps the laughs coming for the audience, cast and crew.
- A Suit of Her Own: The Wasp – Highly trained Hope Van Dyne is now the Wasp. See how some of her craziest stunts and action-packed scenes were brought to life.
- Subatomic Super Heroes: Hank & Janet – Hank Pym’s wife Janet was lost in the quantum realm. Trace the legacy of these characters and the iconic actors who portray them.
- Quantum Perspective: The VFX and Production Design of “Ant-Man and The Wasp”– Explore the movie’s visual effects and production design from a whole new viewpoint, in which every micro and macro detail counts.
- Gag Reel and Outtakes – Audiences are treated to the hilarious quips that did not make the film as well as exclusive outtakes from Stan Lee and Tim Heidecker.
- Gag Reel – Join in the fun with these outtakes from the set.
- Stan Lee Outtakes – Stan Lee tries out a series of hilarious one-liners for the scene in which his car shrinks.
- Tim Heidecker Outtakes – Check out Whale Boat Captain Daniel Goobler and his improvised whale-watching riffs.
- Deleted Scenes (with commentary by Director Peyton Reed)
- Worlds Upon Worlds – As Janet leads Hank through the surreal landscape of the quantum realm, they encounter an intelligent life form.
- Sonny’s on the Trail – On the hunt for Hank Pym and his lab, Sonny Burch and his henchmen check the security camera of a neighborhood bookstore.
- 10 Years of Marvel Studios: The Art of the Marvel Cinematic Universe – See what it takes to bring the MCU to life, and the role concept artists play in bringing Super Heroes from comic book to screen.
- Online Close-Up Magic University – This commercial will inspire you to expand your mind and maximize your full potential!
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