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The two great enemies of picnics now get co-billing in this hilarious, delightful and somehow downright lovable entertainment from the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Paul Rudd – despite his persistent Dorian Gray-like refusal to look any older than he did in Clueless – is becoming the most mature and accomplished actor in the Marvel stable, especially when it comes to the increasingly important register of comedy (although Chris “Thor” Hemsworth is no slouch when it comes to getting laughs). Evangeline Lilly is great as the Wasp, a character with a more distinctly combat-oriented personality, a kind of counter-revisionist argument to the idea that wasps are pacifist and are more frightened of you than you are of them. Not this one.
Ant-Man is back, and now Scott Lang, as he is known as a civilian, is under house arrest for the criminal transgression involved in the superhero activity he was up to in the film Captain America: Civil War. His young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) is allowed to visit, but spends time with her mother, Maggie (Judy Greer), from whom Scott is divorced. Lang is forbidden by law from making any contact with the two geniuses and éminences grises of micro-morphing: Dr Hank Pym, played by the dapper Michael Douglas, and his daughter Hope, played by Lilly.
But these two need to contact Scott. Their awful secret is that Hope’s mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) has been lost in the quantum world of sub-atomic particles ever since she had to miniaturise to get into a rogue nuclear missile in the 1980s and buzz into its innards to disable it, thus saving the world without a word of thanks – and has been marooned at this unimaginably tiny level. The single other person to have got down to this microcosmic state is Scott: he is the only one who can go down and rescue Janet, and with her distinguished and beautiful white hair in this role, Pfeiffer looks like a compelling charismatic mix of Marlon Brando and Susannah York playing Superman’s parents in the 1978 film (if you will forgive the DC reference).
Meanwhile, Pym comes into uneasy contact with an old colleague, Bill Foster (Lawrence Fishburne), who is involved in further designs on Janet. Moreover, there is evidence that Janet has somehow implanted a fragment of her own consciousness in Scott’s – an entirely ridiculous plot point that somehow seems acceptable while it is happening, due to the sheer brio with which everyone sells it.
The business of getting absurdly and preposterously small, and then suddenly the right size again, or humiliatingly halfway, or staggeringly gigantic, is a comic effect that seemed a bit limited in the first film. But now there is more variety to it and the tech implications are more enjoyable. Pym’s entire secret lab building, with all its intensely desirable gadgets that many guys would like to get their evil mitts on, can whoosh down to the size of a suitcase with its own wheelie handle. It is an object that can be grabbed.
Miniaturisation and MacGuffinisation are as one. Dinky cars are deployed in enlarged form for chases. There are also a large number of actual ants, albeit the size of motorbikes, which roam cheerfully about the place. One is required to impersonate Scott in his house, wearing his ankle bracelet, to convince the cops that he is there, not breaking curfew. Erm, why a huge ant for this job? Who knows?
Randall Park is reliably excellent as the incompetent and emotionally needy FBI agent Jimmy Woo, and so is Walton Goggins as the deeply unlovely and unsightly southern-gent criminal Sonny Burch, who wants to take over Pym’s technological empire but gets horribly beaten up, along with his cringing lieutenants, by the Wasp in an exhilarating early scene. Michael Peña is also unassumingly outstanding as Scott’s former cellmate and now legit business colleague Luis. They all provide great comic support in a script that is hyper-alert for gag potential.
Marvel Studios’ comedy is different from the standup-derived or romantic comedy. It has an odd sort of unironic idealism, paradoxically combined with a lack of interest in the protagonists having a character arc and penitentially “growing” away from what had made them funny in the first place. And the Ant-Man films have what in another context might be called slapstick.
A film about insect-based superheroes naturally has to have a post-credits sting. Ant-Man and the Wasp gets one. It buzzes with uncomplicated enjoyment.
Source: The Guardian
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