"I do some dumb things, and the people I love the most - they pay the price." - Scott Lang
And so the 2018 blockbuster keeps rolling on, relentlessly giving us hit after hit. From the latest Mission:Impossible being one of the best yet, to the endlessly entertaining though far fetched Skyscraper, the stunning Sicario 2: Solado being better than the original and the welcome return of The Incredibles to our screen in a long awaited, much anticipated and satisfying sequel, it’s a blast this year.
We had to wait a while for this one, though. The UK release was delayed because of….wait for it…the World Cup. Yes, in their infinite mousey wisdom, Disney pushed this back because of soccer. Surely those who wanted to watch their beloved game could have waited one evening, until their team of choice weren’t playing or were eliminated from the competition. It’s not like they would’ve had to wait long in England’s case. But, whatever…. On with the review.
So far, my film of the year is Avengers: Infinity War. As we know, the ending of that epic left a lot of loose threads and the most stunning final act of any film in recent memory, with stunning consequences for each of our Marvel characters. Truly nobody in the Marvel Movie Universe was left unscathed. But, as we now know, Ant-Man was nowhere to be seen, which opened up some questions among fans. Where was he? He was in Civil War, but we haven’t seen or heard of him since. We can rest easy, because Ant-Man and Wasp answers everything.
But, as ever – I’m getting ahead of myself.
Ant-Man gave us an origin story that was set after the silver-age character that was around in the sixties. Back then, Henry Pym was Ant-man and later Giant-Man when he discovered a way to reverse his process. Dropping out of the Avengers, he returned as Goliath in a different costume, then as I recall, disappeared again before returning some time later as the villain Yellowjacket, before reforming. He was an unstable and at times unsavoury character. In later versions, he was pretty much an abusive jerk and the least likeable character on the Marvel roster.
His partner was Janet Van Dyne a rich heiress, and I believe they eventually got married. Anyhow, that was the comic book continuity, more or less. Somewhere along the line at a point I haven’t read, a petty thief named Scott Lang stole Pym’s costume and eventually became the new Ant/Giant-Man. That’s the continuity that the films follow, and I have to admit that even though my memories are clearly of a bygone age, that is, the silver age of the sixties, I love what they did in the first film bringing all this together cohesively.
I’ve been looking forward to this film since Ant-Man, which I loved because it captured the essential goofiness of a character that gets around by riding on the backs of flying ants, yet can punch with the force of a full grown man. It was a mouth hanging open in amazement moment for me when in Captain America: Civil War, he grew to gigantic proportions and took quick care of Spider-Man.
But given the grim tone of Infinity War, I was curious to see how they’d tackle this instalment of the Marvel Movie Saga and how it’d fit in, given the need to somehow bring the character into that storyline which we’ve been promised will feature every one of the movie characters in the ongoing ten year storyline.
For starters, where has Ant-Man been? Why is he off the radar?
Well, the film starts just before the events of Infinity War. Following the events of Civil War, where Ant-Man fought on the side of Captain America resisting the government’s decision to register superheroes and gain control of them and their activities, having broken the Sokovia Accords (brought about, if you recall as a result of the mass destruction of the city of Sokovia during the Avengers’ battle with Ultron) Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been serving a two year house arrest. Henry Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) have gone into hiding and have severed all ties with Lang.
Pym and Van Dyne are still haunted by memories of Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp who was lost on a mission to disarm a Russian nuclear rocket 30 years earlier. She had shrunk to sub-atomic size to accomplish the mission, knowing that she could never return to normal size and would be stuck in the Quantum Realm for the rest of the life. However, Lang experiences a dream that is actually a flashback to a memory from Janet Van Dyne and contacts his old associates who realise that during his brief time in the Quantum realm in the first movie, Janet was still alive and had found a means to contact them through Lang - there might be a way to rescue her.
But of course, this is a Marvel movie and things are never going to be that simple. There’s a lot that gets in the way.
The Pyms have been dealing with Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins, last seen in Tomb Raider) a black market trader in very rare and specialised tech, who has figured out who he’s dealing with and there might well be even more money selling Pym’s secrets and technology than acquiring new bits and pieces. There’s also an old associate of Pym’s Dr Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) an ex SHIELD scientist with whom the egotistical Pym had a massive falling out, but now Pym needs his help. And there’s the Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who can pretty much go anywhere she wants, as she can phase through solid objects. This makes her particularly hard to fight because she can punch and kick like a mule – but her opponent’s fist or foot will pass straight through her. And they’re all after the same thing. Basically what Alfred Hitchcock would have called a McGuffin.
As before, the basic silliness of the Ant-Man character is acknowledged. There’s plenty of comedy here, which fits the overall mood of the adventure very well. Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilley have expanded roles this time around, as the basis of the story is mainly their quest to get Janet Van Dyne back to their family unit. Scott Lang is trying to get his life back together and is being used by the Pyms, principally as a means to an end. Lang is a nice guy, in the wrong place at the wrong time, thus probably the most “everyman” of the whole Marvel Movie Universe.
Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pffeiffer) – what can I say? What a treat to see this icon back on the screen. It’s been too long since she had a role like this. But the biggest discovery is certainly Hannah John-Kamen, fresh from her roles in the exquisite Ready Player One and Tomb Raider. Her performance as Ava/The Ghost is menacing and tragic, as she’s the result of an experiment that went wrong and lives her life in constant pain, due to the phasing effect.
All in all, it’s a perfect blend of fun, tragedy, action, adventure but make sure you stay right until the very end – there are two stings, one halfway through the credits and one at the very end. You will NOT want to miss them.
Okay – if you haven’t seen the film yet, I heartily recommend that you do so and stop reading this now, because ahead, there be spoiler. We’re heading into the spoiler zone for a moment because I have something to say to those who HAVE seen the film and I don’t want to ruin any surprises for those who haven’t.
You are about to enter THE SPOILER ZONE.
You are now in THE SPOILER ZONE. If you haven’t seen the film, turn back now, this is your last warning.
So, the sting. I have to admit, I was happy. Very happy. You see, at the end of my review of Infinity War in May I finished off with a little fanboy wistful wishful thinking scenario. And I quote…
“Up next, we have Ant-Man and the Wasp, released in July. I’ve a feeling that Ant-Man will feature in Infinity War 2, but here’s kind of a “wouldn’t it be cool if…” idea that I have that would bring Ant-Man into the fray. Imagine, after the events of the film, the sting – where Ant-Man and the Wasp are celebrating their victory or whatever. And she turns to dust in front of his eyes. POW!!!! He has his motivation AND the audience are shocked. (Please note, that’s just a little theory of mine and based on nothing I’ve read anywhere – literally just my imagination. But wouldn’t it be cool?)”
Okay, we now know there’s more to it than that, with Lang being trapped in the Quantum Realm – but DAMN, that was closely on target. Roll on next year for Captain Marvel and Avengers 4. I’m practically pacing the floor here.
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