Entirely enjoyable, but unspectacular entry.
The first Ant-Man was a pleasant surprise, well-directed considering its turbulent history, hilarious with a warm centre and giving more than ant-sized thrills. While we would all still love to see what Edgar Wright had in mind, series director Peyton Reed was sure to have a lot of fun. The refreshingly titled sequel plays it far too safe however, showing us things we’ve seen plenty of before, and keeps throwing them at us in the hope our excitement will continue to grow – alas, it shrinks.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is on house arrest after the events of Civil War. Three days away from the end of his sentence, his quiet existence is interrupted by the return of Hope (Evangeline Lilly), accomplice turned hero in the form of the Wasp, and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who needs Lang to help them find Hope’s mother (Michelle Pfeiffer), thought to be forever lost in the mysterious quantum realm. However, the interest in Pym’s tech has grown substantially ever since the footage of (spoilers for Civil War) Giant-Man was leaked online. This includes Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), a shifty arms dealer, and Ava (Hannah John-Kamen), a young woman plagued by quantum phasing – she becomes intangible intermittently.
The lack of a true villain to the piece does lessen its grip. A tough act to follow considering its predecessor has one of the all-time great cinematic purple foes; but there’s never a real challenge in the form of a person. Yet, the whole film is a repetitive game of cat and mouse, with the two parties squabbling to attain a shrinkable lab for much of the second hour. Burch is a big Marvel stereotype that is never fleshed out in the slightest, so it’s pretty difficult to be captivated by his endeavours. Ava’s backstory is undeniably tragic, giving her some steam behind her motives. But despite the fact her past could have introduced different, more emotional conflicts, she remains fairly one-note, with only the slightest glimpses of something more.
The dynamic between the titular pair is also underdeveloped, switching from grudges to lovey-dovey in a small number of scenes. They’re an enthusiastic couple, and Rudd is a reliably charming performer. The Wasp very much suits the no-bullshit, physically able Lilly, much more comfortable this time round now that she plays a significant part. In fact, Ant-Man may get first billing, but this is more about the legacy of the Wasp, whether it’s through Lilly, or Pfeiffer, the original hero. Whereas the real-life titular bugs are the devils of the sky, the capabilities of the Wasp bring about satisfyingly aerial sequences. But the script is so lacking in passion for the material, a depressing state of affairs considering the team of writers attached, that the film is very much carried on the raw charisma of its ensemble and the sadly grating action on offer. Even Douglas, a legendary actor at this point, is fed some fairly unnatural lines of dialogue, whether it be panic or ‘subtle’ exposition. Peña is the exception of course, returning as the nattering, cheeky Luis without taking a breath.
There’s nothing quite as entertaining as watching an onscreen version of our wild Hot Wheels imaginations running rampant. The immature set-pieces are well-shot, with Reed’s comic mind influencing many scenes even with the simplest touches, such as a giant salt shaker or PES stick. While he continues time and time again to play with the shrinking/growing, the novelty soon wears off. There are some inspired sequences; one with a kitchen knife and another in the sea are two toppers. But in terms of inventiveness, the film is lacking. This is particularly true of Ava, a quantum-fading villain whose abilities, both a blessing and a curse, are manipulated to increasingly boring effect. But, with the purest state of glee in mind, there’s plenty of smiles to be had throughout; that is down to the generally likeable cast and the return of the PymTech devices. If your inner pedant can extinguish the fire fuelled by the huge questions regarding how things shrink and grow (a building), you’ll have an even better time.
The music is one of the greater disappointments here, a return to what was typically expected of Marvel prior to the soaring, magnificent, eclectic wonder of Silvestri’s Infinity War score. There is practically no re-listen value here, with the minor exception of a lengthy third act pursuit which had a decent instrumental pairing. On the whole, this film is fun. Completely harmless and a very easy way to spend two hours, but will it be remembered the same way as other MCU entries? Definitely not. That is, if we’re not talking about post-credits scenes; in that regard, this probably beats them all.