ANT-MAN AND THE WASP (2018, PG-13, 118 minutes, MARVEL STUDIOS/DISNEY)
I like to think of the Marvel Cinematic Universe as being bipolar. Now, I’ve never shied away from speaking publicly about that particular diagnosis (much to the embarrassment of my family, I’m sure), so I kinda know what I’m talking about—so all of you pundits and people that are members of the “You Don’t Know What You’re Talking About Institute of Asshats” can just shut yer yaps. Because I’m kind of an expert.
For those that aren’t experts, here’s a brief explanation: bipolar “disorder” isn’t just about extreme bouts of anger—those moments could be considered the lows. What no one ever talks about are the highs, the opposite effect of that anger. It doesn’t necessarily make you dance in the streets with a giant, goofy grin on your face, but it does give you a feeling of euphoria. In my case, it makes me spend money on gifts for other people. Trust me—there is a big plastic tub in my room with presents. I started Christmas shopping for this year THREE YEARS AGO. And that tub does give me a big goofy grin.
As far as Marvel is concerned…anybody see AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR? (Mild Spoiler Alert!) Remember how certain characters seemed to die? It was, by far, the most serious and dark Marvel film to date. Almost depressing in the feelings of dread and doom directors Anthony and Joe Russo managed to capture.
With ANT-MAN AND THE WASP, well…I’m happy to say you get the other end of the spectrum. Returning director Peyton Reed not only stays true to his method of storytelling from 2015’s ANT-MAN, but he ups things a notch. He smoothly and without any heavy-handedness makes the viewer more emotionally invested in the characters—yet he does it all with a dose of humor unique to this little corner of the MCU. Which really makes this a better movie than its predecessor.
In this installment, scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) figures out a way to rescue his wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum realm. He just needs Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) help to do so—well, he and Pym’s daughter Hope (the badass Evangeline Lilly). There are several elements that turn this story about a rescue operation into something more, and I’d be giving away too much by describing them all to you. There is the comedic action, the easy banter between Lang and Hope, the nearly unbearable cuteness of Lang’s daughter (played with amazing timing by Abby Ryder Fortson).
But then there is the guy that stole the first film. You know who I’m talking about—that smooth criminal turned erstwhile danger-buddy. The Man with the Plan, the man that goes to great lengths to explain EVERYTHING: Michael Don’t-Interrupt-Me Pena. Watching him here is like watching him in the first film, only with a few more cans of Red Bull. Honestly, who would’ve thought that a man that was known for such serious roles on “NYPD Blue”, “The Shield”, and the amazing END OF WATCH had impeccably honed comedy chops like this? He completes this film, lifts it into that happy end of the spectrum high up in the atmosphere where the air is thin and makes you giddy. Yes, he’s that damn good.
And for all the reviewers complaining about not having a terribly menacing and super bad villain, I say this: at its heart, this is a rescue caper hidden inside a comedy. It isn’t Thanos. You’re kinda missing the point. This is, essentially, good summer fun. If you are looking for brooding heroes and death dealing baddies, you went to the wrong movie. Enjoy the euphoric end of the bipolar universe for a change and have some fun.
Because Thanos will be back next year, and I’m sure he’ll be sucking the remaining fun right out of the MCU.