Thursday, November 1, 2018

‘Blu-ray or Bust’ - ANT-MAN AND THE WASP

‘Blu-ray or Bust’

Remember when there was a certain charm to the Marvel Universe?  It was a happy time, when Thor and Hulk bickered with their fists to perfect comedic timing, when Tony Stark’s wit and sarcasm were hilarious exclamation points to the action and kept everything feeling light and relatable?

And then the MCU got all dark and mysterious.  Okay, not really mysterious.  It was more like heavy-handed storytelling and origin stories which all followed the same blueprint.  Even the first ANT-MAN was guilty of that: hero comes into a superpower/supersuit, hero has to learn about defending the people and the greater good, hero battles someone that has the same type of superpower/supersuit.  But what set the first film apart from the rest of the MCU was its reconnection to the humor that charmed us in IRON MAN and GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY.  It was an origin story, yes, but it was also a crime caper.  It felt fresh, because it set itself apart from the rest of the pack by not reaching further than its geographical confines.

With ANT-MAN AND THE WASP, 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—and he does it all with that lighthearted humor which is becoming unique to this little corner of the MCU. 

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).

Mr. Reed is smart enough to know that a film cannot rely on its title heroes alone; like the first film, the character that nearly steals the show is Michael Pena’s “Luis”, the fast-talking ex-con who tells a story like no other.  He is on point again, and even better than before. 

Keep in mind when watching, however, that whereas ANT-MAN was a crime caper, this one is a rescue mission.  Meaning, there is no need for a super-bad villain, one promising destruction of a city or the world.  This story is kept within Lang & Company’s little corner of San Francisco, and that’s just fine.  It helps keep the goings on more relatable, and the tone lighter. 

There are several special features, including a gag reel and two deleted scenes.  The docs deliver the usual, but what’s missing is more Luis.  For some reason, the Whale Boat Guy gets his own unused takes, but for a studio that was Luis-heavy during the film’s marketing campaign, not including more of him in the special features is a misstep.

ANT-MAN will be back in action in the next INFINITY WARS film, but that will be a brooding sequel to that last heavy, heavy AVENGERS film.  With any luck, he and The Wasp will continue on into the next phase of the MCU; I’m sure it will need a little (pun totally intended) levity following the end of the current one.
Grade: A
Special Features: B-
Blu-ray necessary: Absolutely

-- T.S. Kummelman

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