Ant-Man and the Wasp

 

            This is a superhero movie that gets it right; the only problem is that it depends too much on reference to previous works for it to stand alone.

            Paul Rudd reprises his role as Ant-Man, except that he hasn't donned the costume lately.  He's been under house arrest for three years, because of his antics in the previous film. (They fail to explain to the unititiated what that was all about.)  So now he's just plain Scott Lang, a divorced father (are there any other divorced super-heroes?).  The good news is that his young daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston) is witty and charming and fun to be around, and Scott obviously has a good relationship with his ex and her new husband, because they helpfully bring Cassie to be with her Dad.  So far, it sounds just like a family drama, right?

            And the family connections continue, as Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the brilliant scientist, is working with his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), to develop a way to morph matter, so they can go resuce Hank's wife, Hope's mother, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is apparently stuck somewhere in the ether.  Dr. Pym has developed a “Wasp” persona for his daughter so she can use her super-skills against a sudden new enemy, “Ghost” (Hanna John-Kamen), who has stolen the lab secrets.

            The plot thickens when it turns out that Ghost is actually working with Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), a former colleague of Dr. Pym's, until they had a falling out over “creative differences.”  And just to add layers of complexity, there's a gang of bad guys also trying to steal the lab secrets, as well as a cadre of FBI who suspect Scott Lang isn't living up to his house arrest conditions (and they're right, but they have to catch him first).  And then for comic relief there's the struggling secruity company associated with Scott, headed by Luis (Michael Pena), who manage to get in everybody's way.

            Yes, it's comic book fare, so don't get too wrapped up in the contradictions of the pseudo-science.  Director Peyton Reed adroitly utilizes the CGI of alternately shrinking and enlarging both the Ant-Man and the Wasp, but you don't feel like he's just getting his kicks playing with the technology, he actually bothers to develop the characters, get the viewers emotionally invested in them, and he also makes sure to maintain a light touch so it doesn't get too heavy-handed.

            And at the end, we're rooting for the good guys, and we're rooting for romance when it happens, but most of all, we're rooting for people who care about each other to stick together, despite their differences.  And we can all get with that agenda, animated or not.

 

Dr. Ronald P. Salfen, DFW Film Critics Association