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Yes, the grim spectre of Marvel Fatigue has reared its skeletal head in the Mouse household, rattling its chains and wailing about lacklustre villains and nondescript movie scores. And while this malignant spirit has claimed my beloved spouse I, thankfully, remain immune.
Or so I thought.
Coming up to this particular review I experienced, for this first time in this series, something in the outer boroughs of dread. The first Ant-Man, was fine but only fine and the closer the time to review Ant-Man and the Wasp crept the more I realised that I just didn’t care and would much rather skip ahead to whatever reader request I should have done like two years ago (I’m trying guys, I’m trying).
So, because I have little to nothing interesting to say about the movie, how ‘bout some comic history? You know you love it.
Janet Van Dyne aka The Wasp was the second major female superhero created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in the early sixties, coming a few years after Sue Storm and a few months before Jean Grey and the Scarlet Witch. And she was, much like her sisters, originally a bit crap. To put it bluntly, the superheroines of this era were drippier than a melting ice-cream who just stepped out of the shower to answer the phone.
Jan was first introduced in the pages of Tales to Astonish as the daughter of Vernon Van Dyne, a scientist who once worked with Hank Pym, the world’s Most Generic Man. When Vernon is killed, Jan comes to Hank looking for help and he’s all:
- I’m Ant-Man.
- I could make you an Ant-Woman. Would you like that Jan? Would you like to be my Ant-Woman?
- Vernon would totally have wanted us to bone.
Hank gives her shrinking powers, making her a god among mortals, as well as some nifty little wings and energy blasts and they fight crime as Ant-Man and the Wasp. They also became founding members of the Avengers, with Jan actually being the one who comes with the name for the team. Originally depicted as shallow and flighty the character has been deepened and expanded on by various writers over the years into one of the most respected superheroes in the Marvel universe.
She’s also the only one of the founding Avengers to never have her own solo series. For some reason.
So the movie begins pretty much exactly the same way as Amazing Spider-Man 2 did so all hands, Red Alert.
Eight year old Hope watches as her parents, Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle
Pffeifer Fifer Pffeiffer Pffefer Pfffffffffffff) leave in the middle of the night to do super secret stuff. Her mother tells her that she loves her very much and that she’ll be back soon, oh what tragic irony.
Back in the present day, Hank tells Hope that he thinks Janet may still be alive in the quantum realm and they’re gonna git ‘er.
Meanwhile Scott Lang has been under house arrest for two years because of the events of Civil War and I have officially given up trying to figure out if that makes sense in the timeline or not. Because Scott can’t leave the house (he’s got an ankle bracelet), he’s transformed his entire place into an adventure world where he and his daughter Cassie can play together when he’s not entertaining her with the close up magic skills he’s learned. And, once again, I must remind you that the guy these movies insist is a perennial fuckup is a qualified electrical engineer, vigilante cat burglar who uses his skills to fight social injustice and also the world’s greatest Dad and that was BEFORE he became a superhero. I don’t know about you, but I’m feeling thoroughly inadequate. Unfortunately, during their game Scott accidentally sticks his ankle bracelet through the fense which calls down the FBI led by Jimmy Woo and holy shit, waitaminute Jimmy Woo?!
Okay, so I have really mixed feelings on this. Randall Park in this role is by far my favourite thing in this whole movie. He’s the FBI agent who’s responsible for insuring Scott doesn’t violate the terms of his parole but instead of the obnoxious hardass who usually fills that role in these kind of movies he’s high in the running for nicest man alive. He gets a lotta good lines and Park is a joy to watch. But…
Okay, imagine this. It’s 2008 and you’re watching Iron Man and there’s a comedy relief character played by Bernie Mack. And he’s hilarious! One of the best things in the movie. But then Tony asks him his name and he replies “Just call me “T’challa”.”
You’d forgiven for thinking that the film-makers had just wasted a really good character for a bit of fan service. That’s pretty much what’s happened here. Jimmy Woo is quite possibly the first Asian American hero in comics, first debuting in the nineteen fifties. He’s a pretty big deal and deserved more than being a comic relief character in someone else’s movie. Hell, he could headline his own movie! FBI procedural set in the Marvel universe, I’d watch that. Why not adapt some of those old stories from the fifties?
Anyway, despite being unable to leave the house, things are actually going pretty good for old Scotty. He’s got a great relationship with his daughter, he’s really close with Maggie and Jim (to the point I’m not certain there’s not some kind of polyamorous thing going on here) and he’s started a business with Luis, Dave and Kurt, the three stooges of the MCU. Also, he’s legally required to have no contact with that awful Pym family and there’s only three days left on his house arrest so it’s all good in the hood.
While falling asleep in the bath, Scott has a dream where he’s back in the quantum realm and then that he’s playing hide and seek with a little girl. Oh, and he’s also walking around in Michelle Pfeiffer’s body but everyone has had that dream, right?
Scott takes out a hidden stashed cellphone to leave a message on Hank Pym’s voicemail telling him all about his weird dream, which is kind of a douchey thing to do. Realising a douche-off has been declared, the Pyms send an ant to drug Scott, shrink him down, abduct him, and take him to their secret lab. Scott freaks out because he’s broken house arrest and that’s an automatic 20 years in jail, but Hope explains that they put an ankle bracelet on a giant ant and programmed it to replicate Scott’s daily routine (sleeping, watching TV, playing the drums and feeding pupae to to ensure the growth of the colony). Scott (quite reasonably) asks how they know about his daily routine and Hope snippily replies that they monitor all security threats and that he’s the biggest one. So, one, that’s a “yes”. They are spying on him. And, two, Hank Pym and his daughter Hope have taken it upon themselves to spy on people they have deemed security threats. Which would be creepy even if they were some kind of security or law enforcement agency but is somehow worse when it’s just one weird ant-obsessed millionaire and his awful daughter. They are basically a self-appointed neighbourhood watch who know how long Captain America spends in the shower everyday.
Anyway, Hope and Hank show Scott a massive doo-hickey called a quantum tunnel that they built with the help of some massive ants. Probably would have been easier to hire some contractors but that would not have involved ants and Hank Pym is nothing if not on-brand. They tell Scott that they’ve been trying to tunnel down to the quantum realm and that the first time they made contact Scott called to bother them about his stupid dream and so, like the top-tier scientists that they are, they’ve assumed the two are connected. Hank and Hope are convinced that Janet planted a message in Scott’s head which means there’s only one way to get it out.
No, they need a component to stop the tunnel from overloading so that Jan can get a message to them through Scott which will given them the information they need to go rescue Jan.
So here’s my main problem with this movie; the script is just a maguffin hunt. It’s just a long sequence of getting the thing to get the thing to get the thing while trying to stop other people who want the thing from getting the thing and getting the thing back from them when they inevitably get the thing. Which thing? Doesn’t matter. It’s all the same thing.
You could honestly just lift whole sequences out of the movie and it wouldn’t change the plot one iota. So how onboard you will be with this movie will depend on how funny you find the dialogue, how cool you find the size-changing gimmicks and how engaging you think the characters are and…
It’s fine. It’s all fine. I guess. It’s just that after a hell of a hot streak this movie feels very “Phase 1″y. And I’m just kinda bored.
Alright, so it’s time to get Thing 1 which is literally just a thing called “The Component” which they need to purchase from a guy called Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) who is a restauranteur/dealer in high level illegal technology. Hope goes in to make the purchase but Sonny reveals that his sources in the FBI have told him who she really is and he wants access to Hank Pym’s technology. When Hope tells him that it’s not for sale, he says he’s keeping the component and her money as well. But he lets her go, which is really stupid on his part because if you cross a Pym you’d better be damn sure they’re dead or they will come back at you like the frickin’ Yakuza.
Hope reveals the Wasp armour and tears through all of Burch’s mooks like a dose of the salts. But suddenly she’s attacked by a mysterious hooded figure called Ghost who keeps phasing in and out of reality like Kanye West. Hank gives Scott a new, experimental Ant-Man suit and he races in to help Hope. But Ghost steals Thing 1 and then doubles back to the van Hank is waiting in and steal from him his entire lab which he’s shrunken down to the size of a briefcase. Now missing Thing 1 and Thing 2, Team Ant decide to visit Bill Foster (Laurence Fishbourne) Hank’s oldest and dearest friend who hates his guts. They visit Bill in the university where he lectures and Bill reveals that he once worked with Hank on a project called “Goliath” for S.H.I.E.L.D which is a winking reference to Bill’s alter ego in the comics, Very Big Black Man.
Hank and Bill argue over whether Bill was fired or quit which of course results in Bill pulling the tried and trusted “hey, your wife still dead?” card and Hank storms out angrily. But Bill tells Hope that she might be able to track the lab using a regulator on one of Hank’s suits. Unfortunately, Hank doesn’t have any of the older suits left but Scott reveals that he still has one stashed away in his house in a trophy Cassie gave him for being the world’s greatest Grandma (oh and now he’s the world’s greatest Grandma too? Typical.) However, Cassie’s taken the trophy to show and tell so they have to sneak into her school to get the trophy (Thing 3) so they can get the old suit (Thing 4) which they can then use to find the lab (Thing 2) to use alongside the component (Thing 1) to open the tunnel to get the information from Scott (Thing 5) that they need to rescue Janet (Thing 6).
They are indeed able to track the lab which is being stashed in the frickin’ Addams Family mansion, complete with a wolf howling in the background for ambience.
Hope and Scott suit up for the mission and they have a little scene where he apologises for not telling her about Germany. She tells him that if he’d asked her to come along, he never would have been captured. They then break into the mansion and are instantly captured so…yeah.
Ghost ties up Hope, Scott and Hank and reveals herself to be Ava (Hannah John-Kamen) who is working in league with…BILL FOSTER!
So let’s talk about Ghost. Ghost may be my least favourite villain in any MCU movie which is a damn shame because she has so much going for her. The costume is awesome, the power set is cool and Hannah John-Kamen is clearly a very talented actor who gives Ghost a quite effective “psycho teen stalker” affect. But on the writing level Ghost just doesn’t work for me. Back in my Avatar review I gave three criteria for a great villain; be entertaining, be scary or be believable.
Ghost is definitely not entertaining. She’s a teenage girl in constant pain who is slowly dying and is consumed with anger and bitterness. She is not a fun time. She’s not scary either. The costume, as I said, is cool and all but she’s not going to give anyone nightmares. That leaves being believable which I guess boils down to a villain who’s compelling because you can understand their motivations and even sympathise with her to a point. And the movie does try to make her sympathetic. See, Ava’s father was a man named Elias Starr, one of the seven million or so scientists who worked with Hank Pym in S.H.I.E.L.D. until it all collapsed into bitter acrimony. According to Ava, Hank had Starr fired and discredited and Starr decided to set up his own quantum research facility with blackjack and hookers. However, there is a reason why hookers and blackjack are not typically found in cutting-edge scientific facilities and Starr’s experiment at creating a quantum tunnel exploded and killed him, while leaving his daughter in a state of quantum uncertainty. Ava was taken in by S.H.I.E.L.D. who turned her into a stealth operative because they never need secretaries or human resource managers and when S.H.I.E.L.D. fell Bill Foster took her in and let her stay in his haunted house while he worked on a cure for her.
What makes Ghost so uniquely unsatisfying as a villain is that on the one hand she has a genuinely tragic backstory and is actually dying so it’s hard to root for her to fail. But on the other hand she’s so utterly self-interested and concerned with her own pain to the exclusion of all else that it’s equally hard to root for her. So you’re left with someone who’s just kind of there. And lastly, her dialogue is just the pits. I always title reviews of sequels in this series with a line from the villain and look what I had to settle for! Garbage. Oh Loki, my snarky prince. How I miss thee.
Anyway, Bill Foster explains that Ava wanted to straight up murder Hank but that he instead told her to watch him instead, which is how Bill and Ava learned that Janet is still alive in the quantum realm.
Bill explains that Janet has been down in the quantum realm, soaking up quantum energy like a sponge. He’s going to extract that energy and use it repair Ava’s molecular damage and Hank is all “YOU’RE CRAZY” and yeah that sounds pretty fucking crazy, I’m actually with Doctor Pym on this one. Hank is understandably not on board with Bill’s plan to crack open his wife for her sweet quantum juices and baste his adopted daughter in them like a Christmas roast and fakes a heart attack. Bill, trying to save Hank’s life, is repaid for his basic humanity when the “heart medicine” he’s asked to give hank turns out to be (what else?) ANTS who free our trio who take Thing 2 and set to work trying to complete the quantum tunnel.
Oh, and Hank claims that Starr was a traitor who was stealing his work and that Bill has been filling Ava’s head with lies and…nope. Do not buy. Not in the market. I mean sure, Foster obviously has beef with Pym and they’re definitely not on each other’s Christmas card lists. But the idea that he would deliberately lie to Ava about her father’s death to turn her against Hank Pym? It just doesn’t jibe with what we see of Foster’s character, who may do some morally questionable things but only ever out of honorable motives (saving Ava’s life). Besides, if the movie wants me to believe that Bill Foster is some kind of lying duplicitous snake, they probably shouldn’t have cast Laurence Fishbourne in the role. I’d believe him if he told me eating cheese makes you lose weight.
Anyway Hope tells Scott that she’s nervous about meeting her mother again because she might be a completely different person and Scott says “Like George Washington” and Hope says “I’m serious.”
Scott gets a call from Luis who is freaking out because their firm is meeting with a major client in the morning and he needs Scott to do some work on the proposal. So Scott tells Luis where he is (in Thing 2, which is in the forest, shrunk to the size of a suitcase). Before we can wonder how Scott’s phone, which is currently the size of a dust mite, can receive a call from Luis’ regular sized phone, Burch and his goons show up at Luis’ office to find out where Scott is. Luis refuses to talk for the first time in his adult life, so one of Burch’s henchmen injects him with sodium thiopental. Giving truth serum to Luis is like throwing a gremlin in a swimming pool and we get one of Luis’ patented nested flashbacks where we see Scott and Hope mouthing Luisims at each other which I’ll admit is pretty funny. Burch finally gets Luis to tell him where Scott is and Ghost suddenly appears and reveals she’s been listening in and spying on them this whole time like a filthy Pym and then vanishes again to leave Luis, Burch and their respective posses to their soiled laundry.
Meanwhile, in the lab, Hank succeeds in opening a quantum tunnel and Scott is suddenly possessed by Janet who uses him to give Hank and Hope her co-ordinates in the quantum realm so that they can come and rescue her. Then the rift closes and Scott wakes up to find himself tenderly holding Hank’s hand. Fortunately, this is not the first time Scott Lang’s body has been used to bring a husband and wife closer together so he’s mostly cool with it.
Hank and Hope get ready for their trip to Shroedinger’s back yard but Scott gets a call from Luis warning him that Burch knows where he is and has ratted him out to the FBI so he needs to get home ASAP. Scott tells Hank who can’t believe that Scott told Luis where they were, but Scott tries to explain that they’re four ex-cons whose livelihood relies on landing this account and Hank’s all “DID I ASK YOU TO BORE ME WITH YOUR POOR PEOPLE PROBLEMS GAWD!”
Scott am-scrays back to his home just as Woo is battering down the door and so just barely avoids a twenty year sentence in whatever Kafakesque super-prison the US government has cooked up this week.
Meanwhile, the Pyms have not been so lucky and are arrested by the Feds. And I kinda feel happy for the FBI that they get to do this kind of stuff now that S.H.I.E.L.D. turned out to be mostly Nazis. Must be nice for them. They take custody of Thing 2, but Ghost steals it back so we’re pretty much back where we started. Again.
Back at his home, Scott hears from Woo that the Pyms have been arrested and he feels really guilty for letting down the people who drugged and abducted him because Stockholm syndrome is a bitch. Cassie tells him that there’s nothing wrong with risking a twenty year prison sentence and the prospect of never seeing his family again if it means he gets to put on a suit and punch some dudes so he decides to bust Hank and Hope out of federal jail because what, he’s supposed to ignore the ten year old’s advice? That’s crazy talk.
In their holding cell, Hope reveals to Hank that’s she’s got a shrinker which she can use to shrink the wall of the cell which will cause the building to collapse, killing a great many federal employees and allowing them to escape in the confusion. Before we get to see the MCU’s equivalent of the Oklahoma City bombing, Scott shows up with a suit for Hope and a disguise for Hank and they just walk out of there and drive off.
Meanwhile, two of Burch’s goons have apparently been waiting outside FBI headquarters on the off chance that the Pyms were able to escape from federal custody and that seems awfully prescient for a man who thinks that “Oui” being French for “Yes” is not common knowledge.
Hank reveals that after the lab was stolen he designed a new way of keeping track of it.
They find the lab, Scott distracts Ghost, Hank captures Bill (using ants, of all things), Hank travels into the Quantum Realm and Hope and Luis shrink the lab and drive off with it in their van with Ghost in hot pursuit. Also in hot pursuit is Burch. Along with his armed guards. And their military grade jeeps. And motorbike outriders.
Hey, question? Is Burch a restauranteur with a sideline in illegal tech sales or is he, like, the dictator of a small Latin American nation because that is some impressive levels of manpower he is bringing to bear.
Alright, so while Hope, Luis, Burch, Ghost and a now giant-sized Scott Lang play hunt-the-maguffin, Hank searches the Quantum Realm and finds Janet at last. And, fair is fair, a scene where a husband and wife reuniting after twenty years is pretty affecting in and of itself and both Douglas and Pfeiffer sell the hell out of it so good job movie. In fact, it’s almost heartwarming enough to make me forget a few questions this scene raises.
Hank brings Janet back to the normal…sized…place…where Hope and Scott are in the middle of a battle with Ghost. But, because Janet has returned from the quantum realm with the power to wrap everything up in a NEAT LITTLE PACKAGE she is able to cure Ghost so that’s nice. Jeez, what was the first draft of this scene? Almighty Zeus descends on a machine and makes all well?
Incidentally, when I first saw this movie I thought the plot was going in a completely different direction. I thought that it would turn out that Janet had been pregnant when she went into the quantum realm and that Ghost was her daughter who she had managed to send back to normal space with a massive chip on her shoulder against her Dad and her older sister but then when it was revealed that Ghost was biracial I thought they were going to reveal that Bill Foster was actually her Dad because Janet was going to leave Hank right before she disappeared and that’s why Bill has such a grudge against Hank and okay when I type it out like this it would have been way to two dark and depressing for an Ant-Man sequel and this is probably why I never got that job writing for soap operas.
Anyway, the awful Pyms are reunited, Scott escapes back home just before the Feds show up meaning his house arrest is over, Bill and Ghost escape to start a new life together and I hear that giant ant got signed to a band.
Pretty much cements the Ant-Man universe as my least favourite corner of the MCU. It’s not terrible. It’s just very meh.
Not so much a story as series of set-pieces and comedic pits strung together with elastic and crazy glue.
Our Heroic Heroes: 20/25
Paul Rudd could be playing Pol Pot in yellowface and he’d still be affably charming.
Our Nefarious Villain: 4/25
Will remain the worst villain in the MCU until Stilt-Man gets his moment to shine.
Our Plucky Sidekicks: 15/25
Less dodgy ethnic comedy sidekick shenanigans this time around, which is good. Abby Ryder Fortson continues to be dangerously adorable as Cassie. Randall Park is a delight.
The Pyms send Scott on a research mission into the quantum realm and it all goes swimmingly until Scott asks to be brought back and there’s no answer. We cut back to the real world and see that Hank, Hope and Janet have been replaced by three piles of ash…
And the audience went…
Oh yeah. Thanos. Forgot about him, didn’t ya?
The second stinger
Back in Scott’s house, the giant ant is still playing drums.
And the audience went…
Movie, you just murdered three main characters in front of our very eyes. There is a time for your funny little ant scene. It is not now.
Hey, was that Stan Lee?!
That was Stan Lee, reacting to his car shrinking in front of his very eyes by saying “Well, the sixties were fun, but I’m paying for it”. Dude, you lived to 96. Whatever drugs you took, I want some.
Do they seem skrully to you?
Coming back from the dead? Kinda skrully.
Suddenly exhibiting new powers and having mysteriously survived in a place where no one should be able to live? Really skrully.
Fucking with Hank Pym’s emotions? TOTAL SKRULL MOVE.
FINAL SCORE: 48%
NEXT UPDATE: 14 February 2019
NEXT TIME: Will Amazon get the DVD to Mouse’s house in time for the review? Tune in to find out!