Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp is set to be released in theaters Thursday, July 5 and we had an amazing sneak-peek of the movie earlier this week in IMAX 3D. I usually am not a huge 3D fan, but this movie did it well and I can honestly say it has been probably one of the best movies I’ve seen so far this year. So grab your family, friends and indulge in all the shrinking and un-shrinking this movie has to offer.
With the summer blockbuster season already well underway, and Marvel’s tent pole giant ‘Avengers Infinity War’ released over a month ago, here comes their third film of the year. I’m happy to say it not only is nowhere near the point of franchise fatigue, but it might make it out as my favorite Marvel movie of the year.
Scott Lang / Ant Man (Paul Rudd) is paying for his crime of fighting with the Avengers back in ‘Captain America: Civil War,’ and is now stuck. Through the watchful eye of FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), Scott is still under house arrest for a few more days before his sentence is up. However, when Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily) find that Paul’s trip to the quantum zone in the previous film indicated his wife Janet (Michelle Pfeifer) might still be alive, Pym kidnaps Scott and enlists him to assist in getting her back. Unfortunately, other parties like black market dealer Sonny (Walton Goggins) and the mysterious quantum displaced ‘Ghost’ (Hannah John-Kamen) are highly interested in acquiring Pym’s technology. It may take the help of Scott’s friend Luis (Michael Pena) and Pym’s old colleague / rival Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) to complete construction of his quantum tunnel and prevent it from falling into the wrong hands.
With the overloaded crossover event that was ‘Avengers Infinity War,’ it was absolutely the right decision to take a couple steps down the ladder and go back to the relatively small scale of the Ant Man series (Incidentally that pun was intended, and I think it was intended by Marvel, too). It paces the succession of the movies well, and avoids audience exhaustion by switching up the narrative. In minimizing the scope of the story to essentially a simple heist / fugitives-on-the-run-style movie, that not only lets the audience breathe but also provides variety in the series. While before you could say all the Avengers movies bleed together in your memory, now you can’t say that ‘Infinity War’ and this movie felt the same since they’re completely different in plot, characters, and tone.
It’s also much funnier than any recent addition to the MCU. Peyton Reed returns from the original in the director’s chair, and his unique comic voice is still evident. He continues to provide amusing dialogue with interesting camera work and distinctive visuals, and it feels very much in line with the original ‘Ant-Man’ without feeling derivative.
Rudd also returns, and once again brings his typical boyish charm. Pena comes back in his scene stealing role as the talkative Luis. We get a retread of his famous ‘recap’ scene from the original, but the set up to it occurring is integrated well into the story, and it is absolutely hysterical to see the other characters in the movie acting out his description of events and mouthing words that he says. His assistants Kurt and Dave (played by David Dastmalchian and T.I.) are blatantly comic relief, but they’re good comic relief.
Of course, all these people are helped by a great script, full of quick quips and humorous visuals, like Pym directing giant ants as they assist in the construction of the quantum gate. Michael Douglas fits right in to the role of the cranky old man, with plenty of great retorts to Rudd’s occasional quip. A particular highlight is shown in the trailer of Rudd assuming Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp suit wasn’t technologically available when he was acting as Ant-Man, only for Douglas to respond immediately that it was.
That’s not to say there isn’t genuine drama occurring. John-Kamen is a very interesting grey area character, where she’s villainous, but only from the protagonists’ perspectives. She simply wants to end her suffering and become a normal human again, but her desperation has led her to questionable actions. Goggins’ black market dealer Sonny is both a smooth menacing operator, and a comedic southern gentlemen stereotype as he relentlessly pursues Hope and Hank’s lab. He walks the fine line between being both a legitimate threat and a figure of comedy, like the hilarious visual of him running away with the shrunk lab in his hands.
Special Effects, use of miniaturization
This features some of the greatest effects work seen yet in the MCU. It was somewhat appalling to watch the previous Marvel movies this year and note how poor most of the computer graphics looked, so this was a comparative breath of fresh air. The use of the minimizing and enlarging sizes is used to creative effect as well, with normal sized objects being enlarged as obstacles, and large objects being minimized to avoid enemy attacks. It makes for action scenes totally unique to this film, and simultaneously memorable, imaginative, and funny sequences too, like the climactic car chase shown in the trailer. In particular, the Pez dispenser getting chucked out the back of a van and enlarged to stop the chasing bad guys is great. It’s not cheap product placement when it’s used in a creative and non-intrusive way, and it’s even set up before the action begins that Luis has the Pez dispenser. I loved it.
In line with the fabulous effects work, we had the privilege of seeing the film on the IMAX screen in 3D. Unlike typical 3D movies that are converted into that format after the fact, this movie was clearly shot with the intention of making it 3D. That goes a long way to making the film look good and the 3D effect being integrated properly into the shots, and it is used well every time, from normal dialogue scenes where it’s not in the way, to action set pieces with objects flying around the screen.
There are also immersive shows of the technical capability of the effects team when characters enter the quantum zone, with a 2001 A Space Odyssey-style stargate entrance shot that is only enhanced when seen in 3D and on an IMAX screen. Then there’s the creative visuals of the quantum realm itself. If I have any complaint about it, it’s that there wasn’t enough of it. If you have the ability, I absolutely recommend a 3D viewing. It won’t disappoint.
All in all, ‘Ant Man and the Wasp’ is a tiny movie with a big punch. It’s a load of great fun, and just what the MCU needed after the comparatively dark Avengers: Infinity War. Even as a display of what a 3D movie can be, it’s fabulous. Without a doubt, it left me with a better feeling than any Marvel film in the last couple years. The dark conclusion of ‘Infinity War’ is acknowledged in the mid credits scene, but unlike that film, this ending makes me want to see what happens next because the characters are that well developed. Here’s hoping we get more Ant-Man adventures to come, and more Marvel output of high quality like this.