Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
★★★ / ★★★★
Peyton Reed’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp” may be lacking the epic scale that some of the other Marvel movies possess, but what it has to offer is equally invaluable: terrific entertainment without even lifting a finger. And yet—it tries to engage the viewer every step of the way, whether it be in terms of wacky banters, larger-than-life action pieces, or surprisingly emotional turns of the plot which remind us that our protagonists are fighting for something close to home: to rescue a family member (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the so-called Quantum Realm, a universe composed of worlds in a subatomic scale.
Under Reed’s direction, the film moves at a brisk pace with imagination to spare. Notice that although action scenes almost always involve Dr. Hank Pym’s (Michael Douglas) miniaturized lab being stolen, and it can be argued that one or two of them drag during the latter half, a new setting is consistently utilized to show us interesting ways for Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) to exercise their powers. What results are memorable scenes with distinct flavors. Particularly impressive is the car chase that unfolds in the winding and hilly streets San Francisco which leads to our hero increasing his size to dangerous levels in order to chase a tour boat in Fisherman’s Wharf. Although these scenes are busy and exciting, the effervescent humor runs parallel to them.
There is a running joke about magic tricks but the approach likens that of a juggling act. The rescue mission lies in the center but there are also bits such as the house arrest of Scott Lang (Rudd) following the events of “Captain America: Civil War,” in which an FBI agent (Randall Park) attempts to keep a close watch, an enigmatic figure called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who is able to walk to through walls but is in constant nearly unbearable pain, and a black market dealer (Walton Goggins) hoping to steal the lab’s technologies and make a healthy profit. It even has time to inject the humor of the X-Con Security crew (Michael Peña, T.I., David Dasmalchian). Somehow these elements work together not only because of the performances but also due to the screenplay being written smartly, always aware not to wear out a subplot’s running gag.
Like numerous Marvel movies, the “Ant-Man” sequel suffers from an antagonist that ought to have been more interesting. While Ghost is provided a rudimentary background, and it is great that she is not intended to function as a typical villain who wish to end the world or make people suffer, she is not intriguing outside of what she can do to prevent Ant-Man and the Wasp from pulling off their central mission. While John-Kamen is fit for the role, I recognized a common ailment that performers rely on when the material does not inject enough substance into its characters: quirky behavior. More interesting, however, is her relationship with a father-like figure. I wished to know more about them and their work together following Ghost’s orphanhood.
Another relationship worth further examination is the titular characters’. Scott and Hope’s more romantic moments are reduced to awkward dialogues (mostly executed and dragged on by Scott without losing a percentage of charm) and googly-eyed exchanges. While the romantic chemistry between Rudd and Lilly is strong, we do not experience genuine growth in their relationship nor do we recognize that, following their struggles in this film, they come to see one another under a new light, that they appreciate one another more. I suppose something has got to give when the action and comedy must be at the forefront. Yet one can argue that we should expect more exactly because the writers and filmmakers are so talented in juggling disparate elements.
Despite its secondary shortcomings, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” offers great fun. It is always visually dazzling whenever the film showcases images from a miniaturized point of view, particularly during the action sequence at a hotel kitchen. Even more daring images are found within the Quantum Realm, the pavonine colors almost overwhelming the senses.
★★★ / ★★★★
Recently released from prison and unable to provide child support for his daughter (Abby Ryder Forston), desperate Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) results to yet another burglary. This time is different, however, because the safe he breaks into does not shelter money or jewels. Instead, inside is a suit that has the ability turn its wearer to the size of an ant.
Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) has invented this game-changing technology and he believes that Scott is the best candidate to break into a biotechnology company, locate the Yellowjacket—another suit that allows the wearer to turn minuscule—and destroy its data. The mission is of particular importance because Darren Cross (Corey Stoll), the company’s owner and Dr. Pym’s former protégé, hopes to sell this technology which would inevitably be used for warfare.
Although it does not stack up against the best of Marvel’s movies, “Ant-Man,” directed by Peyton Reed, is entertaining, funny, and creative nonetheless. Rudd is a daring casting choice for the superhero but it is a risk that works because the actor possesses a magnetic, effortless light. It is critical that we are drawn to the central character when he is not wearing the incredible suit because one can observe that the screenplay places more emphasis on human drama and relationships than the action—which sets it apart from the other Marvel offerings. Due to this difference, it is another reason why the film, despite its limitations, is worth seeing.
Once the world of the minuscule is introduced, the picture reaches a high level of excitement. We wonder how it is going to surprise us—and it is able to with just about every opportunity where Scott turns into Ant-Man. There is a wonderful sense of detail, from the molds growing in the bathtub to the fibers of a rug. At one point I wondered how it must be like to actually be that small. It is important that the CGI does not get in the way of the experience.
Furthermore, I enjoyed that when the suit worn, it does not always involve fighting an enemy or stealing an item. On the contrary, there are plenty of practice sessions which gives way for happy accidents and big laughs. Because Scott, without or without the suit, is flawed and vulnerable, it makes him more likable and interesting than the likes of other Marvel heroes like the sinewy but rather dull Thor.
We get plenty of opportunities to understand the motivations of the villain. Cross is not a complex character, but Stoll plays him with a cool menace. The performer is able to communicate that his character’s obsession to surpass his former mentor is only a half-step away from madness. This makes him curious but also dangerous. It is more entertaining than watching a villain who is so disconnected from reality from the get-go that he comes off too silly or cartoonish over the story’s arc.
“Ant-Man” functions on a smaller scale, in more ways than one, but the presentation is fresh, the performances are charming and energetic, and the action inspires a child-like sense of wonder, at best shown during a final battle involving a train set. It is a reminder that Marvel movies should not only be action-packed but also fun and escapist.
Yes Man (2008)
★★ / ★★★★
Jim Carrey stars as Carl, a guy who learns to stop having fun by sticking to his regular routines even years after he and his wife gets a divorce. After bumping into an old friend (John Michael Higgins) and discussing whether Carl is really happy with where he is in life, the friend recommends a program where the members say “yes” to every opportunity that comes their way no matter how seemingly insignificant such opportunities are. The first third of this film was really funny because of the many ways Carl tries to avoid hanging out with his friends (Danny Masterson and the charming Bradley Cooper), particularly that scene in the videostore. In some ways, I could relate to Carrey’s character because I have those times when I’d rather stay in at night by myself and watch a movie or two instead of going out with friends. But things quickly deteriorated after Carl finally joins the Yes Man program. Admittedly, the first few scenes were still comical but after the tenth time he gets invited to do something and he had to say yes, I couldn’t help but wonder if the movie has something else to offer. Luckily, Zooey Deschanel played Carrey’s romantic interest because there’s just something about her–a certain je ne sais quoi–that mesmerizes me every time she’s on screen. Although I’ve heard from some people that the age difference bothered them, it didn’t bother me because I thought there was a strange chemistry between the two of them. While I still enjoyed Carrey’s manic style of acting, the script did not strive to take the story to the next level. Therefore, the picture became a somewhat entertaining and predictable safe comedy. I wish that the film focused more on the negative repercussions of saying “yes” to everything (which it only briefly touched upon) instead of glamorizing a program’s motif. Perhaps with a little alteration from the script and a better direction (Peyton Reed), “Yes Man” would’ve been funny and smart instead of just being moderately amusing.