Ant-Man and the Wasp Review

Why?

Why’d they make this? Why’d they let Peyton Reed direct another Marvel movie? Why’s this movie so messy? Why’s it so unmemorable? Why does this movie make so little sense? Why is it mostly unfunny in a universe that’s known to be funny? Why am I the only one thinking any of this? Am I going crazy? Where is Gamora? Who is Gamora? Why is Gamora? What is real? Why does everything on this planet have the potential to kill you? Why are we here? Is it to suffer? Are we just brains in jars, running through an endless amount of simulations until we’re eaten by aliens? How many more superhero movies will I have to sit through until I’m inevitably killed by natural forces or someone who didn’t like my opinions on The Road to El Dorado?

I might be overreacting. It’s not a terrible movie. Well, maybe it is. I don’t know.

I’ve struggled to rate this movie, or accurately articulate my thoughts about it. The first time I watched it, I thought it was pretty enjoyable. I laughed a few times, nothing really jumped out at me as being bad, but also nothing really jumped out as good to me. The second time was… different. I came to realize that this movie might be the laziest Marvel movie ever conceived.

The most immediate problem with this movie is exposition. Dear Lord, this movie doesn’t know how to establish itself. I’m gonna break down a scene that is a pretty good example of my point and doesn’t have any spoilers in it. Randall Park plays an FBI agent assigned to Scott/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) as a parole officer, as Scott’s been put under house arrest as a result of the events of Civil War. His two years are almost up, and his daughter (only just now, apparently) decides to ask Randall why her dad is under house arrest. He proceeds to explain to her why Scott’s confined to his home in a mildly comedic way that should have been the only thing he said about Scott’s situation. After all, Scott already knows why he’s stuck, and how house arrest works. Nah. He proceeds to explain to Scott the conditions of his arrest and conveniently mentions that he shouldn’t keep in contact with Hank (Michael Douglas) or Hope (Evangeline Lilly), despite the fact that he hasn’t even talked to them for two years and already knows all of this.

I would have been just fine with it if he had explained the bulk of this to his daughter. Then the biggest (and really, only) problem with the scene would have been the question of why she hadn’t been told any of this before. You wanna know what would have completely fixed it, though? If the beginning of the movie was set right after Cap breaks everyone out at the end of Civil War. It would have made sense for Randall to be telling him about the conditions of his arrest, the reason why he was going to be put under house arrest would be obvious, and it might have made room for a fun montage where Scott adjusts to this new lifestyle of not being able to leave his house. Maybe a bit where he keeps accidentally tripping the alarm when he absentmindedly tries to take out the trash or something. It would be a nice bit of visual comedy with some good pacing that wouldn’t feel lazy and forced. Additionally, it might have been memorable. Memorable moments are in short supply for this movie.

This movie is chock-full of good ideas and potential for fun scenes. Hank has figured out how to shrink everything. The Ant-Man suit, a car, a building. The car leads to a halfway decent car chase that goes on for too long, but they hardly do anything with the idea of not just shrinking Ant-Man, but anything. Remember that Spongebob episode where he accidentally shrinks the entirety of Bikini Bottom? The people attack him by crawling into his body and kicking around his organs? and Plankton comes back from a trip to find that he’s the largest thing in the whole town? Funny episode, right? They took the idea of shrinking stuff and ran a marathon with it. Here, the closest this movie gets is shrinking a car, driving underneath another, and growing big again. Which is fine, but that’s the coolest thing they do with it. It just feels like there’s a mountain of potential for cool visuals, but the movie’s content with just picking up a rock they found next to it. There’s a fight in a kitchen that falls surprisingly flat. Wasp runs around on a countertop, tomatoes exploding behind her, but it feels no different than a normal-sized person running from explosions. At least the first Ant-Man had Scott climbing up a firing gun. That was pretty cool. This movie just feels uninspired.

Speaking of uninspired, let’s talk about the villain. Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) is a girl who phases in and out of reality because of some quantum (by the way, they say “quantum” about seven hundred billion times in this movie. They even acknowledge it, but that doesn’t make it any better) molecular mixing or something like that. She can walk through walls, that’s the important bit. I’d love to tell you more about her, but she doesn’t have anything to her. Her backstory and motivations are explained in a five-minute scene where Laurence Fishburne just explains everything about her to the main characters. They didn’t even try. It’s even lazier than Yellowjacket from the first Ant-Man.

Speaking of the first Ant-Man, I’ve heard people say they “at least liked this one better than the first one.” This is fine, you’re not wrong for thinking this, but I disagree. The first one, despite it being thoroughly unexceptional in every conceivable way, felt like it had a purpose. It was like the movie felt like it absolutely needed to introduce Ant-Man, and despite all the misgivings I have with it, it did it’s job. This movie felt like it was given the phrase “Ant-Man is _____ during the events of Infinity War” and then it worked backwards from there. It doesn’t feel like the filmmakers had a particular story or theme they wanted to tell, it just felt like everyone was getting a paycheck.

Let’s get positive. I’ve been a little negative for 1065 words. Paul Rudd is fun to watch, it seems like he’s having a good time. Pretty much everyone on screen feels like they’re having fun rather than working, which is in pretty stark contrast to the feeling I got from the filmmakers, but whatever. There’s a sequence at a school that I thought was mostly funny, Scott’s daughter is surprisingly pretty good at acting, Evangeline Lily and Paul Rudd’s chemistry is pretty good, although there’s not a lot of scenes that exemplify this. The funniest part of the movie involves Scott assuming another personality, I won’t go any further into description than that, but it’s funny.  The effects are passable, but the best thing about the movie is the mid-credits scene. It’s delightfully morbid, and they even increase the quality of the filmmaking for it. Speaking of the filmmaking…

It’s bland. The cinematography is without intention, it feels like they shot most everything for the purpose of coverage rather than any artistic intent. The music is inconsistent, but not because there are some good songs, but because it will start out good and interesting only to devolve into meaningless noise. So you could say it’s consistently inconsistent. The direction outside of the action usually involves people standing around and spouting exposition, filmed with standard shot-reverse-shot. This series really could’ve benefited from Edgar Wright working his magic.

Last thing I wanna mention is the story. It makes no sense. I’m fully down with wacky concepts like a quantum realm and stuff like that, but where this movie goes wrong is attempting to explain any of it. You wanna know why movies like Scott Pilgrim vs. the World and The Truman Show work? because they don’t even attempt to explain the logistics of things that just aren’t worth explaining. Sure, you could wonder how they made a TV set the size of a small town, but why would you? What would it add to the movie if they explained everything that went into making it? All we need to know is that it’s an ambitious TV endeavor that paid off and became the most popular TV show on Earth. Same with something as ludicrous as Scott Pilgrim. They seem to have a mixture of real-life rules and video game rules, but they don’t need to explain it. It wouldn’t add anything. It allows for more creative freedom, and it saves you the trouble of having to explain something inexplicable. Now, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t explain anything, but you need to know when to leave something to the audience so you can move on with the movie. This movie doesn’t know how to do that.

Sometimes I see a movie that makes me wonder why I review movies. Why I want to make them. If something as passionless and boring as this can be released to relative acclaim and success, why should I bother trying? If people are just fine watching the same thing over and over again, why should I risk being creative? I feel like Marvel asked themselves this question and couldn’t come up with an answer.

3/10 (Bad). I thought that I was being too harsh with this score, but it does many things that similarly-rated movies do, so why should I excuse this one?

Up next: It’s really, really weird.

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