Ant-Man and the Wasp movie review: It has its faults but Paul Rudd makes the ride worth watching
Here's a cheery little fact: Ant-Man and the Wasp is the 20th Marvel superhero movie to be released, a staggering fact when you realise how much these blessed things cost to make. Their onslaught is relentless, and many more lurk in the pipeline, but you'd have to say old Ant-Man is perhaps the most likeable, the least bombastic hero of the lot.
We first met him in the fun 2015 caper Ant-Man, which starred Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, a petty criminal who steals a rubber suit that reduces him to the size of an insect and bestows great strength.
It belonged to one Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), the original Ant-Man, who invented the technology and used it to fight crime before becoming estranged from the law enforcement agency SHIELD. He wanted Scott to steal the suit and help him wrest back control of his tech company from a grandiose maniac. So far so good, and when Scott fell for Hank's daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), things were definitely looking up. But during an unscheduled guest appearance in Captain America: Civil War, Scott broke the rules of his parole while helping Cap overcome his enemies.
Now he's under house arrest and Hank and Hope have gone into hiding after their secret scientific work was discovered. But with just days to go until his sentence is served, Scott is contacted by Hope, who also works in dynamic miniature as 'The Wasp'.
She and her father are trying to contact her mother, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who's been lost for years in the miniature wastelands of the quantum realm, presumed dead but possibly alive. Hank and Hope want to search for her, and will need Scott's help. But someone else is looking for Janet as well, and Ant-Man and Wasp will soon be confronted by a powerful new enemy.
So much for this film's slight but convoluted plot, the scientific details of which would give you a migraine if you thought about them for more than a few seconds. The thing is not to, because if you empty your mind and suspend disbelief, Ant-Man and the Wasp becomes perfectly enjoyable.
This is due, in large part, to Rudd, whose easy charm has been rescuing films and TV shows ever since he first showed up to bolster otherwise moribund episodes of Friends in the mid-90s. While most superheroes have tragedy and self-pity in their arsenal, Scott Lang is a bit of a chancer who happened upon his powers by accident and isn't quite sure what to do with them.
He's not a bad guy if you overlook the fact that he used to be a house breaker, and his lack of ego stands in refreshing contrast to such noisy big-heads as Batman, Iron Man, Doctor Strange and Thor. Scott doesn't get too worked up about anything, and seems to take his superhero status in his stride. He lives in San Francisco after all, and has a very laid-back, Californian attitude to it all.
His shrinking is often used to comic effect, and there's some nice business here involving cars and buildings that become tiny at the most inopportune moments. In Captain America: Civil War, Scott discovered that the magic suit can also make you huge, and that 'Giant-Man' routine is revisited amusingly late on in this film.
Lilly seems more relaxed here than she was in Ant-Man, and is given more jokes - as a consequence, the chemistry between her and Rudd (left) is more convincing. But this is a film crying out for a villain: the ghostly female played by Hannah John-Kamen is more to be pitied than feared, and Walton Goggins' scheming hoodlum is no Lex Luthor, plus he's insufficiently grandiose for my liking.
While the special effects that create it are blearily beautiful, the quantum realm bored the tar out of me. As a result, Ant-Man And The Wasp sags a bit in the middle, as the protagonists charge around trying to achieve something the concept of which is rather hard to grasp.
But just when things start getting boring, Rudd is on hand to reassure us, and the film's ending is a great deal of fun. Not sure if there'll be an Ant-Man 3, though.
Ant-Man and the Wasp (12A, 118mins) - 3 stars
Here's Chris Wasser's review: Ant-Man and the Wasp review: 'a funny, charming and reasonably breezy addition to the Marvel movie-canon'
Also releasing this week: Movie reviews: Sicilian Ghost Story, Teen Titans Go! To the Movies, The Big Bad Fox and Other Tales
Films coming soon...
The Meg (Jason Statham, Rainn Wilson, Winston Chao); The Darkest Minds (Mandy Moore, Amandla Stenberg, Bradley Whitford); The Image You Missed (Donal Foreman, Arthur MacCaig); Pope Francis: A Man Of His Word (Pope Francis, Joe Biden).