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Siraj Syed


Siraj Syed is the India Correspondent for FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the International Federation of Film Critics. He is a Film Festival Correspondent since 1976, Film-critic since 1969 and a Feature-writer since 1970. 

 

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Ant-Man and the Wasp, Review: Wassup the ante

Ant-Man and the Wasp: Wassup the ante

Ant-Man 2 begins while Scott Lang is under house arrest by the FBI, some two years after he interfered with Captain America’s mission in Germany. That is in perfect sync with Ant-Man 1, which was released in 2015. Part 2 features expanding and shrinking ants, wasps that fly at fabulous speeds and a woman who suffers from 'ghost syndrome', which makes her body density change from visible to almost invisible and again visible, in milliseconds. There is considerable talk about quantum, but you’ll go back after having enjoyed a decent quantum of thrilling fun.

Lasting just under two hours, the Marvel Comics Universe franchise film’s plot consists of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) grappling with the consequences of his choices, as both a Super Hero and a father. As he struggles to rebalance his home life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man, he’s confronted by Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), with an urgent new mission. All along, he has to honour his confinement and play ‘grandma’ to his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), who he gets to see only occasionally, since his wife Maggie (Judy Greer) has remarried Jim Paxton (Bobby Canaveral) and has custody of their girl.

A short recap of Ant-Man 1 is in order: In 1987, Janet van Dyne (the original Wasp/Michelle Pfeiffer) shrinks between the molecules of a Soviet nuclear missile, disabling it, but becoming trapped in the sub-atomic quantum realm (physics students please translate for your friends and family). Hank Pym (Ant-Man) raises their daughter Hope alone, believing that Janet is dead. Former criminal Scott Lang takes up the mantle of Ant-Man and discovers a way to both enter and return from the quantum realm. Pym and Hope begin work on repeating this feat, believing they may find Janet alive. Lang and Hope also start a subtle romantic relationship, and begin training to fight together as Ant-Man and the Wasp, until Lang secretly helps Captain America, during a skirmish between the Avengers, in violation of the Segovia Accords. Lang is placed under house arrest, while Pym and Hope go into hiding and cut ties with Lang.

Two years later (now), Pym and Hope briefly manage to open a tunnel to the quantum realm. Lang receives an apparent ‘message’ in a dream, from Janet, with whom he is quantum (neologism, for sure) entangled. Despite having only days left of house arrest, Lang decides to call Pym. Hope kidnaps Lang, leaving a decoy giant ant in his place with Lang’s FBI monitor attached to its foot, so as not to arouse suspicion from FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park). Seeing the message as confirmation that Janet is alive, Pym and Hope work to create a stable tunnel, so they can take a vehicle to the quantum realm and retrieve Janet.

Hope arranges to buy a part needed for the tunnel from black market dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) , but Burch has realised the potential profit that can be earned from Pym and Hope's research and double-crosses them, striking a deal with a rogue FBI agent. Hope fights Burch and his men off, until she is attacked by a quantum unstable masked woman. Lang tries to help fight off this ‘ghost’, but she escapes with Pym's portable lab, which he had shrunk for safety. The woman is later revealed to be Ava Starr (Hannah John-Kaman), whose father, Elias (Michael Carvers), used to work for Pym. Pym seeks help from his former partner, and now sworn enemy, Bill Foster (Laurence Fishbone).

Paul Rudd has contributed to the screenplay and gets last billing among four penmen. Three more writers were employed: Gabriel Ferrari & Andrew Barrer and Chris McKenna. Ferrari and Barrer have been a team for some time now, with several drafts and speculative scripts. Ant-Man and the Wasp is their first big break. Ferrari has worked on The Lego Batman Movie, Spider-Man: Homecoming and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle.

McKenna wrote the jokes for Captain America: Winter Soldier. Perhaps the punches in Ant-Man 2--like Rudd saying, “Do you guys have to prefix every line with ‘quantum’?” , him abbreviating Captain America to “Cap”, and the passing the buck rap number picturised lip sync on half a dozen members of the cast in succession--are his handiwork. Humour in this film is judiciously mixed, coming in just when the going gets too ‘physicscal’, and never going over-board.

Peyton Reed directs. He is known for comedy films he helmed, like Down with Love, Yes Man, Bring It On, The Break-Up, as well as Ant-Man 1. Quite naturally, the humour is palpable. But there is also a generous dose both of feel-good and tear-jerking stuff, including single parenting and the plight of two women—Janet and Ava--doomed to an existence that no human being would wish upon herself.

He has a cast that is on par with many a top heavy adventure drama, and except for Michael Douglas looking out of sorts, they all deliver convincing sketches. You can fault Ant-Man 2 on many counts, but then you would have to come out of your ‘suspension of disbelief mode’, Part nn, which will kill all the fun. Size has rarely been used so effectively and on a couple of occasions, the quantum leap (pargon the jardon) is likely to have audiences applauding.

Paul Rudd, at 48, adopts a dead-pan expression that helps him take-off into role-play at the drop of a hat, like in the scene where he is seemingly possessed by Janet, and the ‘quantum’ joke. He has a broad visage, and the technique works fine. Evangeline Lilly as is gutsy and practical in equal measure, with just that touch of romance, stepping into her mother’s shoes, with élan, and pulling up Paul for the mess he created in Germany. Michael Peña, who was Lang's former cellmate and a member of his X-Con Security crew, gets to rap on a truth serum, which then extends to other members of the cast. Ludicrous? Humorous! Bobby Cannavale, a talent to watch, is once again wasted. I have a feeling that he must have had a longer part that fell victim to editorial scissors.

Here comes Hannah John-Kamen, and a plethora of expressions and, with speaking eyes to boot. A discovery, for sure. Abby Ryder Fortson fits the role of a pre-teens doting daughter her doting father, and holds her own among the adults. Chinky features do not deter Randall Park from putting in a witty line here and there. Michelle Pfeiffer, with those orb like eyes, is a veteran and up to the task. Laurence Fishburne is easily himself, and, FYI, the younger Fishburne is played by his son, Langston (and poor me was under the impression that this is Laurence, with a wig)!

Michael Douglas, at 73 going on 74, shows signs of aging and frailty, though his high-pitch delivery remains the same. The scene, wherein he feigns heart illness, to deceive Foster maybe unethical or immoral, but it’s a clever ploy. Walter Goggins is sinister. Divian Ladwa is Uzman, the truth serum man, who hates calling his drug that. Stan Lee, co-creator of the titular heroes at Marvel comics and a producer on all its franchise movies, has, always, a cameo. He recalls the 60s, as his car gets shrunk by accident.

In a mid-credits scene...c’mon, see it yourself!

Rating: *** ½

Trailer: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UUkn-enk2RU

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About Siraj Syed

Syed Siraj
(Siraj Associates)

Siraj Syed is a film-critic since 1970 and a Former President of the Freelance Film Journalists' Combine of India.

He is the India Correspondent of FilmFestivals.com and a member of FIPRESCI, the international Federation of Film Critics, Munich, Germany

Siraj Syed has contributed over 1,015 articles on cinema, international film festivals, conventions, exhibitions, etc., most recently, at IFFI (Goa), MIFF (Mumbai), MFF/MAMI (Mumbai) and CommunicAsia (Singapore). He often edits film festival daily bulletins.

He is also an actor and a dubbing artiste. Further, he has been teaching media, acting and dubbing at over 30 institutes in India and Singapore, since 1984.


Bandra West, Mumbai

India



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