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Return of Marvel's smallest superhero

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Ant-Man and the Wasp: Scott Lang must once again put on the suit and learn to fight alongside The Wasp as the team works together to uncover secrets from their past

Ant-Man and the Wasp (12A)
Running time 1hr 58min
Rating **

WHILE it might sound like the best ’80s post-punk outfit that never existed, Ant-Man and the Wasp is, in fact, the sequel to Marvel’s 2015 sleeper hit Ant-Man. With a screenplay penned by British national treasure Edgar Wright, the original was akin to a PG-13 Deadpool, replete with hip-ironic schmaltz and CGI silliness, but parched for anything in the way of aesthetic or satirical edge; in fact, watching it three years after the event, it plays poorly in comparison with Fox’s lewder, much funnier
franchise. Still, Apatow veteran Paul Rudd proved an inspired choice in bringing the pint-sized superhero to life – whereas DC’s attempts to rehabilitate Aquaman crashed and died on the rocks, it’s safe to say that Ant-Man, formerly a laughing stock among Marvel comic fans, now stands alongside Iron Man, Spiderman and Doctor Strange in the pantheon of ‘serious’ cinematic idols.

Anyway – this new movie picks up with our hero under house arrest after a poorly-explicated episode of derring-do (for all the salacious details, watch the last Captain America movie). A film about Ant-Man’s long walk to freedom might’ve been the spoofy trump card director Peyton Reed appears at odds to locate (particularly with Wright absent from the new project), but this sequel charts a course more familiar, with Ant-Man roped into ‘one more’ misadventure by transmogrification expert Dr Pym (played by the indispensable Michael Douglas). Pym’s wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), was (literally) reduced to subatomic matter after a bungled black ops gig 30 years prior; being the only other human being with any relevant experience in this, um, area, Ant-Man must (literally) cut himself down to size again to rescue her. This time, he’s accompanied by the Pyms’ daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), who has herself adopted the kick-ass alter ego of The Wasp. Lilly handles many a fight scene with swashbuckling bravado – it’s a shame that, despite her character’s title credit, the film is all too keen to sideline her.

Indeed, this is the big problem with both the original Ant-Man and Part Deux – it’s The Paul Rudd Show, a comic colossus that constantly threatens to crash down upon viewers for its total lack of flavour and subtlety. Whoever’s behind the camera seems dead-set on relegating the movie’s most intriguing elements to the status of mere background fodder, there to support a robust, if increasingly aimless, main act. The pairing of Pfeiffer and Douglas makes for a frequently tantalising watch; here, it might be said, was the opportunity for a barmy ’80s throwback. The Wasp, meanwhile, offers a momentary glimpse at the gender-bending action-thriller that might have been, but the film flies starkly in the face of Marvel’s progressive turn of late – the male characters are, by far, the big attraction here, and their dominion is bolstered by everything from a tritely conservative script to Reed’s innovative, if undisciplined, direction.

Super-sequels occasionally opt to expand on the scale and mythos of the previous film, finding, in the process, a surprising new niche for themselves (nearly 15 years on, for instance, X2 remains by far the best of the X-Men franchise); more often, they’re crude, unadventurous, even muddled affairs, serving only to remind us how good their predecessors really were (a description which, this critic controversially maintains, befits most of the Marvel follow-ups to date). Ant-Man and the Wasp is NOT worse than Ant-Man, but that film set a pretty low bar. At any rate; rather, it’s more of the same, a star vehicle that’s flashy, bright and, when all’s said and done, painfully hollow.

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