It can only be a sign of desperation in Ant-Man And The Wasp when the writers throw in not one, not two but three sets of villains for a super-hero to foil, writes Natalie Stendall.
With her father, scientist Hank Pym, Hope (aka Wasp), hatches a plan to shrink to sub-atomic size and rescue her mother, Janet, from the Quantum realm.
Hank (Michael Douglas) reduces their science lab to the size of a carry-on suitcase, the perfect size for damaged villain Ghost, the Feds and a tech-based criminal gang to steal. The barrage of ‘threats’ does little to raise the jeopardy in this by-numbers Marvel flick as Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) and his size altering super-suit join the mission to rescue both the lab and Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer).
After the success of 2015’s mould-breaking Ant-Man, this lacklustre sequel is a bitter disappointment. The screenplay sorely lacks the irreverent influence of Edgar Wright, Joe Cornish and Adam McKay. While the writers behind The Lego Batman Movie, Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, manage to squeeze in a few self-effacing gags between stale action sequences and wordy pseudo-science, their screenplay lacks the original’s rib-tickling edge. Paul Rudd puts everything into his passive-aggressive, sarcastic schtick but the material just isn’t there.
By inviting Ant-Man into the wider Avengers universe, the rebellious, faintly mocking, black sheep spirit of the original is smothered by backstory and a warm sense of inclusion. Bogged down in Captain America references, the first act might excite franchise fans. But, for the sporadic superhero audience, this love-in risks coming off far too pleased with itself.
While the screenplay offers newbies bundles of exposition, director Peyton Reed (Ant-Man, Yes Man, The Break-Up) thrusts us straight into melodrama without first building our connection with the characters. It leaves an emotional void at the centre of his sequel. Ant-Man’s romance with Evangeline Lily’s Wasp is tired and even the acidic jibes of Michael Douglas have us rooting for the opposition, anti-hero Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen).
Thank goodness for Michael Peña who steals every scene he’s in as Ant-Man’s security colleague Luis. A riff about truth serum sees Ant-Man and the Wasp finally return to form. And, of all Ant-Man’s rivals it’s the disposable criminal gang that provides the film with much of its comic lightness.
Overall, it’s a dull outing for Ant-Man this time, all the best bits crammed into the film’s promotional trailers. The absurdity of a giant Hello Kitty Pez and shrinking cars provides an entertaining distraction from the same old formulas, but what this sequel really needs is a good dose of irreverence.