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THE FORMULA CONTINUES: Marvel’s latest ‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’ lacks scope

‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’ is perfectly passable entertainment that incites a smile and a chuckle and an occasional warm fuzzy, over some PG, over-the-shirt romance.

bugging out: Evangeline Lilly and Paul Rudd in the latest Marvel movie. Photo courtesy of Marvel Studios

I consider myself to be a fairly honest individual. I’ve been writing about movies for a long time and the truth is 90 percent of what I see could be encapsulated in three words: It’s a movie! That covers the vast majority of my cinematic diet—nothing great, nothing terrible. Entertaining enough. Not scraping the bottom of the barrel and not doing anything to push the medium to some place interesting. It describes the latest Marvel movie “Ant-Man and The Wasp” almost perfectly.

Marvel doesn’t make bad movies, really; they make formulaic, unchallenged blockbusters, engineered to appeal to kids ages 8 to 88 and continue a streak of success unrivaled in the film business. It’s easy to see why people like the Marvel brand: The movies are light, airy and easily digested, like cinematic whipped topping that contains no dairy. While millions of people enjoy a good dollop of whipped topping, it’s not exactly worth getting excited about.

“Ant-Man and The Wasp” is another by-the-book blockbuster with an idiotic story and an affable cast. We join lovable loser Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who continues to deal with the aftermath of being an ex-con and a superhero. He’s been on house arrest for the last few years, after going to Germany to help Captain America in what unfolded in civil war. He’s left the superhero game to try and get his life straight, in order to maintain a relationship with his daughter Cassie. In 72 hours he will be free to explore the outside world and start his life again. Of course, it all becomes less certain after he hooks up again with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly).

It seems Scott’s superhero antics has them in the government’s crosshairs, which complicates their efforts to open a portal to the quantum realm and save Hank’s wife and Hope’s mom, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), who has been trapped for almost 30 years.

Folks who haven’t seen the first “Ant-Man” will probably be a little lost. All the good things from the first film are carried over, which consists of the charming Paul Rudd, the amusing Michael Peña and some fun visual gags, thanks to Ant-Man’s weird array of powers and abilities.

There’s also not-so-good stuff: a nonsense plot that feels as if the director, Peyton Reed, is hoping no one notices how awful the story is because of distractions, like visually pleasing action and family melodrama with stakes that don’t feel all too high. Like the previous film, the story lacks scope—which is ironic for a movie about a hero who can grow 61 feet tall. The whole enterprise feels more suited for television, as there’s nothing inherently cinematic about the story or the characters. Most of the movie’s action consists of by-the-numbers set pieces featuring car chases and punch-‘em-ups.

It’s still amazing how a likable cast can carry an average movie across the finish line and still leave audiences satisfied. Paul Rudd is charismatic enough to make us care about his character, no matter how many clichés are piled on top of him, like bags of cement inhibiting his progress as he tries to carry the whole entertaining enterprise. There’s a lot of talent wasted in this superhero soap opera. Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne are way too seasoned for a dish this flavor-free.

Like I said, “It’s a movie!”—1 hour and 45 minutes of perfectly passable entertainment that incites a smile and a chuckle and an occasional warm fuzzy, over some PG, over-the-shirt romance. I doubt many people will walk out of the theater feeling as though their expectations have been exceeded, nor will anyone walk away feeling their time has been wasted. Instead, they will walk away feeling justified in their choice as the cinematic sugar rush dissipates into nothingness, leaving the brain ready for another Marvel movie.

DETAILS:
Ant-Man and The Wasp
expressionless emoji
Rated PG-13
Directed by Peyton Reed
Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, 910tix.com. Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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