What a difference three years makes. Ant-Man and the Wasp, directed by Peyton Reed (Ant-Man, The Yes Man), is less substantial than 2015’s wispy Ant-Man (which might not have seemed possible). Indeed, this poorly written and acted perceptual-level assault is worse than this year’s painfully mediocre Black Panther and overwrought Avengers: Infinity War. These Marvel Studios pictures, which began about ten years ago with cleverly blended action and humor, are getting dumber and dumber.
Ant-Man 2 is among Marvel’s worst pictures. The nonstop eye strain picks up after the fleeting and forgettable Ant-Man and spring’s Avengers film with virtually no attempt to distinguish its own plot line. It made me think that Marvel’s planning a theatrical release marathon of Marvel Studios movies to run in one, long continuous loop for what might be considered subliminal propaganda to accelerate the rate at which today’s population mentally checks out. I know that today’s audiences (including some of my readers) fixate on these pictures as a kind of escapism, which I do not think they provide (and, in today’s pre-ordained movie industry, I predict Black Panther has a lock on Oscar’s Best Picture). So, for disclosure, I can barely tolerate these incoherent movies anymore on even the most superficial level. And this writer generally praised most of them. I even recommended snarky Deadpool.
But, from the start, this movie rots. Precocious children, lines about quantum this or that, stars that look much older than they’re apparently supposed to be — Ant-Man and the Wasp slams the audience with sensory data and lame jokes and never lets up. The title character makes origami and bounces a Superball while going stir crazy under police surveillance. This after a stale flashback pops up. Then, for the next couple of hours, you’re expected to dart from fragment to fragment of instantaneously upsized, downsized and disappearing buildings, cars and objects while keeping track of an incoherent mission. If this is your idea of downtime, it wouldn’t surprise me if you’re also sleep-deprived. Ant-Man 2 is suited for a dumbed down culture in which one is chronically going from app to app, fixating on screens and going dim, stoned or blank.
It’s so bad that when one character, a college professor, looks out at his audience and says he notices an “unusually high number of glazed eyes out there”, it struck me as the most relevant Marvel Studios movie wink — oh, pardon me, “easter egg” — ever planted. From the line that “the sizing coils are malfunctioning” to an unintentionally humorous and utterly, overly obvious line during the extremely dull climax that “it’s me”, the subatomic-molecular themed Ant-Man and the Wasp is so thin, fast and asinine that it defies description. At one point, there’s another Marvel mind meld, which is awfully convenient for the characters involved and makes no sense at all.
Add to this endless car chases while cars change sizes, often for no apparent reason, yet no one driver thinks to shrink, slow down and pull over to jettison from the chase. Not once. Policemen are either dolts or corrupt dolts. Villains are not wrong, bad or villainous. Ant-Man (Rudd) talks and acts like he’s in Animal House (so does everyone else) making him seem more inept than adorable this time. If you worship whim and today’s dumbed down culture in which dialogue is reduced to fragments of phrases and you wish everything was like one, big video game experience, tuh-bee-awnuss (translation: tbh) you will go absolutely apeshit over Marvel’s new Ant-Man movie and its trippy, Dionysian, Bay Area blend of computer generated anarchy.
Look for lots of product placement, for every brand from the city of San Francisco and Dell Computers to Mercedes-Benz and the Pez dispenser. The cast includes Michael Pena (Collateral Beauty, Lions for Lambs, Spotlight), a fine actor who is wasted in a role as a moron, Laurence Fishburne (Blackish, Boyz N The Hood), Evangeline Lilly (The Hurt Locker), Michelle Pfeiffer (New Year’s Eve, Hairspray, Murder on the Orient Express), Michael Douglas (Disclosure, Falling Down, Streets of San Francisco) and Paul Rudd (Ant-Man, The Cider House Rules) in the title role. Looking like what used to be known as a goth chick, with matching sneer and bad attitude, Hannah John-Kamen (Game of Thrones, Star Wars: The Force Awakens) appears as a ghost in the machine who messes with everything. But of course, to no effect. Indeed, Hannah’s ghost is an ideal mascot for this vaporous movie.