2 & ½ popcorns
By Michael S. Goldberger
Y’know how in organic chemistry they show you a molecular construction and then ask you to identify it from another angle? Well, I can’t do that, which is why I’m a film critic and not a dermatologist. And it’s worked out pretty well, except until now, when I’m faced with trying to explain the pseudo-scientific ins and outs of director Peyton Reed’s “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” You see, a good deal of this adventure yarn is concerned with rescuing Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet Van Dyne a.k.a. Wasp from the Quantum Realm, and I have absolutely no idea where that is.
I only know that whether it is to the left, right, up, down or somewhere sideways, it is very, very small…like sub-atomic small. Forget about how the lady got stuck there for now. It’s part of the multifarious prongs of minutiae, pun embarrassingly attempted, that will unravel in the form of a screenplay probably obscure enough for Marvel Comics stalwarts, but way too convoluted for someone who had originally planned to delve no further than skin deep.
But being a fair sort of guy, who I think would have accepted all health insurances, Medicare and, Psst, even no money if you’re real poor, but don’t let it get around, I’ll take the aficionados’ word for it that there’s some scientific basis to all the gobbledygook here glorified. However, conversely quite intolerant if films expect me to learn an entire, franchise-dedicated libretto in order to understand what in tarnation is going on, I’ve taken to just letting such mishegoss wash over me. And then, if entertained nonetheless, I recommend it to my fellow Great Unwashed.
In this case, I offer no breakthrough opportunity for those who wouldn’t see something like this in a million years, if blessed with such longevity. However, for those most assuredly uninterested but who might be pressed into duty as accompanying parents or grandparents, there is consolation in the humorously self-conscious patter co-title character Paul Rudd spreads across the scenario. Likeable in a winningly self-effacing way, Mr. Rudd, who gets the Anthony Perkins award for thus far not aging during his entire career, is a charming entity unto himself.
Plus, if you allot some cred for impressive casting in the form of big name actors who, while nice to see, add nothing to the movie as a whole, Michael Douglas is Mom Wasp’s genius hubby, Dr. Hank Pym, and Laurence Fishburne is his former colleague, Dr. Bill Foster. And, if still seeking rationalization to tout “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” there’s the domestic angle as Mr. Rudd’s Scott Lang/Ant-Man, divorced from his wife, tries to be the perfect dad to his idolizing, precocious daughter, Cassie (Ryder Fortson).
But if not a Marvel devotee, be warned: There is hardly a paragraph of dialogue that doesn’t include the word quantum. It’s quantum this and quantum that, delivered in a Hula Hoop craze fervor, and inevitably causing me, despite all avowals, to burn my brain synapses in painful contemplation.
Still, despite the hifalutin techno jargon that only professors at MIT and kids under 17 grok, it’s basically comic book sci-fi meets traditional action flick, replete with a despicably appropriate villain for these fragile times. You’ve doubtless seen real life versions of black marketer Sonny Burch on the nightly news. They’re either awaiting trial, tantalizing justice seekers with whether or not they will flip in the cause of saving our democracy, or holding court on talk shows where they revel in their “nah, nah, can’t catch me” chutzpah.
In this fictional mirror, Burch, played to a snarky turn by Walton Goggins, sells Hope Van Dyne/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), daughter of Dr. Pym and Ant-Man’s on again off again love interest, a part necessary for that trek to the Quantum Realm. But when these good, smart people display their creative adaptation of the gizmo for its humanitarian purpose, the double-dealing brigand spots an illegal way to profit from it, which, to the criminal mind, is always more preferable than an honest transaction.
Hence, my short critique of this movie: It’s good vs. evil. I should have put that at the top of the column, huh?
My haughty detractions aside, and soberly considering that you take good over evil wherever you can find it these days, whether in the form of polite fellow motorists, welcoming servers at coffee shops, politicians who actually have your interests at heart, or movie plots, I kind of get it. Plus, it’s all so very colorful…so much so that I think if I were 11 the sign at the entranceway to my basement sanctuary might read “Welcome to the Quantum Realm” instead of the current “Brooks Was Here.” That granted, only zealots need go buggy over “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”
“Ant-Man and the Wasp,” rated PG-13, is a Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures release directed by Peyton Reed and stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly and Michael Douglas. Running time: 118 minutes