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As he struggles to rebalance his home life with his responsibilities as Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is confronted by Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) with an urgent new mission to rescue Janet van Dyne from the Quantum Realm. Scott must once again put on the suit and learn to fight alongside The Wasp, all while attempting to serve house arrest, assist fast talking-Luis (Michael Peña) and the X-con Security crew, and thwart the efforts of a new adversary called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and her ally Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne). (From Marvel’s official synopsis)

 Ant-Man and The Wasp
Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man (2016) was one of the MCU’s weaker entries and, while some of its problems were obvious, many of its shortcomings stemmed from the project spending years in the hands of a different filmmaker, Edgar Wright. Reed and Wright’s affection for choreography and referential comedy may seem compatible, but the fact that Reed invites improvisation, while Wright preps every line down to its finest nuances leads me to believe that their prep processes are quite different. Anyway, the sequel, Ant-Man and The Wasp, offers Reed a chance to put his own stamp on the property, minus the baggage of an origin story or Wright’s influences. On a purely technical level, Reed has vastly outdone his previous effort. The scale and scope of the film is broadened by everything from the more thoughtful compositions, to the use of colour and even the wider 2.39:1 aspect ratio (the first movie was one of only two MCU movies to be framed at 1.85:1, the other being Joss Whedon’s Avengers). More production time and a slightly higher budget helps to sharpen the special effects and plan the action scenes, leading to another big improvement on the previous film, which felt quite limited in retrospect. Unable to again rest on the simpler aspects of the size/scale-changing gimmick that sets Ant-Man apart from the other superheroes, Reed & company expand their creative palette with increasingly imaginative, amusing, and unpredictably silly events. Also, with the first film’s typically “grounded” first blush out of the way, Ant Man and The Wasp is free to embrace unbridled comic book qualities, though Reed is careful to revisits the original film’s unique elements – i.e. this is still a heist comedy series.

One of the original Ant-Man’s greatest failings was its ridiculous, credibility-straining insistence that Scott had to be the one to don the incredible shrinking suit, rather than Hank Pym’s demonstrably more capable daughter, Hope. Reed and main screen-re-writer Adam McKay constantly stopped to reiterate that Pym himself is the one keeping her out of the suit, then undermined the already shaky logic by demonstrating her superior abilities. I assume they were trying to point to the hypocrisy of Pym’s overprotective behavior, but they only managed to make Pym look irrationally stubborn, Scott look incompetent, and turn Hope into a low-key antagonist. Ant-Man and The Wasp allows Reed and his army of writers (Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari) to course correct and feels like a more natural progression of the Lang and Pym/van Dyne family team-up that we should’ve seen in the first movie and Evangeline Lilly is able to buck the Debbie Downer sidekick persona. She’s having fun, she’s kicking ass, and she’s finding time to give a good dramatic performance between daring feats and warm smiles.

 Ant-Man and The Wasp
A side effect of Wasp’s increased role is that Scott feels a bit like a supporting player in his own sequel, especially considering how much time is extended to Hank and the primary antagonists. For the most part, this is a good thing and not only because Marvel should’ve already had a number of female-led movies under their belts. Scott Lang is, by design, a reactive character. Even in his best comic appearances, his appeal is in the way he responds to superheroism. He is an outsider, after all, who essentially stole his powers (especially in the comics) and isn’t an inherently noble person. In turn, Paul Rudd’s appeal (for the most part) is in the way he reacts to the actors and events around him, even when superheroes and sci-fi villainy isn’t afoot. For lack of a better word, he’s quite cute and his specific charms just barely overstay their welcome during a handful of scenes. As someone who is often exhausted by Rudd’s schtick, Reed’s other work, and spoof/improv comedy in general, I ended up laughing in spite of myself on several occasions. If anyone got the short end of the stick in terms of development, it is the antagonists, who either feel like recycled MCU archetypes (Walter Goggins, for instance, is a shameless mimic of Sam Rockwell’s Iron Man 2 villain) or don’t have enough screen-time to build the intended level of moral complexity.

Initially, the story’s adherence to the greater MCU narrative seemed like it would weigh it down, especially considering that Ant-Man’s Captain America: Civil War cameo felt a little antithetical to the character’s growth/arc in his own movie. However, the baggage Scott Lang carries with him from Civil War ends up being a really efficient little narrative short cut. It injects just enough conflict without overwhelming the situation or muddying the already pathos-heavy situation. It’s nice to know that there were some lasting consequences for the characters involved in the (albeit very brief) superhero Civil War, especially since Avengers: Infinity War barely had enough time to acknowledge it, let alone delve into the greater consequences of the superhero conflict. At the same time, it’s also nice that it doesn’t become the thematic focus of the film, since, a) it was already a centerpiece of Jon Watts’ Spider-Man: Homecoming (2017) and, b) the filmmakers are already tying their story into a number of dangling plot-threads from the first Ant-Man.

 Ant-Man and The Wasp

Video


Ant-Man and The Wasp was shot on an array of digital cameras, including Arri, Red, and Panavision rigs. The central image type was large format Arri Alexa 65 footage, which, with the added benefit of Prime DNA lenses, made it compatible with a digital IMAX release. That IMAX version alternated between 2.39:1 and 1.90:1 aspect ratios. There was also a post-converted 3D release. This Blu-ray release is 2D and persistently framed at the wider 2.:39:1, meaning that it doesn’t expand its aspect ratio during some of the action sequences. Despite the super-high-definition source material, this transfer isn’t quite as impossibly sharp as you may expect. Reed and cinematographer Dante Spinotti utilize a lot of pulled/short/pin-pointed focus, usually to help establish scale and accommodate the minor “flaws” caused by their choice of lenses. These qualities and the use of natural, often dim lighting schemes keep edges and background textures a bit fuzzy throughout. However, there are nearly zero signs of compression – no edge haloes, no bandy blends, very slight bleeding (usually reds), and almost no digital noise. I didn’t see the movie in theaters, but, based on its clarity and authentic qualities, I’m guessing this Blu-ray is the next best thing (well, I guess second next best, assiming the 4K UHD disc is good and you’re watching on an even bigger TV/projection screen).

Audio


Ant-Man and The Wasp is presented in uncompressed DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 sound. As I mentioned in my review of Ron Howard’s Solo: A Star Wars Story, Disney is content to only use Dolby Atmos tracks on their 4K UHD releases. The lack of Atmos-ness isn’t really a problem, though (especially if you’re living in a one bedroom apartment with low ceilings), and this track is positively brimming with loud, channel-hopping, fully immersive noise. The highlights are, naturally, the action sequences, where the sound designers play with changing scales to create a vast dynamic range. Christophe Beck returns as composer and recycles some of his original themes alongside new motifs that mix orchestral heroics with bouncy, driving beats. The car chase music is pleasantly reminiscent of Don Davis’ techno-infused Matrix Reloaded (2003) car chase stuff, though with a whimsical slant.

 Ant-Man and The Wasp

Extras


  • Director’s intro with Peyton Reed (1:08, HD)
  • Director’s commentary – Reed takes on commentary duties all by himself and does an apt job discussing screenwriting, themes, inspirations, casting & characters, Easter eggs, and technical issues. He dabbles in narrating on-screen action and loses the thread a bit while recognizing as many contributors as he possibly can, but not enough to the extent that it ruins the experience.
  • Back in the Ant Suit: Scott Lang (5:56, HD) – The first of the very fluffy EPK featurettes sees the cast & crew fawning over Paul Rudd and chatting about his character, augmented with some footage of behind-the-scenes antics.
  • A Suit of Her Own: The Wasp (5:19, HD) – More of the same, but with focus on Evangeline Lilly and her character, Hope Van Dyne. This bit also features discussion of the newly-minted Wasp costume.
  • Subatomic Super Heroes: Hank & Janet (4:09, HD) – One last cast/character featurette concerning Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer.
  • Quantum Perspective: The VFX and Production Design of Ant-Man and The Wasp (7:04, HD) – A slightly less fluffy look at the design and execution behind the settings, locations, and scale-shifting action scenes.
  • Gag Reel (1:31, HD)
  • Stan Lee outtakes (00:46, HD)
  • Tim Heidecker outtakes (1:29, HD)
  • Two deleted scenes with optional commentary by Peyton Reed (1:38, HD)


 Ant-Man and The Wasp

Overall


Ant-Man and The Wasp wraps up rather suddenly and its antagonists could’ve really used a boost in character development, but otherwise it is a breezy, funny antidote to the heavy drama and massive scale of Avengers: Infinity War. This Blu-ray is typical for a Disney/Marvel release in that the A/V qualities are top-drawer, but the extras feel incomplete and fluffy, aside from director Peyton Reed’s solid solo commentary track.

 Ant-Man and The Wasp

 Ant-Man and The Wasp

* Note: The above images are taken from the Blu-ray, then resized for the page. Full-resolution captures are available by clicking individual images, but due to .jpg compression they are not necessarily representative of the quality of the transfer.


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