Saturday, February 16, 2019

A Movie that Can't Carry Half It's Weight

It's insidious how much easier it is to see movies I kind of want to see than movies I really want to see. That's how I ended up watching 2018's Ant-Man and the Wasp. It was right there, on NetFlix, ready to play. I liked the first Ant-Man but nothing I'd heard made me want to see the sequel. If I'd known then what I know, I definitely wouldn't have bothered. But like Merlin says in Excalibur, you don't know how the cake tastes until you've tasted it. Ant-Man and the Wasp tastes like styrofoam.

Which is not to say I altogether hated it. Michelle Pfeiffer is really good, her natural warmth so refreshing to see again after so long. It's not much of a role, it's certainly nothing compared to her Catwoman. She basically just shows concern and hugs people. But she's one of those people where you can see how star quality is something distinct from acting talent, though she's a good actress--there's just something about her mannerisms and voice that is fundamentally strange and appealing.

Of course, the fact that she's de-aged in many scenes adds another strange layer. Along with Pfeiffer, Michael Douglas and Laurence Fishburne get the de-aging treatment. None of them look quite as convincing as Michael Douglas did in the first film but maybe my eye is just learning to spot the seams. I suppose it's good enough for a full length feature now even if it isn't perfect. The de-aging on Shah Rukh Khan in Fan (the first film to feature a de-aged actor in a main role) wasn't nearly as good as in Ant-Man and the Wasp and I was still able to enjoy it. It's too bad Kirk Douglas' condition would make it impossible to use the effect on him. I wonder how he feels seeing his son de-aged.

The first third of the film is almost unendurable. It reminds me of any run of the mill Disney live action movie from the 90s because of the forced, hackey humour and the little girl who somehow knows much more about life than her goofy dad, Paul Rudd.

There are two little girls in the movie and they never remotely act like real little girls. They're not as annoying as Michael Peña, though, as an Hispanic stereotype. I don't remember him being so annoying in the first film--maybe this is because, according to Wikipedia, the actor improvised more in that film.

The action sequences are creative enough, though. I liked the car chases with shrinking and suddenly enlarging cars tumbling down the always cinematically reliable streets of San Francisco (see Bullitt, Vertigo, or Hulk). Sequences in the climax set in the quantum realm are truly gorgeous, despite the presence of tardigrades.

Tardigrades are so overexposed, they're so over. Let's have another microscopic star for a while, huh? I've always liked planaria.

Walton Goggins is also a bright spot in the movie though his character, a gangster or black market dealer, is completely superfluous. Still, he easily dominates every scene he's in.

The movie's called Ant-Man and the Wasp but it clearly should've been Ant-Man 2 for all Evangeline Lilly does in the movie. Rudd's character has a delicate balance, trying to get friends and family to trust him, changing people's minds about him and while the dialogue feels pretty canned Paul Rudd has some natural charm he lends to a rough around the edges character. Lilly's character, Hope, is basically a default action heroine and her only motive throughout the film is wanting to save her mother. The movie might have been called Ant-Man and Ghost--Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost doesn't get a lot of screen time but she conveys a lot of the pain that must be intrinsic to her daily life as a character who only halfway inhabits corporeal reality. In action scenes, this makes her a perfect foil for Ant-Man and Wasp, as well.

It's not quite as bad as Thor: The Dark World but Ant-Man and the Wasp definitely a below average MCU film.

Twitter Sonnet #1206

A restless tread acquires endless wheels.
Beside the driver sat a weary smoke.
The car this side includes protruding heels.
A feeble kick reproached an empty Coke.
A sense of glowing sight adorned the box.
As steps the finger tips resound to-night.
In time the random ruckus all but talks.
A diff'rent song was writ to now recite.
A row of sour brass imposed a sound.
The air was cut by window grids to cubes.
The long and shaking shadow fell to ground.
The voices mixed were sages, gods, and rubes.
On mirrored rails appeared the other train.
The wood and iron fixed the box's lane.

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