'Ant-Man and The Wasp' seeking humor niche in Marvel universe


By Shirrel Rhoades

Friday, July 6, 2018

You’re familiar with “Ant-Man,” the Marvel superhero who has the ability to shrink down to the size of, well, an ant. Mark Rudd finally got his turn at a comic-book blockbuster in that title role. The 2015 movie did good at the box office, with a worldwide gross of over half-a-billion dollars.

Needless to say, you could expect a sequel.

And here it is, a superhero double feature of sorts, “Ant-Man and The Wasp.”

You got to see a cameo of The Wasp in that first “Ant-Man” film. Yes, they were setting you up for this one, in that co-star Evangeline Lilly had already signed a multi-film contract with Marvel. You may remember her from the popular TV series, “Lost.” In her tight black costume and buzzing wings, she makes a great Wasp.

Given her parentage (i.e. the original Ant-Man and Wasp), Hope van Dyne (Lilly) is more suited to be a superhero than the klutzy Ant-Man (Rudd).

The original Ant-Man and Wasp were created by Stan Lee and Jack Kirby, with a little help from Stan’s brother Larry Lieber and Ernie Hart back in 1962-63. The Scott Lang and Hope van Dyne we get in these movies are second generation, created in 1979 and 1999.

This time around, we find Scott Lang (this new Ant-Man without his Secret Identity) serving out his house arrest following the mayhem of “Avengers: Civil War.” An adorable doofus, he spends his time playing around on his drum machine, practicing card tricks, and amusing his daughter by building Rube Goldberg-like contraptions.

However, Scott gets sucked into another misadventure by inventor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas as the original Ant-Man) and Pym’s daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), a mission to rescue Hope’s long-lost mother (Michelle Pfeiffer as the original Wasp). She’s been trapped for 30 years in the quantum realm, but Scott’s Ant-Man might be able to help her return.

Add several car chases, miniaturization mishaps, plus a few epic battles and you have the plot.

As a former publisher of Marvel Comics, I was fond of Ant-Man as edited by the late Mark Gruenwald.

My problem with the “Ant-Man” movies is that they seem to be searching to find a proper niche within the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is going for laughs. “Guardians of the Galaxy” already did that, injecting humor into “a genre that had all but succumbed to self-seriousness and bellicosity.” Then, came snarky “Deadpool.”

But “Ant-Man and the Wasp” seems to be going for what I’ll call superhero-lite.

Along with the jokes, we see an office building reduced to a carry-on bag, a flatbed truck used as a foot-scooter, and car chases where vehicles shift from full-size to Matchbook cars and back again. This cutesy humor turns the superhero movie into a pastiche of “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.”