Ant-Man and the Wasp

★ ★ ★

“Do you guys put the word quantum in front of everything?”

That’s the question Paul Rudd, playing Scott Lang / Ant-Man, asks in the new Marvel movie “Ant-Man and The Wasp.” Having seen the film I wonder why he didn’t speak up earlier, like when the screenwriters were scribbling about quantum physics, quantum realm, quantum void, quantum this and quantum that. These movies are supposed to be about a smart alecy guy who can shrink himself down to the size of an ant to solve crimes, not the Heisenberg principle.

The movie begins as Lang has just three days left on his house arrest following the events of “Captain America: Civil War.” Trapped in his apartment he has a strange dream. He sees Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), wife of scientist Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), mother of Lilly van Dyne a.k.a. Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), trapped in the quantum wormhole she disappeared into three decades before. Meanwhile Hank and Lilly are perfecting a method to rescue their loved one from the quantum hike she now calls home. Trouble is, they can’t do it alone. They need any information  that may be trapped in Rudd’s head and money from a grubby bad guy. Time is of the essence as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a spectral presence who can walk through walls, also seeks out Janet’s quantum power to heal her cellular disorder.

From the kitschy sounding title to the size-shifting characters to the scientific mumbo jumbo that takes up much of the screen time, “Ant-Man and The Wasp” is a throwback to drive-in movies of the 1950s. It’s been updated with better special effects and more authentic sounding science jargon, but make no mistake, for better and for worse, this has just as much in common with flickers like “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman” and “Them!” as it does with the Avengers. Like the 50s b-movies that were undoubtedly an influence, this is a loud-n-proud genre film but like many of the Avengers films that are part of the Ant-Man family, it is marred by excess. Too many characters, too many story shards—a rescue mission, two sets of baddies chasing down the quantum technology, a romantic subplot, a family film angle—too much exposition to much quantum theory.

There is a funny scene about an hour into the movie where Michael Peña, playing Lang’s former cellmate and current business partner, recaps the story so far. It takes two minutes, is laugh-out-loud funny and completely negates the need for much of the exposition—people in this movie love to ask things like, “What have you done?”—that comes before it. Move that to the beginning of the film and they could have saved pages of dialogue and juiced up the film’s fun factor by at least fifty percent.

“Ant-Man and The Wasp” does plough some new ground—it is the first time a female superhero’s name is in the title of an MCU film—but feels scattershot in its execution.

3 STARS