Ant-Man and the Wasp: it’s quantum baby!

The first Ant-Man was a welcome surprise – funny, inventive, and it had a lot of heart. What would the sequel offer, more of the same? Go bigger? Go smaller?

It’s worth mentioning that in the first film the story touches on the quantum realm, the place where Ant-Man can go if he shrinks to sub-atomic levels. Well, for Ant-Man and the Wasp the story picks up after events from Captain America: Civil War, where Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), after siding with Captain America by getting in an almighty fight with the rest of the Avengers in an airport in Germany, finds himself under house arrest for two years, under the watchful eye of the FBI, led by the surprisingly amusing Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) – who clearly admires Scott as a hero, but has a job to do keeping him contained.

The first film mentions Hank’s wife Janet, lost in quantum realm for decades. Hank and Hope begin to suspect she might still be alive, so set about building a device to bring her back.

They learn that, after his brief journey into the quantum realm, Scott may now have a connection to Janet, so they need his help. The issue is, a strange, shadowy figure named Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) also has an interest in their quantum technology, as does dodgy technology dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins).

And thus we have chase after chase (putting to use size in inspired ways, giant Pez dispenser anyone?) around the picturesque streets of San Francisco as Ghost and Sonny try and steal Hank’s lab and technology, as Hank and Hope try aim to evade them. And Scott sort of gets in the way a bit.

So, plot wise, it gets a little bit samey and bogged down with all the characters running around in circles a little. However, it does make for some nice set pieces, in particular one where Scott’s suit malfunctions in a school with hilarious results – in a scene that wouldn’t have felt out of place in a Deadpool movie.

That said, it’s full of jokes, probably funnier than the first film, with bigger set pieces, more action and higher stakes. Hope as Wasp, in particular, gets a lot more screen time and is an exciting hero. Different enough to Scott’s Ant-Man (she has wings and blasters, and also a much more fluid fighting style), so as a duo they’re a ton of fun to watch on screen, throwing bad guys left and right.

In general, as far as sequels go, it’s a big thumbs up. Some critics have said the stakes aren’t high enough and it doesn’t reach the heights of Thor: Ragnarok, Infinity War or Black Panther, but those are basically three of Marvel’s most successful films out the 18 or so they’ve produced, so I think this comparison is unfair to make. More accurately, how does it compare to say, Thor: The Dark World or Guardians of the Galaxy 2? In my book, it’s up there, better than both possibly, sitting comfortably middle of the pack. Which is no bad thing at all.

It also has, for my money, one of the best stings from Marvel in some time. That’s all I’ll say on that, but watch to the end to see if you agree.

Ron Burgundy – how’s the legend holding up?

anchorman2Sequels. Comedy sequels no less. The hardest of all in the sequel kingdom. Do they ever work? Hmm… more often than not they don’t; at least not to the extent of the original. Casting your mind back for a second: it’s been almost ten years since the original Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy came out; a film which took many by surprise.

At the time Will Ferrell was on the rise. Most notably he’d done Old School and Elf, so you could argue that Anchorman – and character of Ron Burgundy – cemented his place in the modern-day comedy hall of legends. Also, now he’s a big star, it’s hard to imagine Steve Carell who, at the time, was even less well known. He had a part as, believe it or not, a co-anchor in Bruce Almighty, a year before Anchorman. Paul Rudd had been hard at work as a jobbing actor until his most notable role, a two-year stint in Friends. Similar to Carell, Rudd has gone from strength to strength in the years since becoming part of the San Diego news team.

So, in that respect, most of the cast were relative unknowns on the rise which lent to the comedy, in much the way The Hangover did a few years later. There was no pressure on the cast. We didn’t really know who these guys were as actors, or the characters they’d created.

Uneasy lies the crown

Perhaps that’s why it’s taken almost a decade for the legend of Ron Burgundy to continue – once you’ve captured lightning in a bottle, how do you manage it a second time? ANCHORMAN 2: THE LEGEND CONTINUESThis is especially hard with comedy. Audiences want more of the same, yet something new too. And critics are sitting, poised to pounce on the slightest whiff of a stale rehashed joke.

With that in mind I’m pleased to say, Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues is… not bad at all. They’ve tried to take the characters to places new. Indeed, the news team have all left the game when we pick the story up, with Ron living the good life with loving wife and co-anchor Veronica Corningstone. As you’d expect, things go quickly awry – largely Ron’s own doing of course.

So he looks to reform the old team as part of a groundbreaking new 24-hour news channel. This takes the characters into new territory and, compared to the original, it has something to say in terms of social commentary; how those in power should not be allowed to control the media and the nature of what constitutes well-researched news versus mere speculation.

Brick finds love

Before you panic, there’s still laughs aplenty. Ferrell, along with writer/director Adam McKay, tread a precarious but largely successful line in terms of running jokes from the first film and new material. In particular, Brick gets a bit of a love story with a female counterpart (brilliantly played by Kristen Wiig) that works well. On the flipside, some of the jokes – and scenes – feel forced, like Ferrell and McKay are trying too hard.

anchorman-blog-jpg_165129There’s also one or two moments where jokes grate, more in poor taste than anything else – high on the cringe scale. Happily, the zingers carry you through. Once you’ve seen this film, chances are the first thing you’ll be asked is, ‘Is it better than the original?’… well, no. But then, often, originals are favoured by most. Simply the fact they were original wins them points. But people do look back with a certain rose-tinted nostalgia; so judging a comedy sequel can be skewed in that sense.

So… in a roundabout way I’d say, whilst this isn’t as good as the original, it’s darn close. And that’s as much as any of us could hope for – which should mean, in Ron Burgundy’s world, his legend is still intact.