With its heavy-hitting titles Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War in the history books, Disney-owned Marvel Studios decided it’s time for something lighter—a palate cleanser, if you will. Enter Ant-Man and the Wasp, which was graded in Dolby Vision HDR and mixed in Atmos immersive sound for presentation in Dolby Cinemas. I’m always up for a romp in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, so off I went.
The new outing is a sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man, with many returning characters. The movie begins with a flashback to 30 years ago, when Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) were the first Ant-Man and the Wasp. As they try to disable a missile that is about to kill thousands, Janet shrinks to a size so small that she becomes lost in the quantum realm.
Fast forward to the present. Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest after wreaking havoc in Captain America: Civil War, while Hank and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) are in hiding. Hank revives a technology that could help return his wife from the quantum realm. Hope becomes the new Wasp, and the trio attempts to rescue Janet.
Meanwhile, a new villain called Ava/Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) appears, distracting them from their rescue mission. Other notable characters include Scott Lang’s buddy and business partner Luis (Michael Pena)—who steals just about every scene he’s in—and Hank’s former colleague Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne). Another scene stealer is Scott’s young daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). And of course, Marvel co-creator Stan Lee makes his obligatory—and hilarious—cameo.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is great fun and very funny throughout. Paul Rudd juxtaposes superhero and doofus beautifully, and I especially enjoyed watching his relationship with his daughter. And I’m very glad to see such strong gender equality—the Wasp is definitely not a sidekick, but rather a full partner. Also, the stakes are much lower and more personal than the cosmic consequences of Infinity War or the fate of humanity in Black Panther, which is quite refreshing. And any movie that references quantum entanglement and the Russian folktale of Baba Yaga is fine with me!
There are quite a few references to the original Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War, so it helps to remember those movies when seeing Ant-Man and the Wasp. However, it’s not necessary; the essential plot points are made clear enough in context. And be sure to stay through the credits—there are two teasers, one after the first round of credits and the other at the very end. The first one is a real shocker, but I can’t say more than that without spoiling it. Suffice to say that if you’re a Marvel fan, you’ll gasp, just as I did.
When I went to the AMC Burbank 16 Dolby Cinema Thursday evening, there was something wrong with the image. It had a weird halo-like distortion on the right side of the screen. About 10 minutes in, the image suddenly darkened. I looked back at the projection booth and saw that only one of the projectors was operating. After a few minutes, I left and asked the manager what happened. He said there was a problem with one of the projectors, so he blocked its lens, but he couldn’t reboot the system until after the current showing. I don’t know how many people in the audience noticed or cared, but I sure did!
The manager gave me a ticket to another showing the next day, which looked fine—except for the blue aisle lights right next to the screen! I’ve complained about them several times, and they were significantly dimmed compared to the last time I was in that theater. But they still spilled light onto the lower corners of the screen, which was visible during the black interstitials (moments of full-screen black) that occur at the start of this movie and a couple of times between scenes. After the movie, I complained yet again, and I was told the lights are required for safety reasons and can’t be turned off completely. I don’t understand this, since it only became a problem in the last couple of months.
Speaking of black interstitials, they were pretty deep black in Dolby Vision, but not so deep that the boundaries of the screen disappeared. (I don’t think this was entirely due to the aisle lights.) Other than the interstitials, the overall image quality was very good, with great contrast and shadow detail in dark scenes. The peak brightness was way brighter than a conventional presentation, and the colors were gorgeous, especially in the kaleidoscopic quantum realm. As usual, I ducked into a conventional presentation after the Dolby Cinema screening, and the image was quite a bit duller with much poorer shadow detail and elevated black level.
The Dolby Atmos immersive mix is excellent. There are plenty of chase and fight scenes with activity all around and above the audience, and Christophe Beck’s engaging score is effectively mixed throughout the hemispherical soundstage. Even better, the levels were quite civilized: Leq (average RMS level over the entire length of the movie plus trailers) = 94.6 dBZ (flat), 82.2 dBA, 92.8 dBC; Lmax (maximum 1-second RMS level) = 119.7 dBZ; L10 (level exceeded 10% of the time) = 96.0 dBZ; L50 (level exceeded 50% of the time) = 81.7 dBZ. The overall average was almost 3 dB below reference level!
I really enjoyed Ant-Man and the Wasp. It’s a funny, fun-filled adventure that provides a nice, light counterpoint to Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War—kind of like a sorbet after a heavy meal. The Dolby Vision grade isn’t the best I’ve seen, but it’s quite good, so I recommend seeing this one in a Dolby Cinema if you can; for a list of locations, click here. And be sure to stay through all the credits for a couple of surprising Easter eggs; you’ll be glad you did!
Check out the trailer: