Bigger, more imaginative and surprisingly funnier than its predecessor, Ant-Man and the Wasp stings audiences with hilarious performances and wildly inventive visuals, saving an otherwise forgettable plot from being obliterated or forever lost to the quantum realm. The size-changing heroes team up for the first time on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with an exceptional 4K HDR10 presentation that leaves its HD counterpart feeling rather puny and a strong Dolby Atmos soundtrack that's better than some of Disney Studios' latest home theater releases. Despite a somewhat disappointing set of supplements, the package is nonetheless Recommended and makes for a great addition to the UHD library.
(We've also reviewed the movie on Blu-ray HERE.)
Despite being a sequel to 2015's surprise hit, Ant-Man and the Wasp is actually more of a follow-up to Captain America: Civil War. Picking up two years after battling the Avengers, Scott Lang (an always amusingly hilarious Paul Rudd) is a couple days away from completing a two-year house arrest sentence for his involvement where he ballooned up to 65-feet at the Leipzig/Halle Airport. And in typical sequel fashion, director Peyton Reed and his team not only do one better by seeing the return of Scott's goliath size riding a flatbed truck through the streets of San Francisco, but they go significantly bigger in a cleverly silly gag that had been building since reuniting with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). More importantly, the sheer enjoyment and laughs of this film come from this splendid balance of comedic timing and cleverly setting up payoffs with the fancifully whimsical visuals that tug at the child-like imagination in all of us, young and old.
From a five-person writing team that includes Rudd, the plot also falls in line with a bitter theme at the heart of the last five installments to the Marvel Cinematic Universe. (I'm including Spider-Man: Homecoming to that list because of Stark and Peter's relationship paralleling the other four.) Those films center around the role of fathers and having to answer to the sins of the past, each in their own unique and interestingly different way. Here, Reed points the finger to Hank whose years of arrogance, smug pride and dismissiveness of others' contributions finally catch up to him. We are told Hank's pride came at the cost of friendships like Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), who once worked with Pym as Goliath, while ruining the promising careers of others, such as Elihas Starr, whose experiments led to an accident that created our central antagonist, Ava (Hannah John-Kamen). Unfortunately, this potentially meaningful aspect to the story is never fully embraced and much-too conveniently resolved to deliver any poignant depth or gravity by film's end.
Nevertheless, Reed keeps things lighthearted enough and delightfully rib-tickling to forgive such minor grievances and the fairly blatant use of a deus ex machina. Along with Rudd providing his usual wit and cynicism to every line and encounter, his scenes with the precocious Abby Ryder Fortson as Scott's daughter Cassie — who drops some wink-wink hints for fans of possibly one-day becoming Stinger in one touching conversation — are some of the film's more memorably cute moments. But in all honesty, the real highlight of the production has to be Michael Peña reprising his role as Scott's former cellmate Luis, an original character to the MCU who eventually proves himself a valuable sidekick. Chewing the scenery with goofy childlike glee, Peña's performance immediately demands the spotlight, delivering the biggest, gut-busting laughs. And the scene involving Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), his henchmen and some truth serum is arguably the funniest moment of the entire movie. Providing a buddy-cop feel better secure him a permanent role in the MCU.
When we shrink down to it, the battle over Pym's laboratory containing a tunnel to the quantum realm where Hope's mom, Janet van Dyne, may still exist is little more than a MacGuffin, uniting three parallel storylines with Ava's determined goal being the chief impetus. But again, Rudd and Peña are just enough to elevate Ant-Man and the Wasp while Reed and his ingeniously creative team bombard the screen with several hallucinogenic-inspired visuals — and Stan Lee's quirky cameo makes light of this fact. The kitchen fight alone, which is honestly used more for demonstrating Hope's skills than moving the plot along, will rival anything seen in the first Ant-Man movie. Aside from Peña's truth-serum sequence with his X-Con cohorts, Rudd shrinking down to kindergarten-child size should be a hysterical scene for the ages, and Randall Park's FBI agent Jimmy Woo further adds to the overall hilarity. And for those wondering where this sequel fits in the rest of the MCU after Avengers: Infinity War, Reed answers those queries in a mid-credits scene.
Vital Disc Stats: The Ultra HD Blu-ray
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment brings Ant-Man and the Wasp to Ultra HD Blu-ray as a two-disc combo pack with a flyer for a Disney Digital Copy. When redeeming said code via RedeemDigitalMovie.com or MoviesAnywhere, it includes the HD and 4K UHD digital versions while VUDU users have access to a Dolby Vision HDR version with Dolby Atmos. The dual-layered UHD66 disc sits comfortably opposite a Region Free, BD50 disc. Both are housed inside a black, eco-vortex case with a lenticular slipcover. At startup, viewers are taken directly to a menu screen with full-motion clips and music playing in the background.
The Wasp makes her superhero debut on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with a fantastic and often stunning HEVC H.265 encode, offering plenty of welcomed improvements over the Blu-ray. Shot on a variety of digital cameras capable of up to 8K resolution but later mastered to a 2K digital intermediate, the freshly-minted transfer delivers an appreciable uptick in definition, showing lots of razor-sharp details in nearly every scene. Every button, gadget, and wire in Hank Pym's lab is plainly visible from a distance, and the streets of San Francisco reveal every crack, piece of gravel and imperfection along the walls of buildings. Perhaps most impressive is seeing the differences in the fabric, the stitching and the texture in our heroes' suits versus Ghost, making each seem more realistic. The CG effects hold up amazingly well with cleanly-defined and distinct lines during the most fast-paced moments. Every pore, wrinkle, and negligible blemish is exposed and all the more revealed in close-ups. The only issue is several instances of the sharpest edges and lines fluctuating just a tad in a few areas.
The 4K presentation also saves the day with noticeably improved contrast, giving the screen a notable pop and energy that terrifically complements the story's comedic elements. The picture displays resplendent, pitch-perfect whites without the slightest blooming, allowing for superb visibility into the far distance, making out the smallest puff and line in the clouds. Specular highlights are not quite as dramatic, but metallic surfaces come with a realistic glimmer and polish, such as our heroes' masks or the chrome trimming of cars, while the most intensely glowing areas of the quantum realm show a lustrous, radiant shine without ruining the finest details. Likewise, brightness levels show inkier, silkier blacks throughout and outstanding gradational differences between the various shades, allowing viewers to plainly make out the most minute detail and line in either Ant-Man or Wasp's costumes. While maintaining excellent clarity within darkest corners, shadows are rich and velvety, penetrating deep into the screen and providing the 2.39:1 image with an appreciable three-dimensional quality and a lovely cinematic appeal.
Next to Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther, Ant-Man and the Wasp is arguably the most colorful entry in the MCU, and this HDR10 video only adds to the sentiment. Dante Spinotti's cinematography displays a wide array of dazzling, vividly striking primaries that feel more accurate and truer to life. The red in Ant-Man's suit, in particular, is of a deeper ruby lipstick shade while the little bit of color in Wasp's outfit has more of a crimson flair, and Ghost's glowing red eyes have a startling candy rose pop. Vibrant yellows, glowing oranges, and lively greens burst throughout various areas of Pym's otherwise steely cold laboratory. And the faces of the cast appear healthier with lifelike complexions and a welcomed rosiness around the cheekbones. But the best part is the kaleidoscope-like quantum realm bathing the screen in a stunning selection of sumptuous secondary hues. It's a near hallucinogenic display of neon greens, metallic blues and buttery dandelion yellows mixing with mesmerizing earthy tans, pearlescent oranges and various hints of pinks and purples, making this part of the movie pure eye-candy. (4K HDR10 Video Rating: 90/100)
For the UHD, Disney Studios has equipped our heroes with an excellent and largely enjoyable Dolby Atmos soundtrack that should please home theater enthusiasts. Although the track is frankly not the thrilling, ear-bleeding demo-worthy sort we would have liked, the object-based mix provides a slightly more enriching aural experience than its 7.1 DTS-HD MA counterpart found on the Blu-ray. At the same time, the overall design marks a welcomed improvement after a string of misses and mild disappointments in previous high-rez audio options. Or, as Pym would put it, "It's a work in progress."
As seems to be the case with most Disney titles, much of the action is maintained across the fronts, layered with plenty of background activity smoothly moving between the three channels. Occasionally, some of that activity extends into the top heights and convincingly into the off-screen space, generating an amusing half-dome soundstage that's highly engaging. Sadly, the mid-range feels somewhat limited and uniform, which seems to be a common feature of many Disney movies on home video lately, never really pushing into the higher frequencies. Thankfully, the design nonetheless maintains excellent clarity and separation during loud action sequences, making the bits of debris and the crunch of metal pretty well-defined. Likewise, the low-end isn't particularly standout or impressive, but it still delivers a hearty punch, an appreciable presence to the music and a weighty oomph to the action. Not surprisingly, vocals are given top-priority and are crystal-clear from beginning to end.
With much of the action placed across the fronts, the object-based mix fails to really generate a hemispheric aural experience that compares to some of the very best we've heard. From time to time, various atmospherics subtly travel to the surrounds and very lightly into the ceiling channels during some of the quieter moments, again, making this audio option a small improvement over the 7.1 DTS-HD MA track. However, it's not enough to create a notably enveloping soundscape. Such moments are clearly reserved for the action sequences, enlivening the room with several effects that discretely pan between the sides and ceilings, except they tend to call attention to themselves rather than feel convincingly immersive. Nevertheless, the debris from the crash on Lombard St. rains down in every direction, and the seagulls swoop down from above to catch flying ants. As with the video, the best moments are, of course, the quantum realm sequences where water seems to blip and blob throughout the room and the whale-like calls of the tardigrades echo all around the listening area. The song selections and Christophe Beck's score also subtly bleed into the surrounds and overheads while also filling the screen with a great deal of warmth and fidelity. (Dolby Atmos Audio Rating: 82/100)
The Ant-Man sequel debuts on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray with most of its supplements on the standard Blu-ray. To see the rest, you need to use your Digital Copy.
Paul Rudd returns in Ant-Man and the Wasp in yet another hilarious performance as the titular wise-cracking, insect-inspired superhero, but in this sequel, Michael Peña steals the spotlight as Scott Lang's former cellmate, Luis. Bigger, more imaginative and surprisingly funnier than its predecessor, the sequel stings audiences with hilarious performances and wildly inventive visuals, saving an otherwise forgettable plot from being obliterated or forever lost to the quantum realm. The size-changing heroes team up for the first time on Ultra HD with an exceptional 4K HDR10 presentation that leaves its HD counterpart feeling rather puny and a strong Dolby Atmos soundtrack that's better than some of Disney Studios' latest home theater releases. However, a somewhat disappointing set of supplements may cause a bit of hesitation in some, but ultimately, the package is nonetheless recommended and makes for a great addition to the UHD library.