After devastating audiences with Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel gets lighter with Director Peyton Reed’s sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man, Ant-Man and the Wasp. Does this film go bigger or shrink from the challenge?
Set in-between Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp finds Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) under house arrest for the role he played in Civil War. He’s trying to get a new security business off the ground with Luis (Michael Pena) and his buddies and is on the outs with Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Those two are dealing with Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) in black market technology in order to build a conduit to the Quantum Realm, where they hope to find Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). Unfortunately, a new villain, Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), also needs the quantum tech and Ant-Man is eventually drawn back into Hope and Hank’s world.
Ant-Man and the Wasp should really have been called The Wasp and Ant-Man, much like the first film should have been called The Wasp. Hope is infinitely more capable than Scott and really takes charge in this film…when the filmmakers let her. However, the story remains focused on Scott trying to be responsible and a good father to Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson)…just like the last movie. Marvel’s Phase 3 has been notable for all the risks it has taken and now we’re presented with a film that takes zero risks. With the Quantum Realm, Marvel could have given audiences its trippiest film yet and made some bold stylistic choices. Instead, we essentially got a re-hash of the first Ant-Man, except the heist has now become a game of keep-away with the film’s MacGuffin. I would have much preferred a story that explored the Quantum Realm on a search for Janet and then focused on how it had changed her, but instead we basically get a reheated Ant-Man with a Michelle Pfeiffer cameo. It’s a waste of a great actress and a waste of Lilly too. We’ve already seen Scott try to be with his daughter. Now, it’s Hope’s turn to take the lead.
Another issue I had with this one was that the science angle felt too…easy, for lack of a better word. Whereas other Marvel films feel like the science is well-thought out, Ant-Man and the Wasp felt like everything was made up on the fly. It also felt like the film was constantly breaking its own rules. I didn’t understand how the characters could sit in a car that shrank down. Wouldn’t they get crushed? Why were they able to shrink as well? It felt like convenient plotting, even though the Pym Particles are essentially magic.
The villains in this one are also pretty weak, which is a shame since Marvel had been a streak of good villains. Goggins always feels more like a nuisance than a legitimate threat and with Ghost, it felt like they went to Black Panther’s Killmonger for inspiration. Unfortunately, though, Ghost is nowhere near as complex a character as Killmonger and ends up being weak as well.
The cast does a good job with what they’re given. Rudd is a funny and likable lead. It’s impossible not to like him. Lilly is also great as the Wasp. I wanted more of her and look forward to seeing her in future films. Douglas is perfectly crotchety as Hank, but it feels like there’s less nuance to his character this go around. Pena is hilarious as the comic relief and his long-winded story is really great. I liked Laurence Fishburne as Bill Foster, who in the comics is the super hero Goliath. He was a good foil for Hank, but again, the potentially most interesting aspects of the film were not given the space to develop. Goggins gives a good performance as always, but his character is worthless. I also liked John-Kamen as Ghost, but her story wasn’t very compelling. And while it was great to see Pfeiffer, there is just not enough of her in this film. I almost feel like an external antagonist was unnecessary to this film. The Quantum Realm itself could have been the obstacle, but instead, we get leftovers.
Overall, while I found many elements of Ant-Man and the Wasp to be frustrating, it was still a lighthearted, fun, and funny movie. I was definitely entertained, but left wanting for all the abandoned potential. After the hearty meal that was Infinity War, this movie feels like empty calories when it could have been a sumptuous dessert. Definitely see it for Lilly and the laughs, but there’s no rush.