After the sheer roller coaster that was Avengers: Infinity War (2018) this past April, it was nice to have a simple movie that didn’t try to add universe-ending stakes or include a cast whose combined salaries could abolish the national debt with ease. Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) is the TWENTIETH installment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe and serves as a follow-up to Ant-Man’s 2015 introductory film as well as a follow-up to protagonist Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) story, following his involvement in Captain America: Civil War (2016). Ant-Man and the Wasp follows Lang as he teams up with Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), who has taken her mother Janet’s mantle as the Wasp to fight some new challenges while exploring the past of both these characters and the MCU. It’s by no means the best Marvel movie around but it is certainly a fun time that lets you forget the turmoil of Infinity War and manages to make a MacGuffin out of a literal building.
I have to get this out of my system, otherwise I’d wax poetic about it for too long, but Paul Rudd is unimpeachable and completely owns the role of Scott Lang / Ant-Man. He oozes a relatable personality that you simply don’t get with any other characters in the MCU except maybe Tom Holland’s Peter Parker / Spider-Man. He gives off the pitch-perfect vibe that Scott Lang is NOT a superhero who has found himself in just that position. He plays the underdog just so well and you cannot help but root for the guy for the two hour duration. The same can honestly be said about Evangeline Lilly’s Hope van Dyne / Wasp. Both Lilly and Rudd are perfectly cast as characters who don’t give off that superhero vibe, and yet here they are – being the most super they can be – for reasons beside their cool suits and tech.
The movie works as a great team-up action movie. The action is fun throughout, and the best part of the Ant-Man movies is that they have had the advantage to make their action sequences more unique than any other Marvel movie. Relatively speaking, the action sequences in a normal MCU romp involve characters staying the same size, whereas in Ant-Man and the Wasp, characters change size constantly, allowing for the landscape of an action scene to change completely. The way Ant-Man and Wasp change themselves and objects around them from normal size to insect size and vice versa (sometimes even dramatically enlarging objects, like a Pez dispenser) makes for a great ping pong effect and keeps audiences engaged the entire time. You get the same world from two, maybe three, totally different perspectives and that’s an attribute that sets the Ant-Man movies apart from their predecessors in the MCU – and in an age where we have a superhero film literally every month, you need to do something to set yourself apart.
The Quantum Realm was introduced in Ant-Man (2015) and plays a huge part in this sequel. On the one hand, you have Hope’s father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) attempting to search for and rescue his wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), the original Wasp to Pym’s original Ant-Man, who has been trapped in the Quantum Realm for over thirty years. On the other hand, the villain of the movie Ava / Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) has been somehow affected by the Quantum Realm and as a result can phase in and out of stuff, but she struggles to control her “powers” and is slowly losing her grip on reality. This is where the movie loses me a little bit, because we were introduced to the concept of the Quantum Realm in Ant-Man and I figured this movie would take advantage of that and really sink its teeth into breaking down the science of the Quantum Realm; and the movie only merely scratches the surface of that itch for me.
What Ant-Man and the Wasp suffers from the most is – despite its charming cast and great action – all the tiresome Marvel tropes that we have come to expect. It sacrifices dramatic moments for a comedic punch line (See: Thor: Ragnarok (2017)). The humor isn’t completely unwelcome, and it’s DEFINITELY warranted in a movie titled ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’, but there are just sentimental moments that I wished would embrace that feeling for longer. Secondly, the villain is weak – just facts. People seem to jump on the “Marvel only has weak villains,” train pretty quickly. While I agree not every MCU villain is perfect, it hurts a little more this time around because Marvel seemed like it had its villain problem solved. Marvel was two for two in 2018 with Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) and Thanos (Josh Brolin), but they couldn’t get the hat trick with this one. Even before, two of the three 2017 Marvel ventures had great villains in Ego (Kurt Russell) and Vulture (Michael Keaton). Ghost’s efforts to understand her power could have been a great struggle to see play out and make her a sympathetic villain, but the fact of the matter is she lacks any depth and Marvel decided her “depth” was going to be that her powers were taken advantage of by SHIELD to commit assassinations – which opens up a whole can of continuity worms in the MCU that I can’t get into, otherwise I won’t shut up.
The villain issue doesn’t fall entirely on Ghost’s portrayal, there’s also a minor issue of too many antagonistic cooks in the kitchen. You have Ghost trying to cure herself of her Quantum conundrum, and the FBI interfering because Scott Lang is technically under house arrest after siding with Captain America (Chris Evans) in Civil War and tearing apart an airport. Obviously Lang sneaks out of his house arrest and the FBI are in a cat-and-mouse chase with him throughout the movie. And THEN there’s Walton Goggins, who plays Sonny Burch, a criminal who wants to steal and sell Hank Pym’s research like any pointless criminal would. I love Goggins, he elevates any movie I see him in, but it’d be dishonest of me to say that he isn’t completely pointless in this movie and just used as a poster-name to generate ticket sales.
For what it’s worth, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a fun team-up movie. There are small easter eggs here and there that tie back to the MCU, but relatively speaking it’s a very contained movie. It tables the events of Infinity War and focuses on Scott Lang being the best hero and father he can be, and the family dynamic of Hope and Hank as they search for Janet. As with every Marvel movie, the mid-credits scene is a joy to watch, however the post-credits sequence was literally in the trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp and that feels like an insult to me because EVERYONE knows to stay after the credits for any Marvel movie and when it’s something we’ve already seen, it’s nothing but a waste of time.
As fun a team-up movie as it is, Marvel can’t help but exploit their faults with a weak villain and laughs over substance. Having said that, Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) is by no means a bad time at all. The action is great and unique; Michael Peña steals every scene he is in; and the leads Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, and Michael Douglas create a weird and charming family dynamic that carries the movie.