Ant-Man and the Wasp is a very well-timed film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. After the deadly serious Black Panther and the incredibly depressing ending of Avengers: Infinity War this film aims to make us laugh, enjoy ourselves, and remember summer movies are meant to be fun. And fun it is, because the film doesn’t take itself too seriously with a surprising number of clever ideas that utilize the shrinking and growing powers of its title heroes very well.
The relief this film gives you is partly due to how it isn’t trying to stop the world from ending but instead focuses on saving Hank Pym’s (Michael Douglas) wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer). This is about saving one life when superhero movies seem hellbent on saving all of them every time we go to the cinema. The film opens with a flashback to Janet and Hank back when they were secret agents and their daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) was just a little girl. It mimics the flashback in the first film as it reminds us Hank once used his powers as a secret agent and he saved the world countless times. It’s a nice reminder of what this superhero can do — especially when juxtaposed with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who is a bit of a doofus but has a good heart.
This film does a lot of heavy lifting as far as explaining what happened to Scott after helping Cap in Captain America: Civil War. When we first meet Scott in the film he’s under house arrest and serving out a two-year sentence but he’s only three days away from being a free man. The film takes place over those three days with a post-credit scene that catches it up to post Avengers: Infinity War events. By the end of the film, Scott hasn’t grown all that much — it is only three days after all, but it does reset things and put him in a better place to continue on as the superhero Ant-Man in some form or another. Oh, he’s also very good at close-up magic tricks.
The big addition to this film building off the last is the quantum realm, which gets a lot of attention since Janet is stuck there. Characters talk about it, they spend the majority of the movie trying to get there, and we even get to see it first hand. It’s scenes like this that are reminiscent of Doctor Strange and the other dimensions he explores. This is where the Marvel movies are really breaking new ground and showing audiences new worlds and ideas yet to be explored. Sure, it’s fun to see a character zap a salt shaker making it big to block a door, but there’s only so much of that before things start to seem overdone. That’s one of the strongest elements of this film — it always seems to have a new trick up its sleeve. There are plenty of cool set pieces and ideas thrown in (many you can see in the trailers), but you’re bound to find something new and cool every 10 minutes or so.
It’s becoming very clear Ant-Man isn’t much of a superhero, but his heart is in the right place. He’ll do the right thing, which makes audience members love him. For the action, Wasp is your hero of choice. She’s positively badass and despite the trailers ruining some of her best fight scenes, she’s spectacular in this film. She’s heroic, compassionate, and very good at what she does. She’s basically everything you’d want Ant-Man to be, but he’s too much of a dope to pull this level of fighting off. That’s okay because the film points out they’re a team more than once so expect them back on the screen together again if (or is it when?) a third film arrives.
That’s not to say this is a perfect film by any means. The main premise revolves around retrieving, stealing, or inhabiting Hank Pym’s lab housed in a building he can shrink at will. The film is devoid of a stereotypical villain which might sound good, but ultimately leaves you with Walton Goggins to despise and he’s barely worth caring about since he’s a rich hotel owner and not much more. There is the villain who pops up in the trailers called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), but she’s more of a victim than anything else. No, the film lacks a consistent threat unless you count the plot-serving accidents and happenstance that require the heroes to chase down the lab.
For a superhero movie, there aren’t that many high stakes moments either, because the heroes are so very good at fighting and dodging punches. Ant-Man is rarely put in mortal danger for instance, and the real threat is missing an opportunity or two or losing a business. Small change of pace from when Thanos literally wiped out half the human population (or did he get the animals too?). An FBI agent catching Scott Lang without his ankle bracelet is hardly something we should be caring about. The film attempts to add some drama with Scott’s company working towards becoming financially viable while being run by the hilarious Luis (Michael Peña), who also happens to be not very good at his job. Are we really supposed to worry about Scott’s company when he’s friends with Avengers, must have a favor or two to call in with the Pym’s, and also has some superhero cred? The movie suggests he’s considered a criminal due to his acts in Captain America: Civil War, but audiences won’t buy it.
There are other hiccups with this film that reduce its quality, like the techno-babble of the Pym’s that doesn’t seem to be trying, or the romance between Scott and Hope that never feels like more than puppy love. These are elements you can roll with however, since your suspension of disbelief is already working overtime to buye a person growing 12 stories tall or shrinking down to ant size within half a second.
As a superhero movie, this film succeeds at delivering on new ideas, big action scenes, and sci-fi exploration like no other. I had a good time with the film, even if there were a lot of elements that didn’t work. I found the film funny enough but was surprised at how many jokes didn’t quite land. It’s still one of the coolest superhero movies simply because it can play around with your expectations by shrinking and supersizing anything. However big or small your expectations are for this film, you’re going to come away happy on some level because there’s nothing else like it.
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