My Review of Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has covered a lot of ground, exploring characters who went relatively unknown outside of the comic book continuity. As a result, the universe keeps growing like branches on a tree, introducing new characters and sometimes even other dimensions. Ant-Man and the Wasp introduces us to The Quantum Realm, a place where new stories can be told and a story where a tiny hero can, and does, make a big impact.
As mentioned in Avengers: Infinity War, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) agrees to a plea deal in order to make up for the damage caused in the airport scene during Captain America: Civil War. His two years of house arrest are almost up, and he has spent them not only trying to be a good father but succeeding with his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), much to delight of his ex-wife (Judy Greer) and her husband (Bobby Cannavale). He has also established a security business with his friends: Luis (Michael Pena), Kurt (Dave Dastmalchian), and Dave (T.I.) which he runs from his home while awaiting the end of his sentence.
Determined to ride out his last three days at home, Lang is horrified when he is kidnapped by old flame, Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), and father, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), in order to help them finish the construction of a tunnel that will send them to The Quantum Realm and back safely. Believing her mother, Janet, (Michelle Pfeiffer) to be alive, Hope needs Scott’s experience in having shrunk to a molecular level along with an unexplainable connection with Janet in order to successfully perform the rescue mission. Standing in their way is new villain Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who needs the tunnel for her own personal rescue mission, which jeopardizes Janet’s safety. It soon becomes a race against the clock for both heroes and villains to carry out their missions and get Scott back home before he is caught and sent to prison.
Like many stand-alone Marvel films, this is a very personal story, even more personal than the original Ant-Man. Parent-child relationships are a large theme in Phase 3 of the universe. Now that Hope and Hank’s relationship is repaired, their main focus is bringing back Janet so that the three of them can be together again. At the same time, their relationship with Lang is fractured after he borrowed the Ant-Man suit in order to join outlaw Captain America’s quest which then turned the two of them into fugitives as well. Feeling responsible and indebted to Pym, he agrees to help but must make difficult choices between their mission and his own to rebuild his life as a business owner and a father.
This movie also delivers a strong, sympathetic villain who doesn’t necessarily steal scenes but brings credibility and a cautionary tale regarding the consequences of manipulating size and cells. Ghost is fueled by fear and physical pain. Her phasing abilities are not unique to the superhero genre, but they make for great hand-to-hand combat sequences driven by strong visual effects, with fast-paced and limitless potential for multiple locations. There are several showdowns between two females without it being a distracting element of the scene. Their skills and powers take front and center, and Ant-Man jumps in to help instead of rescue Hope, highlighting Ghost’s strength rather than Hope’s inexperience.
Everyone turns in a strong performance. Michelle Pfeiffer is a welcome addition to the cast with hints of how her brilliance and experience in The Quantum Realm could come in handy in the future. Lilly fits the Wasp suit like a glove, having the most well-qualified origin story of any Marvel hero who has been introduced so far. Douglas' Pym is given a surprisingly lot to do, proving that the original Ant-Man still has a lot to offer. Both old and new characters blend well together in a familiar, choreographed verbal dance that blends humor, exposition, and action in order to keep the story moving along, populated with well-rounded characters.
Many Avengers serve as comic relief, and everyone gets at least a few funny lines to keep from fading into the background. A very large aspect to Ant-Man is his humor. He steals the show in the airport scene in Civil War. He won fans over in his first movie in order to bring something to the table, despite not having the intelligence or training that many of the other characters possess. Like Star Lord, Scott Lang is always flying by the seat of his pants, and in both movies, he is pulled into his own story, forcing him to rise to greatness.
There are a bunch of funny gags in the movie, usually at Scott’s expense or in response to his confusion and panic, but I feel like the humor was more reeled in than the original, which had nothing to lose and tended to veer off into silliness, especially when Scott’s friends show up. The popular Luis rabbit hole story-telling scene returns in order to delay an interrogation by some villains to reveal Lang’s location in the second act, doing some welcomed fan service for those who loved his rehashing of Scott’s history in the first movie without going too long. Overall, the jokes are pretty mild throughout. There is no stand-out sequence of all out humor, just an even amount of chuckling throughout, keeping the story on track without it getting too heavy or too ridiculous.
Certain elements of the plot seem rushed, despite being concentrated to three solid storylines. The main focus is bringing back Janet, though most of the movie is spent chasing missing tech needed in order to carry out the mission. There are a lot of hoops to jump over and foils to dodge. Many conflicts are conveniently capped off to understandably keep the story from branching out too far. However, it leaves little time for certain characters or situations to play out, especially at the end of the story which wraps up fast. Of course, this leaves room for an epic car chase scene through San Francisco, and, as the trailer shows, the return of Giant Man in a pivotal scene. These are all strong sequences, but it shortens the actual rescue of Janet which lessens the drama of this 30-year saga.
There is also the relationship between Hope and Scott which is stalled at the beginning of the movie and reignited by the end with few scenes for them to catch their breath and assess their feelings for each other. Hope expresses bitterness about not being called to help fight with Cap but then expresses disapproval about him going at all, especially with her father’s suit. It seems that she would not have been upset about being left out had he not been caught and forced them to go into hiding as well. Once she needs him to complete her mission, she ignores the risks that he takes in order to get what she needs from him in order to save her mother. It’s a noble quest, but it’s one rooted in selfishness while Scott spends the movie making only unselfish decisions. It’s an interesting dynamic that comes about just from having little time to talk things out.
After the grim conclusion of Avengers: Infinity War, it was important to bring back some of the fun and action in the next movie. This story takes place just before Thanos lands on Earth, an event that scarred most Marvel fans. So, it was surprising just how well things turn out. I was expecting Scott to get busted before the third act of the movie so that he would be taken to jail at the end, only to be recruited to go and fight in Avengers 4. I was sure that things would go wrong when he breaks into Cassie’s school to grab his old suit, but besides a few problems with his regulator stretching and shrinking him, it goes off without a hitch. When Hank Pym suited up and headed to the quantum realm, I didn’t expect him to come back, even if Janet did. I also didn’t expect Ghost to be cured of her phasing without sacrificing something or someone else or for Bill Foster’s (Laurence Fishburne) character arc to end without tragedy. It seems that all ends well, until the mid-credits when everything goes wrong, and we are reminded by what is at stake in the movies to come.
Ant-Man and the Wasp demonstrates how so many story elements can fall into place just by building on the pieces that have been laid out before it. This franchise helps us to see what is possible in both this world and ours, opening us up to new ideas which are both otherworldly yet plausible in how grounded they are. It also gives us personal stories about families and making choices that affect the entire family, not just the individual. The Sokovia Accords were meant to make heroes aware of what they put at stake when they go out save the world, and Ant-Man depicts a hero’s realization of this. It also took going microscopic to expand the universe past already established locations of Earth, space, and time. Like their source material, they will have an infinite number of stories to tell in this world and in others. It can be overwhelming to think about what is possible for these characters, but it’s the filmmakers’ jobs to work out what to do next. It is the audience’s job to enjoy the results.