With Infinity War taking the MCU into a state of f**ked that’s gonna take a full year to unf**k, the question loomed over how they were going to follow such a massive event. Well they chose to go small.
Really, REALLY small.
In the two years since the events of Civil War, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been under house arrest waiting to join his friends Luis (Michael Pena), Kurt (David Dastmalchian) and Dave (Tip T.I. Harris) in their new security contractor firm. However because of his use of the Ant-Man suit, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) have had to go into hiding since it was their technology that Scott used and that makes them culpable, as such both have cut ties with Scott and neither has seen him in the two years.
In that time Hank and Hope have been experimenting with opening the Quantum Realm, a previously thought unrecoverable place in space and time where Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), Hope’s mother, disappeared to 30 years earlier, but following Scott’s journey to and from the Quantum Realm during his fight with Yellowjacket, Hank believes that there’s a chance for them to save Janet, the only question is finding here. That’s when life throws Scott back at them, with a message from Janet trapped inside his mind the three of them are thrown back together in order to save Janet, but it turns out they aren’t the only ones interested in Quantum technology. A mysterious woman (Hannah John-Kamen) with the apparent ability to phase through objects, called ‘Ghost’, has her own interest in the Quantum Realm and a serious bone to pick with Hank Pym.
Obviously compared with Infinity War this is gonna come up short but in a way that works in its favour, despite the big science words and fancy tech this does boil down to a rescue mission. Personally I think that even with the smaller focus the film does get side-tracked quite a bit, more often the film revolves around Hank Pym’s lab which he has shrunk into a travel-case and the several parties trying to get their hands on it including Hank, Ghost and black-market dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins). It doesn’t hurt the story but there are points you’ll wish they got back to the main point of saving Janet rather than the run-around they do several times over.
Character work was fun, kinda light but it worked for this type of film, it would’ve been nice to see Laurence Fishburne be given more to do as Bill ‘Goliath’ Foster but he fits nicely into the story and his shared history with Hank give him enough to work with, I doubt we’ll see him again but it’s nice for the backstory of the MCU to get a little more of a spotlight.
Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale both return as Scott’s ex Maggie and her new husband Paxton respectively, while neither of them factor into the story all that much I did like their inclusion since all three were clearly on good terms, it was a nice turn away from the clichéd dickhead step-parent. Likewise the return of Cassie was just as hilariously adorable as before only this time with her knowing her father was a legit superhero the door was opened for a lot of great moment between the two of them, with Scott being the only Avenger to have a child his priorities are very different but Cassie sells the relationship between them perfectly.
Some of the outlying characters really didn’t get a lot to work with. Randall ‘Asian Jim’ Park was essentially just comic relief as FBI agent Jimmy Woo – good comic relief but essentially just there for laughs. Goggins as secondary villain Sonny Burch felt kinda wasted in the role, again he had some funny moments and Goggins looks to be having fun but aside from an inside man in the FBI that doesn’t really go anywhere his only contribution to the plot is to be a nuisance, for someone like Goggins this feels like wasted potential.
Lang’s partners in crime, Luis, Kurt and Dave, also all return and all three still have a fun chemistry together. Luis gets the majority of the focus due to Pena’s sheer likability and his fast-paced story-telling techniques (we do get another great flashback) but all three of them have the chance to shine and it’s nice to see them all again.
Main villain this time around was ‘Ghost’, real name Ava, originally a male in the comics the gender-swap allowed the MCU to blank-slate the character and introduce their own version, this one being a woman who’s exposure to the Quantum Realm as a child has left her with decades of pain and death, being trained by SHIELD to be an assassin in return for a cure they never had. Ava is given this dead-eyed, years of anguish look about her that works to be sympathizing and terrifying in equal measure, her goal is for her own well-being but after years of knowing nothing by death it’s the only way she knows how to respond, I liked the morally grey nature of the character rather than an out-and-out villain since it give the film more to work with.
Janet didn’t comes into the film until very late (though there’s a great moment with Scott about half-way through that Rudd just nails) but I’m hoping there’s more from her coming up since her time in the Quantum Realm seems to have had a strange effect on her. Instead the other half of the parenting team, Hank Pym returns and once again Douglas effortlessly slips into the MCU, though this time he takes a bit of a back-step to allow Hope to take centre-stage Hank still has his part to play with his wife being the central focus of the plot. Douglas seems be in great spirits about the role and a little more light-hearted than before, since he’s now willing to let Hope take up the mantle of Wasp and sees just how good she is he’s toned down on the grumpy old man bit though still pulls it out whenever Scott does something silly.
Lilly – now without that weird wig thing from the last film – is back as Hope and while not quite full-hero mode due to her being in hiding, now that she’s got the Wasp suit she’s gotten a lot more to work with. Like Douglas, Lilly is a little more light-hearted this time around but still has the ability to be serious when it’s required, she plays a great foil to Rudd’s more careless Lang, easily being the better of the two but understanding where he’s coming from in regards to protecting his daughter first and foremost. It’s a definite improvement on the character from last time with Hope no longer having the baggage of a distant father and a dead mother, now she has… hope, and that’s what’s driving her forward throughout the film.
Rounding out the cast of course is Rudd (Man… whoever though Phoebe’s husbands would be a superhero?). Rudd is still one of the surprising highlights of the MCU, being this charming goofball who’s just looking to do the right thing and not always taking the right steps to do so. Scott does have this factor about him where he can only think one or two steps ahead and it’s steps three and four that bite him in the ass, case in point his time with the Avengers got him arrested again and broke up his relationship with Hope and Hank, but it’s that endearing nature that makes Scott such a great character, he tries his hardest and after a criminal lifestyle even just trying to do good is something special. Admittedly I felt that Rudd’s comic timing (while great) was a little too focused on since now he was no longer on the outside looking in, so his arc here of trying to stay on the straight and narrow was a little too similar to him in the first film, but it’s Rudd, and it works so I’m not gonna complain.
Director Peyton Reed also returns and does a solid job, both this and the first film are two of the lightest MCU movies, which makes them easy to get into but personally I found both to be lacking that certain spark. Don’t mistake that as dislike, I found both movies to be incredibly fun but Marvel Movies and fun are pretty synonymous so lacking the depth of a Captain America film or the Anarchic sensibilities of the Guardians, they can’t help but feel like distractions, even this one feel like it only exists to bring elements into Avengers 4 (the mid-credit scene is a BIG indication of what to expect). I don’t want to sound like I’m needlessly shitting on the film, I just feel like all this film has going for it is the fun factor and that’s not enough to set it apart from the rest of the MCU.
That being said of course, the movie is still a lot of fun. Comedy hit when it needed to, couple misses here and there but most of it was strong with a running gag about Truth Serum being a nice touch and an extended sequence in a school with Scott’s malfunctioning size adjuster had probably the best laughs of the whole movie.. Where the film worked best was in its action sequences, while the size adjustment gimmick doesn’t have the same revolutionary feel as they did last time – and with Civil War bringing Giant Man into the frame – the addition of both Wasp and Ghost allowed for a lot more inventiveness in the fight sequences. Wasp herself got an early scene alone fighting Sonny’s goons in a kitchen with knifes, pots, pans and tomatoes being thrown around the place that led quickly into the first sighting of Ghost and her phasing abilities, both that and the size adjustment allowed both parties to utilize a case of ‘Can’t hit what you can’t see’ and had to think faster to work passed that.’
While I would’ve preferred to have seen more of Ghost’s phasing in action it came to the forefront during the third act car chase, able to dodge and weave in and out of vehicles while Hope and Scott brought their Tiny Van to the streets of San Francisco, armed with shrinking pellets and Giant Hello Kitty Pez. As car chases go it’s fairly tame but it’s one of those MCU moments where you have to sit back and realize that you’re watching a goddamn comic book movie and to just let it be comic-booky.
While I personally wouldn’t put Ant-Man & The Wasp in the upper echelon of MCU movies it’s a fine palette cleanser following the emotional devastation of Infinity War, if you liked the first one this is a notch better, Rudd is still charmingly bad-ass, the addition of Hope as her own hero allowed them to work with a lot more and bringing a morally grey villain with her own understanding agenda in Ghost completed this fun and inventive experience. It might be a light-hearted romp but there’s honestly nothing wrong with that.
I am giving Ant-Man & The Wasp a 3 ½ out of 5 Hairpieces!