Though not as serious as other Marvel films, Ant-Man and the Wasp surpasses the original and does fine work of embracing its savvy silliness.
It’s fitting that Ant-Man and the Wasp opens on Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) trying to entertain his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston) while serving his two year house arrest following the events of Captain America: Civil War. Marvel fans are essentially under house arrest for the next year as we wait to see how the remaining Avengers will put right what went to so horribly wrong at the end of Infinity War. Ant-Man’s job then is to entertain us in the meantime.
The first Ant-Man certainly isn’t on the top of any essential lists for the Marvel cinematic world and Ant-Man and the Wasp won’t be either. And that is perfectly fine. There is something refreshing about Scott Lang–he’s not a god, wealthy, government designed, or anything else particularly special. He’s an average guy with a solid view of natural morality who happened to be gifted a pretty neat suit. Good for him. That he is played by famously nice guy Paul Rudd is probably why the character works the way it does.
In this outing, Scott is a heartbeat away from freedom when an odd dream has him calling up his old mentor, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas, who may or may not just be smirking at how much he gets paid to talk about ants). It turns out that Hank and his strong-willed daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly, sporting a MUCH better haircut) have tried to replicate Scott’s quantum realm jump at the end of Ant-Man in hope of saving their long-lost wife/mom Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer, who is a goddess and I will not hear anyone say otherwise). This experiment has somehow jangled a connection Janet made with Scott’s brain, and turns him from outcast to necessary partner. Also interested in this technology is Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) who wants to cash in on Pym’s tech and, more dangerously, Ghost, aka Ava Starr (Hannah John-Kamen), a molecularly unstable super assassin with a vendetta against Pym. The film then becomes a race of snatch and grabs peppered with scale-morphing fight scenes.
Reviewing Marvel films is difficult in the context we have been given–do you review the film on its own merit or consider as part of the vast, interconnected Marvel universe? Is it fair to compare Ant-Man and the Wasp to, say, Dr. Strange or even Spider-Man Homecoming? Are all superhero films to be treated as equal? In this case, I say no. Ant-Man and the Wasp (or probably any Ant-Man movie) is never going to be a Winter Soldier. And it shouldn’t. It serves a different purpose–the slapstick cousin you can take kids to without worrying they will get bored or traumatized. (My eleven-year-old daughter was angry for like a week after Infinity War).
The film itself is fine, even good. Rudd is certainly the most accessible Avenger (I particularly enjoy how much time he spends in various forms of “dad” bathrobes) and plays the mix of “this is ridiculous” with “this is so cool” well. He’s a guy who is relatable, yet still has a moral core we can believe in. That Rudd had a hand in the script probably helps–the film has legitimately funny moments. The casting of actors like Goggins, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, and the criminally underused (pun intended) Michael Peña shows a nice attention to seemingly throwaway characters. This bout also better embraces the innate silliness of what it actually is–there is more joy in throwing ridiculously oversized Pez dispensers and salt shakers or watching a man appear to fight himself under bug attack. Anyone who has ever battled a mosquito can sympathize. In essence, it’s actually fun. Probably its worst crime is the design of its chief villain, Ghost. We’ve seen stories like hers before, so she really is just a footnote in the overall arc of the film.
For those wanting Ant-Man and the Wasp to be something more important than an average dad with a cool suit, let’s give it applause for being the first Marvel film to acknowledge the importance of its female character by making her an equal part of the title and narrative (Yes, yes, Jessica Jones. Note that I said film). Much scorn has been tossed about because Black Widow remains a side-dish Avenger. Even the female-heavy Black Panther was not Black Panther and All those Amazing Wakandan Women. Not saying it needs to be, but we should note that Wasp is given her due here.
Now, for some spoilers. Like, major spoilers. Seriously, stop reading if you haven’t seen Infinity War or you don’t want to know how it connects to Ant-Man and the Wasp. Here’s a link to our really cool Star Wars Timeline to read instead.
So the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp end at exactly the same moment Thanos infamously snaps his fingers. It just so happens that Scott is in the quantum realm when it all goes down while Janet, Hank, and Hope all dissipate. That’s right, our average guy is stuck in a weird realm when the world falls away. And, for those who want to hone your theories, recall that Dr. Strange waited for a specific moment to hand over the stone. Could it be to ensure Scott was in place? So as much as Ant-Man may seem like a throwaway character, I think there are big things in store for our little man.