Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) Review
CHARMING AND FUN,
Back in 2015, Marvel Studios released two of its Marvel Cinematic Universe blockbusters during that summer, continuing the massive superhero extravaganza with Avengers: Age of Ultron and Ant-Man. While the superhero team adventure in Age of Ultron continued to progress the overall arc MCU story forward (further expanding on certain ideas and character motives), Ant-Man, which was director Peyton Reed, was a more smaller scale endeavor, but still produce a unique feature film. In a nutshell, the movie, which starred Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, and others, told the story of Scott Lang, a now freed convicted felon, of how he must defend Hank Pym’s Ant-Man shrinking technology and gets entangled in a plot heist against Pym’s villainous protegee Darren Cross. As being a part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the sixteenth film), the film, which did face a bit of a rocky road to get to production (i.e. the switching of directors from Edgar Wright to Peyton Reed), faced some criticism, but was (in general terms) received positively by moviegoers and critics, especially from the film’s cast, it’s humorous bits, and its creative CGI sequences in its smaller scaled adventure. Additionally, Ant-Man went on to garnish roughly $519 million at the box office and closed out Marvel Phase II saga. Now, three years later and after the massive success of Marvel’s other two 2018 releases (i.e. Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War), Marvel Studios and director Peyton Reed present the follow-up adventure to 2015’s Ant-Man with the film Ant-Man and the Wasp. Does this latest superhero sequel have the right nuances to warrant a glance or is it frivolous entry in the MCU?
Following the events after Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is almost finished with his two years of house arrest that was part of his pardon deal after violating the Sokovia Accords by helping Steve Rogers. With days before his house arrest is up, Scott looks forward to his “clean slate” life, spending time with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) as well as his new security business with former cellmate pal Luis (Michael Pena). However, Scott reconnects with his former associates Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), both of whom have been evading the FBI and run for the past two years. During that time, they’ve assembled a lab where they’ve been building a gateway to the Quantum Realm in an attempt to rescue Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who went missing into the Quantum Realm 30 years ago. Now, after Scott returned from the Quantum Realm in their previous adventure, Pym believes that Janet can be saved as well. However, while Hank and Hope work is coveted not only by criminal Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), but by the mysterious entity known as Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who can phase shift in and out of matter in an unstable manner. Additionally, while the group seeks aid from Pym’s old colleague Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) is in hot pursuit of Scott’s whereabouts. As all these characters collide and try to evade each other, Hank and Hope desperately try to plan a rescue mission for Janet, while Scott must decide whether to protect his reformed life or suit up again as Ant-Man.
THE GOOD / THE BAD
I do remember (back in 2015) seeing Ant-Man twice in theaters (once by myself and the other with a few of my friends). To me, it was good, but not as good as some of Marvel’s better superhero features within this cinematic universe. I mean, the Phase II saga had plenty of great films, including the more grounded narrative of Captain America: The Winter Soldier, the cosmic adventure in Guardians of the Galaxy, and the blockbuster team up in Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ant-Man was set on a more smaller scale (no pun intended) and was more of a compacted adventure rather than the sprawling blockbuster flair of its predecessor. In truth, there’s no doubt that Ant-Man is actually the most lighthearted film in the MCU, choosing a more personal journey rather than a large scale “save the world” entry. Still, there was something about Ant-Man that made it more on the other end of the MCU spectrum….at least in my opinion. I’m not staying that I didn’t enjoy (I loved Rudd as Scott Land and Douglas was excellent as Pym) and the whole micro world was a fun visual, but it was just a bit of an adequate Marvel adventure rather than a spectacular one.
This, of course, brings me back to talking about Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man and the third MCU of 2018. Yes, I’ve stated before, I’m a huge fan of Marvel, particularly the Marvel Cinematic Universe feature films. So, I was excited to see this movie. Well, to be honest, I wasn’t that super excited, especially after the other two well-received 2018 movies (Black Panther and Infinity War). Still, Ant-Man and the Wasp intrigued me, especially as to wear it would fit in the “grand scheme” of things in this superhero universe. Plus, I do like the cast, which given how the film’s movie trailers were presented, featured a lot of the recognizable faces from either the previous Ant-Man film or from other film projects. So, being the last MCU of 2018, I went to see this movie, hoping that my expectations were matched with what I wanted to see versus what the movie actually was. What did I think of it? Well, it’s fairly good. While the movie does fail in “upping the ante” in this cinematic universe, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a fun standalone superhero adventure. It’s not the best or brightest that the MCU has to offer, but it’s still a small and amusing feature (despite it being the weakest entry in the MCU Phase III saga).
Returning to the director’s chair is Peyton Reed, who previously directed the first Ant-Man as well as other movies such as Bring It On, The Break Up, and Yes, Man. Given how the directorial shift in the first Ant-Man went (with Edgar Wright leaving the project and Peyton Reed stepping in), Reed seems take a similar approach when crafting this sequel, keeping a lot of the same thematic overtones and styles that made up the essence of the first Ant-Man. In truth, Reed seems more confident in stepping into the superhero genre that he did in back with the first Ant-Man feature, making this movie (i.e. Ant-Man and the Wasp) more of a stronger presence in certain areas than the first installment (i.e. its establish world and the characters that play around in the narrative). Similar to other sequels, Reed doesn’t have to spend a lot of time “reinventing the wheel” with these characters and hits the ground running, quickly catching up viewers on the film’s characters / events within the first ten minutes of the film. In conjunction with that idea, Ant-Man and the Wasp moves at brisk pace (clocking in at around two minutes shy of two hours), which certainly does help the movie move along and keeps the story tight and rarely gets sidetracked with superfluous side stories. The film’s screenplay, which is handled by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, and Gabriel Ferrai, keeps the narrative on a more “grounded” and “personal” journey, much like the first Ant-Man, and utilizes the more “street level” plot in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which can be quite refreshing and a change of pace from the more “saving the world” larger scale adventures that have been recently told in Marvel’s cannon. What also helps is the continuing narrative of exploring the Quantum Realm, a subatomic reality of infinite possibilities and unexplained phenomenons, that plays a more central theme in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Additionally, to those expecting this movie to answer question surrounding the events of Avengers: Infinity War, you’ll be disappointed as the movie follows more closely towards the events of Captain America: Civil War. Much like before, Reed adds those connection dots to the feature, referencing Civil War’s events (i.e. the events in Germany, the Sokovia Accords, etc.) throughout the feature. Thus, the movie cements itself in the overall arc timeline in the MCU.
Much like before, the film’s comedy and overall lightheartness comes into play in this sequel, with plenty of oddball moments and goofy humor to be had throughout the feature. Again, it’s a bit of a change of pace from the gravitas and / or serious tones of some of the other MCU features and the movie certainly benefits from that, adding its own charm and fun bravado to making its mark on this ever-growing franchise. Personally, it would be kind be a terrible thing if Ant-Man was super ultra-serious. Thus, Peyton and several key members of the cast, do get “kudos” credit in continuing that trend in Ant-Man and the Wasp. The comedy jokes and gags are good in the movie, though not as uproariously hilarious as with the Guardians of the Galaxy movies. Still, it’s a welcomed addition to the film’s proceedings. That’s not to say that the movie is devoid of action sequences as the film still carries plenty of fun action bits here and there, showcasing the fighting on all sizes (be it normal size fighting, shrinking ones, or larger ones). Again, it’s nothing as ultra uber massive battle attacks like in Infinity War, but its enough to make a viewer engaged in the movie’s frivolities of its two lead and the bad guys / sticky situations that they face in the film.
As filmmaking presentation goes, Ant-Man and the Wasp is another solid superhero endeavor from Marvel Studios, showcasing a lot of fun and creative technical merits throughout the movie. Naturally, the film’s visual effects to should be praised for the work in the movie, displaying a lot of creative CG in the movie, with varying degrees of poignancy (be it shrinking and growing aspects or visual backgrounds). Additionally, the film’s cinematography, which is done by Dante Spinotti, is also equally impressive, providing enough creative usage of camera angles and lightning for some fun and unique sequences, most notably towards the film’s final act. Other noteworthy technical filmmaking areas in the movie includes the work of Louise Frogley (costume designer), Shepherd Frankel (production design), and Dan Lebentai and Craig Wood (film editors). Lastly, the music score in the movie by composer Christophe Beck, who did scoring for the first Ant-Man, continues to fit perfectly with the movie, adding that quirky music moments (for the story’s more lighthearted moments), but still keeps that superhero action swells of music that help build on the plot’s more action-oriented sequences.
Despite its fun premise as well as being a brisk change of pace from the more ultra-serious MCU endeavors, Ant-Man and the Wasp fails to bring that certain gravitas (albeit Marvel comic book gravitas) to the proceedings and just feels more like inconsequential to the rest of this cinematic superhero universe. Perhaps the reason for all of this is that the film never takes itself too seriously, which I mentioned above. Yes, there perils to be had and conflicts to be resolved throughout the feature, but it was just a bit of a letdown for me. I mean, the whole juxtaposition of the galaxy threating ambition of the Mad Titan in Infinity War to a more smaller (i.e. personal stakes) can be a bit “refreshing” (again, showing that more of the lighter side of the MCU), but it also can be a bit jarring at the same time. To be quite honest, the conflict plot in Ant-Man and the Wasp is a bit inconsequential, especially in the grand scheme of the overall plotting of the MCU story arc. Yes, there are some things that tie to the larger story at play (most notably to the Quantum Realm), but it just seems a bit underwhelming in his plotting and roughly thinly written. I mean, Spider-Man: Homecoming, which is in the same boat as this movie (a movie that was added after the Phase III saga was announced and roughly planned out) and really didn’t have that much impact on the larger MCU storyline. Still, Homecoming was able to pull off by weaving in this new iteration of Peter Parker with a classic coming-of-age storyline and I just feel that Ant-Man and the Wasp can’t quite measure up to that same caliber.
Part of the particular reason is that the film’s storyline is (as I mentioned) is formulaic and doesn’t have the same “oomph” that other MCU have to offer. Personally, I liked the first Ant-Man story / plot better than Ant-Man and the Wasp. The first film, while a bit formulaic in the superhero origin yarn, had a bit more substance, especially in the story of Scott Lang (the rise of a superhero bit) as well as the relationship between Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne. Ant-Man and the Wasp continues to further those characters, but it just doesn’t have the right amount of heart and substance that event the first Ant-Man was able to present. The more direct reason for that is that narrative being told needed to be a bit more “beefier” as the multitude of writers could’ve concocted something more dynamic and engaging than what was presented in the feature. The result of this makes Ant-Man and the Wasp a bit haphazard in its storyline (i.e. thinly written in certain areas) as well as having a weak antagonist / conflict. Personally, it really doesn’t “up the ante” especially if you put the movie up against other MCU feature films. Even the film’s final conflict / confrontation in the movie was a bit underwhelming and could’ve played out with a bit more “oomph” added to it. Again, raising the stakes and upping the ante of it all. Again, I still enjoyed the movie, but its hard not notice these things, especially when superhero movies are now at its essential peak of popularity with mainstream pop culture. It’s okay to have a lighthearted and smaller scale story for a superhero movie, but make it worth something worth caring about and with more substance. Ant-Man and the Wasp just doesn’t do that, halfway reaching that point in amongst its charm, humorous bits, and superhero nuances.
The cast in Ant-Man was one of the big selling points, collectively bring together a few recognizable actors and actresses to plot the film’s colorful characters (both heroes and side characters) in the feature. Ant-Man and the Wasp does the same thing, seeing several individuals reprising their character roles from the first movie. Leading the charge is actor Paul Rudd, who plays the central hero of the feature Scott Lang / Ant-Man. Rudd, known for his roles in I love You, Man, Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and The 40-Year Old Virgin, definitely make the character of Scott Lang his own, lending his comedic talents and angst to the film’s proceedings. Much like before, Rudd still has that quality of being the goofy “everyday” individual (unlike the more stoic iteration of Thor and Captain America or the intellect / self-absorbed persona of Iron Man), but also displays the same quality of being a superhero. He definitely has that charm and bravado about him, which makes the character of Scott Lang still very likeable from start to finish. His character arc still continues to be a more “grounded” narrative than other MCU endeavors, which again works for most of the feature, and Ant-Man and the Wasp further establishes that notion as the more “human” superhero in this cinematic universe.
Next, actress Evangeline Lilly returns, reprising her roles as Hope van Dyne. Lilly, known for her roles in The Hobbit trilogy, Real Steel, and Lost, was, more or less, a larger side character in the first Ant-Man, gets to flex her superhero muscle in this movie, with her character of Hope having a more prominent role and does (sometimes) outshine Scott Lang’s Ant-Man. Of course, I’m talking about her role as the newest superhero to join the MCU roster as the Wasp, emphasizing the female superhero to co-lead a Marvel superhero feature. Trust me when I say that she doesn’t disappoint as the Wasp, showcasing enough action aspects within her character and her dynamics of working alongside Lang’s Ant-Man. To be honest, with her wings and her blasters, she’s actually the work powerful one of the two and definitely handles herself in action. Naturally, Lilly sells her iteration of Hope and succeeds in making her a more physical central character in the movie, especially when the movie is titled Ant-Man and the Wasp. Plus, it also helps that she once again shares a great rapport with Rudd’s Lang as their banter works well within the comedy superhero bits. The last member of the trio is seasoned veteran actor Michael Douglas, who reprises his roles as Dr. Hank Pym. Douglas, known for his roles in Wall Street, Basic Instinct, and Fatal Attraction, easily slides back into his Ant-Man character roles, providing enough gravitas and humor towards his Hank Pym, To be honest, Douglas seems to be having a lot more fun in this movie and certainly shows that in a few scenes. It’s a good fit for the character of Hank Pym and Douglas continues to shine in the roles, no matter what his capacity in the film’s narrative allows him.
Beyond the return leads in the movie, actor Michael Pena once again steals the spotlight in this superhero adventure, with his reprisal of Scott Lang’s former cellmate pal Luis. Pena, known for his roles in The Martian, Shooter, and Crash, succeeds in bring most of the targets laughs in his comedy angst of Luis, most notably due to Pena’s acting ability to deliver his lines. Definitely one of the big scene-stealers for the most of his screen-time. Other returning supporting characters include actress Judy Greer (13 Going on 30 and 27 Dresses) as Scott’s ex-wife Maggie, actor Bobby Cannavale (Blue Jasmine and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle) as Maggie’s new husband / police officer Jim Paxton, and Tip T.I. Harris (American Gangster and Takers) and Dave Dastmalchian as Luis’s two associates who work for Lang’s X-Con security crew Dave and Kurt.
As for the new characters in the movie, actress Hannah John-Kamen plays the film’s antagonist character of Ava / Ghost. While John-Kamen’s, known for her roles in Killjoys, Black Mirror, and Ready Player One, acting talents are solid in the movie, her character itself is underdeveloped. This, of course, goes back to the reoccurring problem with MCU movies of having a good actor / actress as the main villain of the feature, but is weakly written and does have that much quality impact on the narrative to be truly memorable. Her character isn’t wrapped up in something truly evil of villainy (think of more Elsa from Disney’s Frozen) as there’s a degree that a viewer can sympathize with her. Plus, it was cool (from a visual standpoint) to see her character phase in and out of matter throughout several of her action sequences. That being said, coming off of such great villains like Killmonger in Black Panther and Thanos in Infinity War, it just makes John-Kamen’s Ava / Ghost character was pretty forgettable. Heck, I even thought that Corey Stoll’s Darren Cross was a better villain. Behind her is actor Laurence Fishburne, who plays the character of Dr. Bill Foster, Pym’s old S.H.I.E.L.D colleague that aids Lang in their endeavor into the Quantum Realm. Known for his roles in The Matrix trilogy, John Wick: Chapter 2, and Black-ish, Fishburne’s acting talents are solid in the movie and is welcomed addition to this superhero universe, but his character is limited throughout the feature, which is mostly due to narrative structure of the feature. Still, the movie hints enough at his backstory involvement with S.H.I.E.L.D and his partnership with Dr. Pym, which makes me wonder if these two characters (Pym and Foster) will appear in Captain Marvel (in some minor / cameo capacity). Personally, I certainly hope so.
The other two new characters that appear in the movie are actors Walton Goggins (Tomb Raider and The Hateful Eight) and Randall Park (Office Christmas Party and Trainwreck) as low-level criminal mobster Sonny Burch and Lang’s FBI parole officer Jimmy Woo. Both of these actors are great in their respective roles (mostly due to their acting talents at being character actors), but their characters themselves are mostly caricatures as somewhat “nuisance” for the protagonist characters. Again, most of the screen-time is focused on the main characters, so a lot of these characters (including several of the returning ones from the first film Pfeiffer) gets limited development and screen-time. Lastly, as it was announced during the film’s production, actress Michelle Pfeiffer joins the superhero genre in the movie by playing the character of Janet van Dyne, Hank Pym’s wife and Hope’s mother. Minds, Scarface, and Murder on the Orient Express, is up for the task and being a part of a Marvel and is definitely a welcomed addition to the roster of seasoned actors / actresses that appear in this cinematic universe. It will be interesting to see how much Pfeiffer’s Janet van Dyne will play a part in future MCU installments. Well, let’s hope for the best….
As a final note, much like many of the other MCU movies out there, Ant-Man and the Wasp has an ending credit scene. Set during as a mid-credit one, the scene, while I won’t spoil it, left me shocked and wanting more. It’s something I was kind of expecting, but it was definitely a great one, leaving me guessing as to what will happen next.
Scott Lang, Hank Pym, and Hope van Dyne return to the big screen, facing new enemies and planning a rescue mission into the Quantum Realm in the movie Ant-Man and the Wasp. Director Peyton Reed’s latest film sees the return Marvel’s smallest hero, finding this sequel tale to be light on its feet and have a more nostalgia / compacted story of the 90s superhero experience rather than the more serious big-scale tales from current comic book endeavors in the MCU. While the movie feels a bit inconsequential (in the grand scheme of things), lacks a sense of narrative substance (story and some character builds), and does struggle to keep momentum in its third act, the film succeeds in keeping its overall tone light and fun, especially thanks to Reed’s direction and balance of the feature as well as the solid performances from the movie’s cast (be it major or minor ones). Personally, I thought this was fairly good. I don’t think it was necessarily one of the better movies in the MCU (definitely one of the weakest entries in the Phase III saga), but it still carries a lot of fun attributes to like in making this sequel endeavor noteworthy and (at the very least) entertaining. Essentially, it gets somethings wrong, but also a lot of things right. Thus, the movie breaks even in varying points and criticism remarks. Considering that, I would say that recommendation for this would be a “recommended” one, especially for those Marvel fans out there who are looking for a small “street level” adventure. With Marvel’s Phase III saga coming to a close next year (i.e. Captain Marvel and the current untitled Avengers 4), it will be interesting to see how the Phase IV saga will shape up to be and if there will be an Ant-Man 3 to sort of close out Scott Lang’s tale in a trilogy fashion (similar to Tony Stark, Steve Rogers, and Thor). Will it materialize? It’s unclear, but I personally suspect it will in the foreseeable future. For now, Ant-Man and the Wasp stands at what Marvel can achieve (on a smaller scale), creating a fun side-adventure in this cinematic universe of heroes, gods, and monsters.
3.7 Out of 5 (Recommended)
Released On: July 6th, 2018
Reviewed On: July 8th, 2018
Ant-Man and the Wasp is 118 minutes long and is rated PG-13 for some sci-fi action violence