Yes, I’m finally reviewing this. It’s been a whole week since this came out, meaning that I’ve missed the Google search engine wave for this film by, say, three weeks when you account for early reviews.
But I talked about this film last week in my box office predictions column, so here you go! The obligatory “Ant-Man and the Wasp” review!
First, let’s respond to the obvious question I posed in that very column, titled: Does anyone care about Ant-Man and the Wasp? Yes, apparently a lot of people do, and it’s not because of Ant-Man’s inherent brand power as a cultural icon moresay than Marvel made a decent movie with a fun character this time around. Like I predicted last week, so long as “Ant-Man and the Wasp” was good, it was destined to perform well, in the same way “Thor: Ragnarok” and “Guardians of the Galaxy” did when they couldn’t bank on name recognition alone.
Which lets the cat out of the bag. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is good! It’s not the best Marvel film I’ve seen, not even in recent years, but I can say the script was much stronger this time around — I actually laughed consistently — the direction is more confident, as are the performances. In a way, you have to take the first “Ant-Man” with a grain of salt for what it was: A repurposed Edgar Wright project that was made at a time when Marvel wasn’t comfortable pursuing the more weirder and obscure stories in their universe. And thus, we got a scrubbed down superhero stereotype, which is fine, because Captain America, Thor, and basically anyone who wasn’t Tony Stark in Marvel’s first two phases were like that, too. This is why we had people talking about the “Marvel formula,” and why post-“Age of Ultron,” Marvel has done everything in its power to defy audience expectations established by said formula to maintain its position as the dominant maker of blockbuster comic book movies.
In the past year, we’ve been blessed with challenging Marvel movies such as “Thor: Ragnarok,” “Spider-Man: Homecoming,” “Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2,” “Avengers: Infinity War,” and “Black Panther” that broke the Marvel formula, and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” follows this trend, even if it might slightly fall behind every one of these films. “Ant-Man” 2 has a likeable cast comprised of Paul Rudd as our main character Scott Lang/”Ant-Man,” Evangeline Lilly as his sidekick, Hope Van Dyne/”The Wasp,” Michael Douglas as inventor Hank Pym, and Michael Peña in his usual type-cast role as the comic relief sidekick. We also have the great additions of Laurence Fishburne as Liar Revealed and Hannah John-Kamen as an assassin who can phase in and out of matter named “Ghost.”
We also have a throwaway villain in the form of Walton Goggins’s Sonny Burch, who is an asshole in a suit who wants to sell Hank Pym’s inventions, who seems to be making fun of the asshole in a suite trope these Marvels films overplay, but takes up far too much screen time to properly land. He’s a joke of a villain that overstays his welcome, and is far less interesting than even the smallest of side characters in this movie, but I suppose the filmmakers sought the need to cram him into the story as it lacks a definitive villain.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is centered around the fact that in the last film, Lang was able to enter the sub-atomic quantum realm and make it out alive, something Pym’s wife and Van Dyne’s mother, Janet couldn’t do. This makes all involve believe that maybe Janet is still alive, and so the good guys’ mission is to bring her back, but are faced with a few roadblocks. Firstly, it is revealed that Ant-Man’s cameo in “Captain America: Civil War,” a film that came out two years ago, was not officially sanctioned by anyone; Lang just took the Ant-Man suit, put blind trust in the someone he never met before, and managed to get caught. As a result, for virtually all of this film, Lang is under house arrest, and must find creative ways to leave the house in order to help Van Dyne and Pym.
Our second plot thread focuses on Liar Revealed, an old colleague of Pym’s, and the Ghost, who is a victim of an old colleague of Pym’s. Yeah, Hank Pym kind of sucked.
You see, the Ghost was caught in between an experiment gone wrong as a child, in which her parents were killed, that left her with the ability to phase in and out of matter. She was weaponized, and found a way out of that life, only to learn that her accident had been slowly deteriorating her body and as such, needs Pym’s help to cure her. Liar Revealed is a liar revealed because he, unbeknownst to Pyme, has been trying to help Ghost this entire time and it made for a very poor reveal scene that didn’t need to happen. As a whole, while Fishburne’s character adds some dimension to the story in regards to the depth he adds to Pym’s character as a flawed hero (Pym ruined his career and others, which led to the very events that created Ghost), Fishburne’s character in of himself isn’t very interesting, and is almost a carbon copy of Fishburne’s “Man of Steel” portrayal of “Daily Bugle” Editor-in-Chief Perry White, but in a scientific setting.
And then we have Asshole-in-a-suit’s story and some wacky side adventures with Lang’s family and Michael Peña, who was probably delighted to have this movie to fall back on after last year’s “Chips.” They’re barely existent and by all means are background noise, with the only remarkable thing to say about any of them being Peña and his partner, David Dastmalchian’s comedic prowess and how Abby Ryder Fortson works remarkably well as Lang’s daughter, as she shares an extraordinary chemistry with Paul Rudd. They probably have the best portrayal of a familial relationship in all of the MCU.
There’s even a small, comedic relationship with Lang and his parole office, Jimmy Woo (Randall Park). And I have to say, the action is much better than the first film, which felt restricted rather than freed by its size-changing concept. And “Ant-Man” 2 isn’t afraid to get goofy; it’s as if on almost every level, from the writing, to the inclusion of more seemingly-ad libbed scenes, to even the overall feel and look of the film (although “Ant-Man” 2’s style pales in comparison to “Thor: Ragnarok”), the film is a step up from its predecessor.
In fact, the only real gripes I have with the film is that some of the action was unnecessary (there’s a whole pointless sequence where Lang falls asleep from growing large for too long and almost drowns), in some areas it’s overly-procedural, and its central conflict isn’t all that well crafted. What we get to sit through is essentially a misunderstanding between Ghost and Team Ant-Man, some sketchy motives from Laurence Fishburne’s character, and some Asshole in a suit, sprinkled by wacky hijinks with some fun side characters.
Hats off to Peyton Reed, he really proved me wrong. “Ant-Man” 2 is a hit, and is definitely worth at least one watch in the theater, which, by the way, was far more packed than the premiere of “Solo.”
Now, I’m not saying that I’m demanding an “Ant-Man” 3, but chances are, it won’t hurt.
Ant-Man and the Wasp gets a 7 out of 10.