Ant-Man and the Wasp
Paul Rudd’s size changing superhero returns in an adventure that needs a partner in Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and the Wasp.
The first Ant-Man was a lot of fun and managed to subvert the common superhero blockbuster tropes to a certain degree in a really entertaining way. A big part of its success was the tongue in cheek approach that could still be taken seriously when it needed to be and a talented cast who brought a lot of range to an admittedly silly idea.
Ant-Man and the Wasp picks up nearly 2 years after the events of Captain America: Civil War and shortly before the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has agreed to placed under house arrest for two years after his involvement in the superhero brawl in Germany that took place during Captain America: Civil War. As that’s happening Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) are working on a plan that will free Pym’s wife and Hope’s mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Realm so that their family can be reunited. Lang turns out to be instrumental in their plan succeeding so they pull him into their adventure and there we have a film.
The plot sounds fairly convoluted but it doesn’t really come across that way. It mostly acts as window dressing to create an excuse for action sequences making use of the fun size changing mechanics that were shown in the first one. This film expands on those by having a size changing building that can be carried around like luggage and a selection of cars that can grow or shrink depending on the needs of the situation. It makes for some entertainingly creative sequences that would otherwise be fairly standard car chases. Naturally the gimmick lends itself to comedy really well and Peyton Reed never fails to take advantage of that which makes for a breezy and effortless viewing experience. Playing with size was one of the things I loved about the first one so seeing that expanded here is definitely a good thing though nothing here is as unique or clever as the first entry.
Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne steps up to the plate as the Wasp with a suit of her own. This pays off the gag from the first film that she should really have been the one in the suit as she is clearly the most capable and adds yet another superhero to the vast Marvel Cinematic Universe roster with her own identity and considerable skill. There’s a fight sequence early on in a kitchen that acts as a showcase for Hope’s tech and skills that makes for a great introduction as the Wasp as a partner for Rudd’s Ant-Man who definitely surpasses him in almost every way.
The action does give way to characterisation though in a different way to what you might expect. Ant-Man and the Wasp is more of an ensemble piece than the first one with Pym and Hope forming the emotional core of the film as they work tirelessly to free Janet from the Quantum Realm. Scott Lang does have his own emotional arc involving being an attentive father and trying to keep his nose clean in order to be the father to her that he feels that she deserves. It’s in there but sidelined in favour of Pym and Hope’s efforts but it all works fairly well and focusing more on Hope as a character isn’t something I object to given how prominent Lang has been up until this point. Rudd, Lilly and Douglas are all very capable when it comes to delivering the emotional beats and Michelle Pfeiffer does a lot with her limited screen time to make her presence significant enough to add the necessary urgency when it comes to bringing her back.
As with the first film the supporting cast are no slouch. Michael Peña’s Luis is a standout character who is always good for a laugh and has one instance of his hilarious run-on stories that take far too long to get to the point of telling them. Lang’s other business partners Dave (Tip “T.I.” Harris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchan) back him up nicely and bring their own entertaining personalities to the mix. Randall Parks’s Jimmy Woo is memorable enough as Rudd’s semi-incompetent handler who searches his house every time he suspects something untoward is going on. Laurence Fishburne’s Bill Foster has a short yet memorable role that is rife for expansion in future entries. Abby Ryder Fortson’s Cassie manages to dodge the annoying child stereotype with a meaningful presence and believable rapport with Rudd’s Lang. His ex Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new man Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) feel almost completely extraneous as they only seem to appear because someone decided that they had to but they bring nothing meaningful to the overall plot.
There are some notable shortcomings such as the villains. Arguably there are two of them in the form of Hannah John-Kamen’s Ava aka Ghost and Walton Goggins’ Sonny Burch. Ava joins the long list of underdeveloped Marvel villains who make little impact and don’t ever feel like a significant threat. Some attempt is made to develop the character along sympathetic lines but it plays out as bland exposition put in at a point in the film where it feels like someone forgot to give her a backstory and quickly solved that by having it be explained to the audience. She’s a good antagonist on a visual level but falls down when it comes to allowing the audience to become invested. Sonny Burch is played almost entirely for laughs and completely fails to feel threatening but Walton Goggins does enough with what he’s given to make him entertaining enough.
The film features more of the mysterious Quantum Realm introduced in the first one but fails to do much with it. It acts as Janet’s prison and very little else meaning that any exploration of it is broadly superficial. There was a real opportunity hear to dig into a fantastical new realm where pretty much anything can happen but the film doesn’t really seem to be interested in that which is a real shame as there was so much potential that remains untapped. Visually it’s stunning with lots of psychedelic imagery and the suggestion of constant danger that comes with it but not enough time is spent inside this real to give it any kind of visual identity.
An entertaining and fun entry into the Marvel Cinematic universe that makes for a good ensemble piece and delivers some creative action. The size changing gimmick is expanded to cars and buildings in this entry which makes for some really fun action sequences even if it isn’t used as cleverly as in the first entry. In terms of characterisation this is much more of an ensemble piece with Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang taking more of a back seat while Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne forming the emotional core. Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp is great in action adding nicely to the ever expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe roster thanks to her unique tech and impressive skills. The film fails to have engaging villains and doesn’t make use of the obvious potential attached to the mysterious Quantum Realm but Ant-Man and the Wasp is a breezy viewing experience that follows on nicely from the first entry.
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