By: Kenny Hyman
Antman and the Wasp marks the second installment in the Antman solo series and the twentieth entry into the Marvel Cinematic Universe, adapted from the Marvel Comics character of the same name who appeared in Marvel Premiere #47 in April 1979. Director Peyton Reed returns to the MCU landscape to direct the follow-up to the successful Antman (2015). Antman and the Wasp released in theaters on July 6th, captivating giggling audiences for 118 minutes and batting another one out of the park for the wildly successful Disney-owned property.
The film opens with a prologue that expands on the flashback scene (from the 2015 installment) of Hank Pym as the Antman (Michael Douglas) and his wife, Janet Van Dyne, as the Wasp (Michelle Pfeiffer) as they race to prevent a major disaster. The two heroes succeed but at great personal cost.
Paul Rudd reprises his role as Scott Lang who is serving time on house arrest for his involvement on the side of Captain America during the Civil War event. Lang spends his time playing Rock Band Hero, watching TV, perfecting his ricochet basketball shot, acing Rock Band Hero, improving magic tricks, and visiting with his daughter. Also, he’s begun an entrepreneurial home security firm with his former co-defendants Luis (Michael Peña), Dave (Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian). Life is looking up with the end of his confinement just two days away, but all that is placed in jeopardy when a dream puts him back in contact with Pym and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly).
Lang finds himself back in the Antman suit teamed-up with Hope to attempt a rescue of Janet Van Dyne, who they believe may still be alive and adrift in the quantum realm. Their efforts run afoul of the FBI, an arms dealer, and a mysterious meta-human ‘ghost’ who exhibits the ability to walk through walls and to turn invisible, each with their own motivations for interfering with the hero’s plans.
The film is an action-comedy with a huge side-order of science-fiction and the teensiest splash of spy-drama. It’s light-hearted and fun. No gritty, realistic, deconstructions here. It begins as any daddy-daughter comedy would, with the dad being the best, most fun father any kid could look up to but juxtaposing against Lang being on house arrest and being a retired—albeit, mediocre—superhero.
What the first act lacks in action, the second one makes up in droves by shedding the daddy-daughter comedy for a concoction of action, comedy, really big science-fiction words, and just enough spy-drama to keep up the tension. Lang is called back into action, reluctantly, by Hope and Pym who pool their resources to locate lost technology to complete their mission of rescuing Janet from the Quantum Realm. The act, in a nutshell, repeats the conflict and resolution of “They stole our tech, now let’s go get it back,” “Oh no! Here comes the bad guy!,” and “They stole our tech again, now let’s go get it back,” as the main characters deal with interference from the FBI, the arms dealer, and Ghost until the plot is moved forward by reveals of old acquaintances and Ghost’s origin. The fight scenes are a real treat as changing-size adds a unique dynamic. The director also adds visual commentary that suggests that size altering, while powerful, does have some pitfalls especially when the tech isn’t working properly and forces inconvenient changes. Oh! I’m also willing to bet that you’ve never seen a superhero stopped in the performance of his super duties by an elementary school hall monitor. I think that’s definitelya first. Lang also wows the audience by growing to epic proportions. This wasn’t the first movie you see him do it, but it still looks really cool.
Beyond a shadow of a doubt, Michael Peña’s Luis becomes the secret gem in the movie as he steals the spotlight in an interrogation scene. Rudd and Lily lend their acting chops to Peña to flesh out the scene’s obnoxiously satirical recap of the previous film.
The film’s final act sees Lang keeping Ghost busy while Hope fights the criminals and Pym rushes off to find his estranged wife in an unknowable microscopic wilderness. After some shrinking, growing, and flashy superhero athletics and fighting, Pym manages to return from the Quantum Realm successfully and just in the nick of time. The story resolves with a merciful interaction with the antagonist Ghost, followed by a tie-in to Avengers: Infinity War.
The script was pretty good. Act One is fairly basic, Act Two is a bit repetitive with a monkey-in-the-middle type feel, and Act Three has even more action and an everyone-is-happy ending. Certified Family-Friendly if you ask me! I’m sure physicists and ‘I-need-my-movies-to-be-precisely-science-accurate’ types are squirming in their seats trying to figure out how density works with Lang and company. But, you’re watching a movie about a guy who can alter his size and can use ants as a means of locomotion; you shouldn’t draw the line at the density-thing. Just enjoy the idea that a Pez dispenser can end a motorcycle pursuit and you can carry a garage full of cars in your backpack.
The cinematography and CGI are stellar as one would expect with a Marvel movie these days—after all, they have all the Disney-backing any studio could need. Surely, fanboys and critics alike are assaulting the CGI-enhanced youthful appearance of Douglas and Pfeiffer in the prologue because…well…that’s what they do. The CGI looked good to me. Not perfect, but definitely more than acceptable.
Ghost, for her part, is not your average villain, and the critics are going to complain and say things like “Again, Marvel inserts a villain that no one cares about.” I couldn’t disagree more. Not every villain needs to be Heath Ledger’s Joker or Michael Fasbender’s angsty Magneto foryou to care about them. Our villain here is a victim of circumstance, and she is really considering giving up her soul to resolve her own deteriorating situation. That said, Ghost isn’t the principal antagonist, but rather a foil for the leads. The real antagonist is circumstance. Each character is struggling with his or her own circumstance and working toward a solution: Lang is separated from his daughter by the circumstance of his house arrest and is separated from Hope and Pym by the circumstance of the Civil War event; Hope and Pym are separated from Janet by the circumstance of her being lost to the Quantum Real; and, Ghost is marred by her circumstance of having been involved with Pym Particle Technology. In the end, Ghost has no real beef with the leads; they’re just a means to an end for her.
Considering the movie is thematically centered on the idea of circumstance-as-an-antagonist, the movie is three parts character-driven and one-part plot driven which can leave you asking where the movie is going after thirty minutes or so. The payoff at the end isn’t huge, being mostly predictable, but that doesn’t take you out of the experience as the journey is fun to watch. The criminal element in the movie is entertaining but doesn’t quite fit into the theme because it isn’t struggling against circumstance like the other characters. So, the payoff isn’t huge there either, relegating the criminal piece to fodder for Lang and Hope to beat up so they can appear to be heroes, since beating up the FBI would position them more like villains.
In this film, it’s the little things that count (no pun intended) since the characters don’t have god-like hammers, indestructible shields, and impossibly advanced armor to impress you. So, it’s things like the bumbling, type-b personality of Lang, the child-like wisdom of Lang’s daughter, the cobbled-together feel of Pym’s tech, seagulls cramping Lang’s style when he’s calling an ant-Uber, and Luis’s fast-talk.
So, Antman and the Wasp isn’t the best Marvel movie, but it sure isn’t the worst—that’s reserved exclusively for another movie in the MCU line-up which I should probably review retroactively; it’d be cathartic since I’ve bottled up the disappointment for some time. I digress. This sequel measures up to the original, not really doing anything new except adding the Wasp to the mythos. But overall it’s a really fun time, and I can’t wait to see Antman in action in Avengers 4 when it releases. Oh, and I’ll point out that my nieces and nephew loved the movie, so yoursmall humans will too.
As a comic book fan, Antman and the Wasp is a real win because never in a million years would I have thought Antman could carry his own standalone movie. Boy, was I wrong! I was never a fan of Antman until the first movie; the second installment has only increased my nerd-levels for the character. Hopefully, the movie has the same effect on you. GO SEE IT! I mean it.
If you have seen it, what was your favorite part? What do you think could have been better? Leave a comment!