If there was one thing we could count on for Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man to do, it was to make us laugh. The first movie with the titular superhero proved that it was far more comedy-driven than many of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe films —to the exception of Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians Of The Galaxy— something that seemed evident the minute we learned Paul Rudd was co-writing the movie’s script.
Ant-Man and the Wasp recaptures that comedic spirit that was ever so present in the first film of the saga. It’s filled to the brim with jokes that provoke full-on hysterical laughter from the audience. It even lets Michael Douglas deliver some of the most deadpan comedic beats. Everyone gets a share from the Ant-Man humor pie. But perhaps therein lays the movie’s error. Perhaps relying too much on humor, perhaps their focus on trying to exploit just another punchline, ended up being so important that they failed to pay attention to the plot and the earth-bound component of the film.
IT’S ALL FUN AND GAMES UNTIL SOMEONE LOSES THEIR SUIT
The movie picks up right after Civil War, with our dear Scott Lang held under house arrest because of his involvement in Captain America’s evil plan to bring down the world —or so the government wants to make us believe. There is no sign of Thanos —yet—, there is no sign of anyone having disappeared —yet— and Scott Lang is really just trying his best to become a decent father.
It goes without saying that things start to go awry almost too soon. The appearance of Ghost starts causing problems for our insect-like superhero, and his strange quantum link to Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp, forces Scott to reunite with Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym and Evangeline Lily’s Hope Van Dyne despite the fact that they really do not want to see him.
Ghost —played brilliantly by Hannah John-Kamen— essentially ends up being the McGuffin. She’s a really interesting villain, with a complicated past that gives her all the qualities we expect from a twenty-first century, serial narrative bound era villain: she’s complex, she’s motivated by morals and ethics that are ambiguous at best, and she will stop at nothing to get what she believes she deserves. And despite Laurence Fishburne’s Bill Foster’s surprise plot-twist turn to the dark side where he’s revealed to be helping her all along, the villainous storyline falls a little too flat, because the real emotionally high stakes component of the film is Janet Van Dyne’s rescue from the Quantum Realm.
THE HEART OF THE SHOW
And thus, because the villainous aspect of the film was underdeveloped and, at times, underused, the film overcompensated with charm, humor, and an overall fun tone that, admittedly, remarkably navigated the fine line of mockery and far too easy punchlines. Despite the reliance on jokes, the tone never once seemed to stray too far from what we expected Ant-Man to be, from what the first movie had already taught us this version of Ant-Man was going to be. We went into the theater expecting laughs and a heart-wrenching moment, and sure, we got more laughs than heart-wrenching moments, but at the end of the day, Janet’s reunion with her family did tug at our heartstrings.
Ant-Man and the Wasp was, essentially, fun. It was copious amounts of fun, it was a gigantic Ant-Man using a truck as a skateboard fun. It was two hours of a comic book kind of fun, where we could marvel at the amazing things our favorite superheroes were capable of without worrying too much about their fate even though we all knew what was coming, even though we were sure that, somehow, by the end of it, Thanos’s snap of death would take from us what we so desperately wanted to keep. But we managed to forget that for two hours because Scott Lang was doing bits in the truest Paul Rudd style, and Michael Peña was playing every line like there was a joke at every comma.
It’s not exactly a bad thing. You want a superhero movie to be fun and games. It’s part of what’s so attractive of these kinds of narratives. But the Marvel Cinematic Universe has redefined, in the past ten years, what it means to be and to write a superhero movie. Iron Man was also a wise ass joke-cracking hero. But there were stakes. There was a real emotional side to the movie that proved, not only that Iron Man wasn’t perfect, but that he was also Tony Stark. That he was human. That there was real feeling under the suit.
Every Marvel movie after that took it as reference. It was no longer about how utterly amazing and inhuman these remarkable men were, it was about how human and real they were in spite of it. Captain America lost Bucky and found a path, Thor’s complicated relationship with Loki drove him and hurt him, Black Panther’s father and family marked his way.
Ant-Man’s sole purpose was his daughter. The reason Ant-Man worked besides how incredibly comedy-bound it was, was because Scott Lang had a real motivation that made us ache for him, for his relationship with his daughter. There was a strong, deep, emotional connection to be made. A similar one is created in The Wasp, but it fails to be developed with enough emotional significance for the audience to believe, at any point, that this is simply more than just an entertaining two hours.
And so the movie proves to be incredibly fun —an outstanding comedy—, but fails to provide a memorable aspect.
But if there is one thing worth mentioning it is Hope Van Dyne and her incredible, bad-ass, life-saving skills that, actually, give her a much deserved protagonism that even shadows Ant-Man himself. If Ant-Man saves the day at the end it’s simply because Hope has been saving him at every turn along the way. Her character has grown, has developed. She’s become a far more trusting person than she was in the first film, and she’s become more open about her feelings and her relationships.
And none of that gets in the way of her doing her job.
Perhaps more applause-worthy is how the Ant-Man and Wasp dynamic is written and developed. There is never the slightest indication of the Wasp being Ant-Man’s sidekick. It’s never shown as if there is a clear focus on Ant-Man that is further solidified by the Wasp’s existence. No, they’re always shown as equal partners. There is a real equality to their functions, to their abilities, to their quick-thinking.
They are partners. In more than one way, but partners all the same.
To the point where, when Hope asks Scott why he didn’t ask her to go with him to Captain America’s super secret plan to destroy Iron Man and the world, you have to agree with her.
Why did you not take her with you, Scott? She would’ve single-handedly taken down everyone there.
And that is the Gospel truth.
AND THEN CAME THANOS
We all knew it was coming. We knew by the end of the movie we’d have some of our favorite characters taken away from us just like Infinity War did, and we had to worry about who it was going to be.
And although spoilers had warned us that Ant-Man was still alive for Infinity War Part 2 and would very probably have a key role in setting back what Thanos had done, it still did not make up for the post-credit scene in which we had to bitterly watch as Hope, Janet and Hank disappeared while Scott was still trapped inside the quantum realm.
Brief, to the point, and painful nonetheless.
The movie didn’t really give us many clues as to how Thanos’ plan could be reversed, although it looks like time travel might be involved somehow. It did show us, however, that through his quantum link with Janet, Scott was able to presence bits and pieces of their past.
How exactly that’s going to work to get every other Avenger back is still a mystery, however. As per MCU rules.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is in theaters now.