There are no two Marvel films that have arrived with more groans and lack of exuberance as BOTH of the Ant-Mans. Yet, just as its predecessor, Ant-Man and the Wasp captures comedic amusement, adds feel-good vibes to a now darker cinematic universe (the Partridge family’s Come on Get Happy is the film’s motto), and delivers us a worthy villain. In “short,” it’s a pretty good time!
The film opens as Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), explore a cardboard ant’s nest. It’s playtime, and Lang is still on house arrest after helping “Cap” (as his friends call him) during the events of Civil War. Lang is no longer Ant-Man, and yes, the scene with his daughter is as cute as it sounds. Here, Rudd and Fortson, especially Fortson expand their father-daughter relationship. Lang is a far more cognizant parental figure and Cassie, now older, has developed a closer and overtly empathetic bond with her dad.
Ant-Man and the Wasp would like to keep us in the same tone as the above scene, it would keep us in the land of awkward hilarity, magic, technology, and pure kindness. Being a film that has conflict seems to be done out of practice rather than want. To that end, it still blatantly steers us away from darker climes on a few occasions. In terms of tone, the progression from Ant-Man to Ant-Man and the Wasp mirrors that of Thor: The Dark World and Ragnarok. Certainly not as gaudy and wacky, but silly nonetheless. Much of that is provided by Lang and Cassie’s relationship, but some of that is both Lang and Agent Woo’s (Randall Park) interactions and Lang’s gang of former convicts: Luis (Michael Peña), Dave (T.I.), and Kurt (David Dastmalchian).
Alternatively, they’re bracketed by two villains: Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) and Ava/Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Sonny Birch recalls Ulysses Klaue, a pure profiteer. Much of his existence is predicated upon the need for chase scenes. Other than that, he could be subtracted from the film without hesitation. Ava though, or Ghost, is something different. Lately, Marvel has increased the viability of their villains. Mostly, because their villains now have clear goals and motivations, and often, their motivations are not only understandable, but also redeemable. Ava, a girl who lost her parents in a freak accident, and now needs Hank Pym’s Quantum technology to save her life fits that bill. That is, her arc is not a pure revenge deal. and while Ava will resort to fits of evil, it’s all in a survivalist state. Marvel, for now, has figured out a formula for its baddies and it’s working to great effect!
The addition of Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Bill Foster, a former associate of Pym, is somewhat an impediment. Foster is Marvel’s most purely humanistic character. Nevertheless, even in the pleasant nature of Ant-Man, Foster is oddly too human. He’s vengeful against Pym, for reasons we never fully grasp, yet he’s not an any means necessary guy. The flexibility makes for lack of definition, which ultimately, makes for a boring character.
Side note, there are some fantastic uses of computer aging, probably the best I’ve seen on film between Laurence Fishburne and Michael Douglas. It’s surprisingly not hokey, and serves both their backstories well!
However, if there is a weakness (other than Foster), it’s the general apathy both Pym and Hope (Evangeline Lilly) have toward Lang. Here, neither are particularly attractive characters. Both are still butthurt that Lang went off to fight with the Avengers rather tell them, and after two years (when the film is set), it lacks the same empathy the entirety of the film exudes. And though their goals are noble, saving Wasp (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Realm, their attitudes are selfish. That is, they’re usually in danger of becoming too unlikable. Maybe it’s because coming off the back of Infinity War, their stakes don’t seem as high, which says a lot about Infinity War considering two people’s lives are at stake in Ant-Man and the Wasp. But having seen the fates of everyone else, someone being stuck in the Quantum Realm seems like small potatoes.
Speaking of the Quantum Realm, Ant-Man and the Wasp goes to greater lengths to define this region. In some ways it literally mirrors the shimmer in Annihilation. Without going into any spoilers, there are a few theories for Infinity War 2 that can be mined here. I’ll let that sit on your taste buds for a bit.
And as we progress to the final 15 minutes, the solutions to the characters’ problems become too inexplicable and coincidental for my taste. I’m not a fan of loose-ends tied too easily. However, even with that limitation, Ant-Man and the Wasp is still an enjoyable ride. And though it might-or-might not be integral to the Infinity War universe (though I do have a spoiler-based theory that the film could be highly necessary and hold the key to reversing what Thanos did….still sitting on those taste buds?), it’s certainly worth adding to your Marvel mantelpiece.
Note: The film features two post-credit scenes that, no spoilers, tie-in perfectly with Infinity War. So as usual, stay till the very very end.