One of the great things about the Marvel Cinematic Universe is its amazing diversity of both characters and films. There’s something for everyone. For every bold, forward step there’s often a safer sidestep – for every Black Panther or Infinity War, there’s an Ant-Man or Thor: The Dark World. The first Ant-Man film was the very definition of safe – to some, that means it’s their least favorite MCU film, but others found its familiarity comforting and embraced it as one of their favorites. I found myself putting the first Ant-Man towards the bottom of my MCU list. My appreciation for it has slightly improved with repeat viewings, but I wouldn’t necessarily change its ranking in the MCU’s bottom 5.
My main complaint about the first film is how utterly lightweight and neutered it felt. Paul Rudd’s comedic charm was still there, but it was nearly edited into oblivion. There was 50 metric tons of exposition in the script, mostly delivered by Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne was purposely made into a constant bummer, turned unnatural love-interest. Then there’s the villain problem in Darren Cross, played by Corey Stoll – yet another bad version of the good guy (Marvel’s biggest weakness throughout their films). Combine that with Peyton Reed’s ability to make everything feel slightly blander and you’ve got yourself Marvel’s cinematic equivalent to white bread. It’s fine, but it could use a little more meat to make it palatable.
I was willing to give the first one a pass due to all of the behind the scenes drama that occurred so close to production start (Edgar Wright’s abrupt departure, combined with Peyton Reed’s last minute hiring and a rewrite of the script to better fit within the MCU). I figured that Reed may be able to make something more distinctive if given time to create a film of his own. Turns out, Reed had very little interest in giving Ant-Man and the Wasp that forward step it so desperately needed, as it very much feels like more of the same.
The movie still coasts on the charm of Paul Rudd, and a bit more so on his merry band of nitwits, played my Michael Pena, T.I. and David Dastmalchian, who were the few stand-outs of the first film. Pena, to no one’s surprise, is still the stand-out of this film.
Another notable change is Evangeline Lilly’s more prominent placement in the film as a more fully developed Hope Van Dyne (She actually smiles a couple times!). Michael Douglas is still a pseudo-science exposition machine, but at least has a few moments to actually act instead of spit plot points and fake science at the audience.
Most of the newcomers are the weakest characters in the film. Laurence Fishburne’s Bill Foster is basically wasted – every chance for an interesting turn for the character is quickly avoided in favor of the far more safe and bland choice. He’s simply there as a middleman between Hank Pym and other newcomer, Hannah John-Kamen, who plays the film’s main villain, Ghost. Speaking of Ghost, while she’s not another bad version of the hero, she’s certainly a step back from the recent excellent villains we’ve gotten in Thanos, Killmonger, Vulture, Ulysses Klaue, Zemo, and Hela. Then there’s Walton Goggins’ Sonny Burch, who is the definition of two-dimensional. I love Walton, but between Tomb Raider, Maze Runner, and now this, he’s quickly becoming the go-to guy for generic villain #2 parts.
There is a notable exception to the other newcomers in Randall Park’s FBI Agent Jimmy Woo. Park manages to take the bumbling idiot officer archetype and make it his own, stealing most scenes he’s in.
The plot itself, which I will not explicitly spoil, also contains nothing that will surprise the audience – every choice seems to be made based on what is most palatable for the most general of audiences. Every beat is predictable to a T. As the trailers have shared, Scott Lang is on house arrest since Civil War and is pulled into Hank and Hope’s quest to find Janet Van Dyne in the Quantum Realm. Lightweight hijinks ensue!
In the end, Ant-Man and the Wasp is what a lot of MCU fans will want after Avengers: Infinity War, a light romp. It’s by no means a bad movie – I just wish it wasn’t as toothless and non-essential as it is. Ant-Man and the characters in his small part of the universe are interesting and unique, but are crippled by the directorial equivalent of cheap khaki pants. I’d love to see a director like Taika Waititi, Ryan Coogler, or (AHEM) Edgar Wright take on these characters – at least the execution wouldn’t be so relentlessly safe and lacking in style. #GiveAntManTheMovieHeDeserves
Directed by Peyton Reed, the film stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, and Michael Douglas.
Set between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Scott Lang, now under house arrest after the events of Civil War, tries to balance his home life as a father with his responsibilities as Ant-Man. When Hope van Dyne and Hank Pym present him with a new mission to bring to light secrets from their past, Lang teams up with Van Dyne as the new Wasp.
Ant-Man & The Wasp is now playing in theaters!