REVIEW: “Ant-Man and the Wasp”

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Three years ago Marvel Studios ended ‘Phase 2’ of their cinematic universe with “Ant-Man”. It was a surprising investment considering Ant-Man isn’t what you would consider a top-tier Marvel superhero. What surprised me even more was how well it was received. “Ant-Man” wasn’t a bad movie, but its constant hit-or-miss humor along with its silly, paper-thin villain left me wanting more.

Film #20 in the MCU is “Ant-Man and the Wasp”, a sequel that had me curious and surprisingly optimistic. An entirely new group of screenwriters handle the script, but ringmaster Peyton Reed returns to the director’s chair doling out plenty of humor and unique superhero action. Both work better this time around. The sequel is funnier and the action has a delightfully playful flavor. And the stakes here are more personal. It’s a welcome departure from the normal catastrophic global threat we get in these movies.

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Paul Rudd returns as the immensely likable con-turned-superhero Scott Lang. He’s serving the final days of his house arrest sentence for helping Captain America during the “Civil War” storyline. Not only did he get in trouble with the government, but he also alienated Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lily) by sneaking off with Hank’s Ant-Man suit and exposing the tech to the world. With so many bad people hungry for the technology, Hank and Hope sever ties with Scott and are forced into hiding.

During their time in seclusion, Hank and Hope work on a contraption they believe can rescue their long-lost wife/mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum realm. But to do so will require them to mend fences with Scott. Their work also attracts a lot of unwanted attention. Walter Goggins is a hoot playing a black market peddler of quantum energy. He has a $1 billion buyer anxious to get their hands on Pym’s lab. Hannah John-Kamen plays Ghost, a woman whose ability to phase through objects is slowly killing her and Pym’s quantum research may be all that can save her life. Toss in the FBI and Scott’s dogged parol officer (played by a very funny Randall Park) and you have a lot of conflicts and storylines.

Thankfully Reed and company handle these numerous plot-strings nimbly and with smarts. They have no qualms with their movie being light, breezy and smaller scaled – all perfect fits for this kind of story. They know the type of film they are making and they seem to embrace the sillier side of the whole thing. That’s one reason Michael Peña’s character can work. He returns as Luis, Scott’s one-time cell mate and now close friend who basically serves as the never-ending comic relief. He was spotty at best in the first film, even annoying at times. This time he isn’t given as much room for improvisation and his dialogue feels more natural and unforced. He doesn’t land every joke, but he has some very funny moments.

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But the real highlights are Rudd and Lily. The two have a remarkable chemistry and it’s a lot of fun watching them bounce off each other. Both performances and characters nicely balance out – Rudd’s lovable, self-deprecating Scott, Lily’s fiercely determined Hope. Their personalities even carry over into the action. Hope’s Wasp is tough and tenacious. Ant-Man’s irresistible goofiness can’t help but bleed over into his action scenes.

While “Ant-Man and the Wasp” benefits from its lightheartedness, in a weird way it’s also held back by it. With the exception of the expected mid-credits scene at the end, the film does little to raise the stakes in the MCU. It also doesn’t clearly answer a big question I had going in: Where was Ant-Man during Infinity War? But let’s be honest, does it have to do these things to be a good movie? Certainly not. For my money there is plenty of room in Marvel’s every-growing big screen universe for smaller more tightly-knit pictures like this. I would even call them refreshing.

VERDICT – 4 STARS

4-stars

22 thoughts on “REVIEW: “Ant-Man and the Wasp”

  1. Looks entertaining. I was going to see this with my 12 year old grandson, but baseball tournament prevailed. I hope to catch it with my son next week. Nice review, Keith. Glad you liked it.

  2. I saw it yesterday and had fun watching it. People complain how family-friendly it is but I was like “so?” I had no problem with it just as long as I got to laugh and be amazed while knowing they would think outside the box and use the music of Morrissey in a funny way. Luis is my favorite character in the franchise. He’s just so funny and I love his monologues.

  3. Great review! I just saw this myself and enjoyed it. I was expecting them to really play up Luis’ storytelling since that was so popular in the first film. I’m glad they only did it the one time. I thought it was perfect.

    • Thanks! I was really mixed on Luis in the first film. But I had a lot of fun with him in this one. He had several laugh-out-loud moments I wasn’t expecting.

  4. Just going to say it straight up , I loved this movie . It was fun , had heart , Lily rocked , the villian was not your typical one and the resolution with the villian wasn’t a beatdown but healing . Paul Rudd is also so likeable and the cast overall was stellar . Plus the humor fit this movie . Solid 8.5 out of 10 for me . With Infinity Wars 1 and now this one , its the first time ever for me I gave 2 MCU back to back ratings over 8 . Maybe they are turning me into a fan of the MCU, well maybe lol

    • That’s good to hear. And it’s funny considering how dramatically different Infinity War and Ant-Man/Wasp are in scope, scale, stakes, etc. that’s. A really good sign for the MCU.

  5. Great review Keith. I only recently sat down to watch the first Ant-Man, and it was quite a fun watch. Glad to see you liked the second one too – I need to go watch it!

  6. This picture ain’t one I want too see no time soon. I got no time for them aints and waspers. They are mean and bite and then you get all swole up and feverish. Why would anybody want to go to the picture show to see this?

  7. Well during IW Ant-Man was doing what we saw in the movie, so it did answer that question…I thought that mid-credits scene was misguided seeing how it clashed with the tone of the film and surprise, surprise, Ant-Man gets to play with others again and Wasp doesn’t. I liked the first one better than this, it had more heart imho.

    • Well kinda. (SPOILERS) At first it seems he was in house arrest and that would explain why he didn’t help in such a cataclysmic event. But That doesn’t really add up. After he is out of house arrest there seems to be a pretty big gap between then and the mid-credits scene. Considering what happened in the mid-credits scene, I’m assuming the gap represents what he has been doing during IW. Kinda weird.

      The first one was okay for me but I felt Pena was so hit-or-miss. And while Stoll’s performance is good, I thought his villain angle was so incredibly silly.

  8. Great review! I definitely agree about the dialogue feeling a lot more relaxed. It feels like everyone finally felt comfortable to do their own thing and step out of the “Edgar Wright film that almost was” shadow. Peyton Reed gets to shine in his own right. And Scott Lang is just the most unproblematic superhero in the MCU. I love him.

    • And as I failed to mention in the review, I also loved the family dynamic. It gives this particular branch of the MCU a flavor we don’t see much of elsewhere. I really went for that.

      • Marvel has patented and packaged the ‘found family’ dynamic with the Guardians, Peter and Tony, and more. But I think it is refreshing to see the effects of being a superhero on a family. I think Peyton Reed really understands this and interacts with it better than anyone else has in this franchise. *Looks at Joss Whedon and Hawkeye’s family*

      • The ‘found family’ has certainly been done. I’m with you, this is a family dynamic the universe really needed.

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