Ant-Man and the Wasp Review
Ant-Man and the Wasp showcases the final days of Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) two-year house arrest following the events of Captain America: Civil War. As the immediate follow-up to the bombastically grim Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp is the polar opposite of that film. Much like the first Ant-Man, this film is a lighthearted, breezy action flick with a solid dose of comedy.
Lang is a superhero, yes, but his exploits are so heavily qualified that it deflates any pride he could take in them. He helped Captain America once–but only after stealing a shrinking suit from his mentor Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) without telling his training and romantic partner Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). He’s starting his own security business in San Francisco–but he’s still under federal house arrest. Every time Lang tries to save the day, he ends up alienating his friends and family. This interpretation is clearly taking a few notes from Nick Spencer’s run on the Ant-Man comics, painting Scott as a bumbling but well-meaning small fry who tries (and mostly fails) to live up to expectations.
The characters are easily the best part of this film. Throughout the film, Pym, Lang, and van Dyne try to overcome their ego-driven tendencies and function as a cogent team. Meanwhile, supporting characters–smug weapons dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), mysterious supervillain Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), hapless FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), and Pym’s former colleague Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne)–continuously throw wrenches into the main crew’s plans, particularly the construction of a “Quantum Tunnel” Pym is building to retrieve his wife Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the sub-atomic Quantum Realm. Other characters populate the periphery–Lang’s ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her amiable husband Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) pop in and out, alongside Lang’s daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston); and Lang’s “X-Con” security crew of Dave (T.I.), Kurt (David Dastmalchian), and Luis (Michael Peña). Many of these characters have their own problems they’re dealing with: if Ghost doesn’t steal and fire up Pym’s Quantum Tunnel, she’ll die; if Lang doesn’t get back to his house before Woo comes calling, he faces prison; and if Pym doesn’t get Lang’s help, his wife will vanish.
The story, meanwhile, is not quite as great as the characters that populate it. This film is a tangent-filled revolving door of events. For the most part, director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Down With Love) and the five credited screenwriters manage to juggle these many threads, albeit not very gracefully. Not every thread is developed, but they give just enough meat to the characters for the audience to care about them when the film inevitably devolves into a series of set-pieces.
There are, however, a handful of scenes during the first half of Ant-Man and the Wasp where Reed and his writers do not move Lang’s character forward in any meaningful way. He loses control of his suit, resulting in him sulking like a shrunken prepubescent teen. All this serves is to push the messy plot forward. And yet, at other times, Lang behaves like a relatively mature father trying to do the best he can for his daughter. In the long run, this film doesn’t do nearly enough to reconcile these two aspects of Lang’s personality.
The aforementioned first half of this film definitely feels like it was cobbled together by a team of five writers; it is mostly dependent on plot-pushing expository dialogue. Furthermore, the film is marred by some of the issues that plague other films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe–over-edited setpieces and occasionally bland and uninspired cinematography. However, the film truly picks up in the second half once the writers can stop setting up their haphazard story and start plugging their ideas into car chases, dynamic fight scenes, and comedic routines.
For the majority of two hours, Reed and his screenwriters manage to provide a spritely action film and take the audience on a long, strange trip through the Quantum Realm. In spite of the shaky story and nonsense resolution (Janet basically serves as a deus ex machina), Ant-Man and the Wasp manages to take our minds off of the desolation brought about by Infinity War. Taken in its entirety, it may not be the best at anything, but much like Lang himself, it’s plenty good enough.