Written by Rick Warren / gfn21
Taking place in between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Peyton Reed and the rest of the creative team behind Ant-Man and The Wasp had complete freedom when it came to how to tell this story. The result is a fun and heartfelt film that feels more family friendly than any other MCU entry and places the focus on its female lead rather than its male one. In many ways, this pays off, as Evangeline Lilly is wildly charismatic as The Wasp, and her goal in the film is personal rather than world-ending. Plenty of the humor lands, and while there aren’t many fight scenes, they’re all well-choreographed and fun to watch. The villain is surprisingly interesting, too. While it’s great that the movie focuses on The Wasp, its title implies that its other hero has a big role too. That... isn’t really the case, as with a few tweaks Ant-Man could have been left out of the story altogether. With the movie being a personal journey for The Wasp and Hank Pym, Ant-Man joins much of the cast in the sense that he never feels necessary for more than bringing laughs. Ant-Man and The Wasp is a good movie, but this is a big issue that stays from beginning to end.
For a full review (with spoilers), read on!
WARNING: SPOILERS BEYOND THIS POINT
The Wonderful Wasp... And Her Unnecessary Friends
In the time since Civil War, Ant-Man has been under house arrest thanks to his decision to side with Captain America. Hope and Hank have also lost much due to his decision, finding themselves on the run from the government. Despite their predicament, they’ve been working on something: a way to rescue Hope’s mom from the Quantum Realm. This rescue makes up the entirety of the film, and the objective never gets larger than that. It’s a goal that means everything to one of the lead characters, but ultimately has no impact on the rest of the world. It’s nice that Marvel can still tell these smaller stories in the same universe where Thanos is going to war with the Avengers, and Ant-Man and The Wasp coming after Infinity War is a good way for audiences to catch their breath. On top of that, the streamlined plot allows for plenty of great moments for Marvel’s newest hero.
Unlike in the first Ant-Man movie, where her only purpose was to train Scott Lang, Hope Van Dyne gets to do nearly everything herself in this sequel. Almost every huge bit of action is hers alone, and it couldn’t be more fun to watch her take down bad guys; her blasters and wings make the shrinking style of combat even cooler. It’s worth mentioning that a great soundtrack backs this action, with variations of the theme from the first movie returning. Evangeline Lilly is wildly charismatic in the role, playing off the other actors brilliantly, and the prospect of seeing more from her in the future is exciting. She ultimately succeeds in her goal of reuniting with her mother (who is played well by Michelle Pfeiffer), and her relationship with Scott is back on track. With all this in mind, the movie very much could have been called The Wasp... and maybe it should have been.
The reality of the situation is that this movie did not need Ant-Man. His role in the story could have been written out completely, as the plot doesn’t revolve around him at all. The end goal matters to Hope and Hank, but it simply doesn’t affect him or involve him; he’s just along for the ride. There are very, very few moments where he teams up to fight with The Wasp, and his biggest impact on the story is getting her into trouble and proceeding to get her out. This is by no means Paul Rudd’s fault, as he gives his most lovable performance yet as Scott Lang. The scenes where he’s possessed by Janet, stuck in the school and his time with his daughter (who is still super adorable) are the funniest and sweetest moments in the film. Really, though, that’s all he contributes; he’s the comedic backbone and nothing more.
Sadly, that’s the case with about half of the film’s characters. Sonny is a throwaway villain used to provide thugs for The Wasp to beat on. Scott’s friends, while even funnier than last time we saw them, are also unnecessary to the plot. The same could be said for Scott’s family, too. This large number of unneeded characters sadly makes Ant-Man and the Wasp feel like filler, and while much of it may be good filler, that’s still what it is.
With the film being such a personal story, it’s smart to make the antagonist’s goal just as small and meaningful to them as The Wasp’s is to her. Thankfully, this is the case with Ghost, who can be considered the film’s villain. She lost her family, gained her phasing powers, and is dying herself due to Hank Pym’s technology. On top of that, she was weaponized by SHIELD, and the only reason she’s being kept alive is because of the help she’s gotten from Hank’s old partner Bill Foster. Her goal is the same as Hope’s, to get Janet out of the Quantum Realm, only Ghost hopes that absorbing her Quantum energy will cure her disease. This could put Janet’s life at risk, though, forcing the two sides to butt heads. While this does take a lot of exposition to explain, it does make Ghost a far more interesting villain than she was made out to be in the trailers. She’s the perfect example of being the hero of her own story and seeing Hank’s dark side adds to that. The writers choosing to let her live is a good move, and having Janet immediately cure her upon returning home is an even better one. The fact that the movie ends with the villain becoming friends with the team (and getting a happy ending of her own) is a great change of pace from the usual result.
The upbeat final moments are immediately torn apart, though, as the post credits scene is one of the best and darkest to ever appear in a Marvel movie. Ant-Man enters the Quantum Realm to gather energy for the team’s new “Ghost friend”, only to find himself trapped inside as Hank, Janet and Hope become ash. It’s a harrowing moment in a movie that was completely fun, and once again adds weight to Infinity War’s ending. Marvel has done a great job playing up the Avenger’s loss in that film and showing the effects of their defeat in another Marvel movie is a great way to set up next year’s huge finale. While Ant-Man and the Wasp had its problems, this ending could not be more memorable.
Ant-Man and the Wasp continues Phase 3’s streak of great music and great villains but doesn’t quite meet that standard everywhere else. The humor, small adventure feel, and ending are great, but the numerous pointless characters become a problem. When one of the heroes mentioned in the film’s title doesn’t feel like they need to be in the movie, the greatness of the other has to hold the film up.
While it would have been better off as just being about the latter of the two heroes, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a fun movie that’s slightly better than the original.
Focusing on The Wasp +2
Humor, soundtrack and action +1
Ghost’s unique villain arc +1
Happy ending becoming dark +1
Ant-Man (and other characters) unnecessary -1.5
FINAL SCORE: 3.5/5