Ant-Man and the Wasp | Peyton Reed | July 6, 2018
Following the events of 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang is paying the price for his actions as Ant-Man at the Leipzig/Halle Airport, a violation of the Sokovia Accords. He’s just days away from the end of his house arrest under the surveillance of FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), and he’s not allowed to don the Ant-Man suit again or interact with either Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), lest he face stiffer, real prison time. This time spent stuck at home has been limiting the way that he spends time with his beloved daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson).
As fun as the Lang-killing-time-at-home montage is, this wouldn’t make for much of a full-length feature. Lang’s visit into the quantum realm at the end of Ant-Man causes him to experience a strange connection with whom he believes is Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), mother/wife to Hope and Hank. This forces him to find a way to sneak out of his house without raising a suspicious eye from the feds in order to help Hope and Hank possibly bring Janet back from the quantum realm. They’re helped along the way by his ragtag crew of Luis (Michael Peña), Dave (Tip “T.I.” Harris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian), and together they cross paths with the villainous Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and a shady criminal named Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) who has his eye on the Pym family’s tech.
For better and worse, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a rather low stake/small tale compared to the rather exhausting and bleak but much-discussed ending of Avengers: Infinity War. It’s hard to argue with them delivering a rather light and comical film that feels more like entertaining fluff than the sort of epic that probably should have followed one of the biggest films in the MCU to date. With that said, it sort of hurts the film in regards to how inconsequential a lot of it feels in comparison. Not to mention that you go from one of the strongest villains that Marvel has ever seen to two villains who hardly leave a mark, let alone feel like villains at all. This is no disrespect to the always welcome Walton Goggins who does the best he can with the role given to him, but if you removed his character from the film completely and shuffled a few things around, I don’t think you’d be missing much.
To be fair, the first Ant-Man also was low stakes and coasted on the likability of its cast and their ability to bring laughs to the breezy material. While for the most part returning director Peyton Reed finds success in the formula, it doesn’t quite pull it off in the same convincing fashion. This is a film that relies on the Marvel brand of humor as much as any, and while most of them landed well, they weren’t enough to hide its shortcomings to really give this a stronger hold on me. Sure, I was laughing and the action sequences are more than entertaining with their use of perspective and size humor, but it stayed a bit too close to the predictable and safe cocoon that is the Marvel formula.
What makes this second go-around work when it does is the charisma and pure likability of Paul Rudd. Always the charmer, he provides plenty of chuckles and smiles with his performance which is every bit as likable as it was in both Ant-Man and in Civil War. Equally up to the task is Evangeline Lilly who gets a much juicier role this time around, getting to don the Wasp gear and running away with the opportunity and often coming close to stealing the show. Michael Peña is nearly as funny as he was the first time around, but he and the rest of Lang’s crew are definitely underused this time around, as is Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Bill Foster, an old colleague of Hank Pym.
Ant-Man and the Wasp did its job and provided a light and fun time in this universe with characters I liked. It just needed a little bit more. The first of its two end credit scenes left me feeling more tense and worried about a character than anything that came in the actual film before it. Sure, the set-up was necessary to get to the point but it proved something we already knew – that Marvel knows how to have fun but also provide us with the sort of entertainment that stays with us. While I enjoyed my time with Ant-Man and The Wasp, I was hoping it would’ve done a little bit more to up the ante to an even higher level that a sequel deserves.