Should I Watch..? 'Ant-Man and the Wasp'
What's the Big Deal?
Ant-Man and the Wasp is an action superhero comedy film released in 2018 and is the twentieth film released as part of the ever-expanding Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Based on the Marvel characters of the same name, the film is a sequel to the 2015 film Ant-Man and sees Scott Lang team up with Hank Pym and his daughter Hope Van Dyne to try and rescue the original Wasp, Hope's mother Janet, from the so-called Quantum Realm. The film stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michael Peña, Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park and Laurence Fishburne. Directed once again by Peyton Reed, the film was a critical and commercial success with global takings in excess of $622 million. While nothing concrete has been announced regarding a third film (as the time of writing), it's hard to believe that Marvel won't return to these characters again at some point in the future.
What's it About?
Two years after he broke the Sokovia Accord by fighting alongside the Avengers in Germany, Scott Lang has been under house arrest and constant supervision by the FBI's Agent Jimmy Woo. After experiencing a strange dream where he was briefly contacted by someone within the Quantum Realm (a sub-atomic dimension where no-one but he has returned from), Scott risks his forthcoming release by contacting Dr Hank Pym to tell him about it. Unbeknown to Scott, Pym and his daughter Hope Van Dyne has been busy creating a tunnel to visit the Quantum Realm in an effort to bring Hope's mother Janet back after she disappeared some thirty years ago.
Shortly after, Scott is abducted from his house (once again breaking the terms of his arrest) by Hope who takes him to Hank's lab. Realising that Janet is still alive due to Scott's contact with her, Hope and Scott set off to acquire the last component they need for the tunnel from unscrupulous dealer Sonny Burch. But there is someone else with interest in Hank's Quantum Tunnel - a dangerous 'ghost' who phases in and out of existence who will stop at nothing to get their hands on Hank's shrinkable lab.
Scott Lang / Ant-Man
Hope Van Dyne / Wasp
Ava Starr / Ghost
Abby Ryder Forster
Agent Jimmy Woo
Janet Van Dyne
Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari*
Release Date (UK)
2nd August, 2018
Action, Comedy, Superhero
What's to Like?
I admit to being somewhat underwhelmed by the first Ant-Man which felt too light-hearted and not connected enough with the MCU. This second film, however, still manages to focus as much on comedy as it does the typical superhero shtick. Of course, this is down to Rudd's performance as Lang and his banter with the rest of the cast. He is not your usual superhero, preferring to spend time with his daughter (another fine performance from Fortson) and being a hard-working ex-con with his buddies at their struggling security firm. By contrast, Lilly's Wasp is much more the kind of hero we want to see and their interaction during the film's action scenes is imaginative and certainly entertaining. It certainly makes a refreshing change from the uber-destruction seen in Avengers: Infinity War.
The CG is also used to a less ambitious extent, digitally altering people's appearance by de-age them and assisting with the constant changes in size between characters, props and sets. It does go overboard during the scenes in the Quantum Realm, a facet of the story which is never fully explained but we understand enough to know that it's dangerous. But the film's comedy also lifts some of the tension that has been building since Thanos clicked his fingers, making this feel even less like an MCU picture. Honestly, it feels like a more family-friendly version of Deadpool in that this crazy story takes place in its own little bubble and doesn't have too much bearing on the main MCU setting.
- Pym's laboratory is not a building shrunk down but rather a model which has been expanded into the size of an actual building. Check out the volume control knob and paper clip utilised as part of the scientific equipment on display. And obviously, a building wouldn't have a huge handle to help transport it around!
- The part of Ghost is actually a male character in the comics and is usually found battling Iron Man. Until this film, the characters had never crossed paths before.
- Pfeiffer takes over the role of Janet Van Dyne from Hayley Lovitt who played the character in a flashback in the first film, although she is obscured by her Wasp helmet. Lovitt still played Pfeiffer's younger body double in this film, however.
- Stan Lee's cameo, as a driver whose car shrinks and makes him think he's having an acid flashback, is somewhat ironic as Lee was hugely opposed to recreational drugs in the 1960's and frequently included anti-drugs messages in his comics.
What's Not to Like?
There is a price to pay for all of this film's jolly japes. The humour removes any sense of danger or drama from the film, stripping away much of the excitement fans expect from an MCU film. Not even an imaginative car chase through the streets of San Francisco works because while it's far more imaginative than anything seen in Bullitt, it feels more amusing than entertaining. And of course there's a car chase because we're in San Francisco - it must be compulsory or contractually obliged. The film also lacks any decent villains - Ghost is interesting but underused while Goggins' shady businessman simply runs around surrounded by goons with guns, like any businessman would. I struggled to get on board with the film which seems to acknowledge that its lead hero is faintly ridiculous compared to the likes of Thor, Captain America and Iron Man.
It's other problem I find is its placement within the MCU. Coming after the seismic shift depicted in Infinity War in terms of story-line and tone, the last thing I wanted was a film that felt like a backward step towards comic book adaptation instead of more weighty "graphic-novel" style stories. My theory is that Disney wanted a more family-friendly film after the tragic events seen in the previous film and who better than the endlessly likeable Rudd to deliver? Perhaps but for those fans who have been waiting ten years to see the conclusion to this story arc, this film feels like an unnecessary stop to the ultimate destination.
Should I Watch It?
Fans of the character will enjoy this film the most, as will MCU fans wondering why Ant-Man wasn't battling Thanos in Infinity War. It is undenibly well made and the cast deliver the right level of hubris to the production - in fact, taken on its own, this is an improvement on the first film as it's funnier, more imaginative and more self-assured. But as part of the wider MCU, it still feels short of the series-spanning story unveiling itself thanks to Infinity War and presumably Avengers: Endgame. It just doesn't feel right to me.
Great For: fans of the first film, younger viewers, people wondering where Michelle Pfeiffer has been, any Marvel fans who need cheering up
Not So Great For: the character's standing within the MCU, anyone who watched Infinity War first, fans tired of diversions like this that don't propel the MCU forward
What Else Should I Watch?
Instead of completing the story told in Infinity War, Marvel then decided to introduce another new character - Captain Marvel unleashed Carol Danvers on the MCU following her tease at the end of Infinity War and went on to become a huge hit with audiences, surpassing DC's Wonder Woman to become the most successful female-led superhero film of all time with more than $1.1 billion earned so far. But that had nothing when Marvel finally released Avengers: Endgame later in 2019 - at the time of writing, it is the second most successful film in history behind Avatar with current earnings of a staggering $2.3 billion worldwide and shows no signs of slowing down yet. Suffice to say, the final film in Marvel's Phase 3 Spider-Man: Far From Home has a lot to live up.
The people I feel most sorry for are DC who have been playing catch-up for years now. Unfortunately, despite having both Batman and Superman among the characters they can call on, the films have so far failed to deliver with movies like Suicide Squad, Man Of Steel and Justice League failing to achieve success with critics - although audiences don't seem to be paying much attention. The only shining light they do possess is the aforementioned Wonder Woman which beat Marvel to the punch to become the first successful female-led superhero film. Unfortunately, fans will have to wait until 2020 for the sequel.
Questions & Answers
© 2019 Benjamin Cox