REVIEW: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Theatrical Release Poster – Walt Disney Studios

The following is a review of Ant-Man and the Wasp — Directed by Peyton Reed.

When the first Ant-Man came out, it functioned as the epilogue to Phase Two of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which, at that time, had just given us the jam-packed team-up film Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ant-Man was thus a refreshing solo film that acted as a palate cleanser of sorts.

Now, after Avengers: Infinity War’s ending blindsided audiences around the world, Ant-Man and the Wasp is here to act as the much needed lighthearted palate cleanser, and, just like with the first Ant-Man film, it is another good and fun Marvel movie. It is everything you expect it to be, and yet it doesn’t answer all of your questions.

Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place after the events of Captain America: Civil War, and, therefore, this film opens with Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) in house arrest as a result of his actions in Civil War. As such, this is by no means a standalone film. If you don’t know what happened in Civil War, you will likely be lost here.

During his house arrest, Lang has what appears to be a waking dream. Lang sees himself playing hide and seek with a young girl, but he isn’t himself. During the waking dream, he looks in the mirror and sees that he is in the body of Janet van Dyne (played by Michelle Pfeiffer) — Hank Pym’s wife who was lost ages ago in the Quantum Realm, from which Scott Lang successfully returned in the original Ant-Man film.

When he ‘wakes up,’ he gives Hank Pym (played by Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (played by Evangeline Lily), with whom he no longer interacts due to the events of Civil War, a call to tell them about the dream.

Eventually, they tranquilize him and take him with them to their transportable office building, in which Pym and van Dyne are hard at work trying to create a tunnel to the Quantum Realm. Such technology is very valuable, and therefore the major conflict in the film comes from having to protect it from a villain with ghost-like abilities, whose skill set is a challenge for both Hope — the Wasp — and Scott — Ant-Man — even when they team up.

My harshest criticism of Ant-Man and the Wasp is that it is slightly inconsequential, likely somewhat forgettable, and, most damning of all, the blandest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe since Thor: The Dark World. Unlike Thor: The Dark World, though, I actually do think Ant-Man and the Wasp works as an entertaining superhero movie.

There is a lot to love about Ant-Man and the Wasp, and, for the most part, it is the comedy that works like gangbusters. Because at its heart this is a lighthearted comedy, and when the comedy works, the film soars. While I admittedly don’t think it is as funny as the first film, and even though the first half of the film is a little bit messy, it is still a fun film to watch.

Paul Rudd is known for his comedy films (and for his ability to seemingly never age), and Ant-Man and the Wasp puts Rudd’s comedy chops to good use. He gets numerous fun scenes to show off the size-based comedy that always comes up with a character such as his, and he also gets some great scenes with his character’s daughter (played by Abby Ryder Fortson), who gets more screen-time than both Bobby Cannavale and Judy Greer.

But the highlight scene for Rudd here, in which his comedy chops shine, is a lengthy scene in which he softly holds Michael Douglas’ hand. It is hysterical. Michael Peña’s Luis is, also, still a highlight, and he does get quite a bit to do here as Scott’s right-hand man gets to take part in the action yet again, even though he and his friends now have an important job to do as well.

Luis’ comedic trick that everyone loved from the first film is back here, but, thankfully, it isn’t overdone or stuffed down our throats — it is used sparingly. They give us just the right amount of Luis’ explanation comedy, and when it is used it is hilarious. Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s greatest new comedic trick, though, is Randall Park, who plays a federal agent particularly wowed by Lang’s sleight of hand magic tricks.

In Ant-Man and the Wasp, Evangeline Lily’s character is now, finally, a superhero of equal importance as Rudd’s Ant-Man, and though I certainly don’t think the film leans into her search for her mother as much as it should, Lily does a great job here. Lily’s character gets most of the impressive action sequences, and you definitely do accept her as the hero that she is.

Michelle Pfeiffer, unfortunately, doesn’t get much to do here as she is only in a handful of scenes, and Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym doesn’t really make a strong impression either, even though his sizeable role is integral to the overall plot of the film.

What does work with these two actors is the incredible de-aging CGI work that has been done to make sure both actors look young. Generally, I don’t think I’ve ever seen de-aging CGI done to such a satisfying effect, and I genuinely think it is possible to have an entire film with Douglas and Pfeiffer as their de-aged selves. In any case, I would be interested in seeing this technology used in more than just one or two scenes.

While the powers of the central villain certainly are very ‘cool,’ it is a character that I felt left something to be desired. Actress Hannah John-Kamen does a good job with what she is given, but I feel like her character was slightly underwritten. Similarly, Walton Goggins is completely wasted here. He plays a criminal with a comic book-relevant name who you forget about as soon as his scenes end.

As previously mentioned, Ant-Man and the Wasp by no means stands on its own as a sequel to Ant-Man. Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s credits scenes won’t make sense to you if you haven’t seen Avengers: Infinity War, which Ant-Man wasn’t in, and this film won’t always make complete sense to you if you haven’t also seen Captain America: Civil War, which, in some way, Ant-Man and the Wasp is more of a sequel to than 2015’s Ant-Man.

We live in a time when some would say that you have to do homework to fully enjoy must-watch entertainment. We are now up to twenty films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which, if they keep on releasing three films a year, could end up becoming impossible to follow for casual viewers of the films. It’s not really a big problem for Ant-Man and the Wasp, but you get the sense that it could become a problem for these films soon.

Now, while I do think Ant-Man and the Wasp is a harmless but somewhat bland Marvel movie, I also must stress that it is a fun blockbuster film. These days we are lucky to have a company such as Marvel Studios that understands that if it wants to churn out film after film almost as if it were an assembly line, they simultaneously have to keep making sure the output is entertaining, compelling, fun to watch, and sometimes even important.

Ant-Man and the Wasp won’t win over any naysayers, as it is not a memorable film in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it suffers from some of the same issues that many of the other Marvel films do. But if you are looking for goodhearted superhero summer entertainment that, admittedly, requires quite a bit of superhero universe understanding, then look no further than Ant-Man and the Wasp.

7.5 out of 10

– Jeffrey Rex Bertelsen

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