ANT MAN AND THE WASP is high speed comedic comic book action fun.
By Matt Cummings
While heading to the screening of ANT-MAN AND THE WASP, I asked my carmates to comment on what they were hoping from Marvel’s 20th film. Their reply was unanimous: Please let it be good. They had fair reason to worry, as the trailers didn’t exactly capture audiences. The original was so surprising with its charm and humor that chances for a successful follow-up seemed unlikely. And while I emerged with some of the same concerns I’ve always had about the MCU, ANT-MAN AND THE WASP did not disappoint. It’s hilarious, moves the narrative forward, and contains one of the best end credit scenes we’ve ever seen. No, I’m not kidding.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been languishing for two years under house arrest for his involvement in the events of CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR. He’s been out of contact with colleagues Hope (Evangeline Lily) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), who’ve been on the run from the FBI. But their paths are about to collide again as Lang begins to have visions of Hank’s wife Janet (Michelle Pfeifer), who disappeared years ago during a mission. Lang learns that the Pyms have created a device to find Janet with supplies from a local arms dealer (Walton Goggins), who now wants Pym’s tech to sell to the highest bidder. But the mysterious trans-dimensional Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) has other plans, stealing the lab and placing Janet’s return in danger. Caught between his imminent release and helping his friends right a wrong, Lang must keep the FBI at bay while battling Ghost and protecting his daughter.
The first ANT-MAN was a fabulous little heist comedy, a complete surprise considering all its production controversy. WASP succeeds for mostly the same reasons, adding the return (and non-firing) of Director Peyton Reed. He’s fully into this universe now, redelivering several fun elements of the original but adding new layers to Lang’s narrative. He’s a character continually caught between trying to do the right thing and the important thing, a convict-hero who’s still searching for his path. The writing team including Chris McKenna have gifted this universe with just enough humor and seriousness to keep both working at top levels. Douglas and Lily are consummate professionals, working the serious side of the street while Rudd and Michael Pena board the party bus. The lackluster trailers really don’t show the best sides of Pena, whose quick dialogue and goofy persona belay the seriousness which the MCU has recently undertaken. And while Marvel is getting good at the Sympathetic Badguy sub-plot (with Kamen turning in a solid but unremarkable performance), it’s the continued misuse of the villain, as Goggins doesn’t have much to do but twirl his mustache in the search for Pym’s tech. Nothing might ever match Thanos in this universe, but even villains need stories too.
And this places Marvel at an interesting crossroads. Fresh off the wholesale destruction of INFINITY WAR, some might think that ANT-MAN AND THE WASP is too much too soon. Certainly the reaction surrounding SOLO: A STAR WARS STORY is an indication that audience fatigue has set in with that universe, with WASP happening mere months after INFINITY WAR. Luckily, this one escapes that potential finger-snap by making an enjoyable and hilarious addition to the summer. Sure, problems still remain, with Goggins poorly used as a villain and some of the ending becoming off a bit anti-climatic. However, this is the best case scenario I could think of for a film that does feel too soon after INFINITY WAR. You’ll feel the same when you stay put for one of the best mid-credits scenes of the franchise, totally upending this somewhat happy corner of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. An August opening would have seen hordes of cash for the studio, and with no follow-up until 2019, this one could have been better placed in the calendar.
THE BOTTOM LINE
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP is a surprisingly fun addition to the Summer, filled with enough humor to make us forget about the carnage of INFINITY WAR’s wholesale slaughter. As we drove home, the tone from my carmates was a complete departure from the feeling of near-dread that promised to infect our experience. It’s not the best MCU film by far – and there’s so many now it’s impossible to keep a Top 5 List anymore – but it happily exists in its own world, one that promises a nice opening and should entertain throughout the Summer.
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP is rated PG-13 for sequences of sci-fi action/violence and has runtime of 119 minutes.