Ant-Man and the Wasp, 2018.
Directed by Peyton Reed.
Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Hannah John-Kamen, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Abby Ryder Fortson, Bobby Cannavale, T.I., David Dastmalchian, Divian Ladwa, Laurence Fishburne, Judy Greer, Randall Park, Michael Cerveris, Rob Archer, Sean Kleier, Goran Kostic, Benjamin Byron Davis, Riann Steele, and Michelle Pfeiffer
As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past.
Straight away, I will answer the most important question potential viewers likely have coming into Ant-Man and the Wasp (hot off the all-timer shocking ending to Avengers: Infinity War); yes, Michael Peña’s Luis is still a hilarious motormouth deserving of his own franchise. Oh yeah, also Ant-Man and the Wasp get to take part in more playfully imaginative action sequences involving shrinkage and oversized growing in another overall comedic approach, courtesy of returning director Peyton Reed. The decision from Marvel Cinematic Universe overlord Kevin Feige to slot Ant-Man and the Wasp right after some devastating events that the majority of moviegoers still haven’t recovered from allows for a nice lighthearted breather while we collectively prepare for the inevitable continuing bleakness that awaits; this isn’t the first time Ant-Man has had a tough act to follow, and judging from this sequel, it won’t be the last, as the successful levity is welcome.
Things begin with a cold open reminding audiences of the tragic fate of Janet, the original Wasp (Michelle Pfeiffer), forever trapped in a subatomic quantum realm at the expense of some good old-fashioned superheroic self-sacrifice. Normally, such an expository flashback segment would feel out of place and unnecessary, but we’re so deep into this universe that the refresher is actually a decision worth appreciating; an emotional throughline is established, all while clueing us in as to the plot of the next adventure. Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd, as usual, charming and on-point with the delivery of his jokes and banter) found a way to return from the mysterious alternate plane of existence, meaning that there is new knowledge on how to further explore the realm, with the possibility of bringing back Janet.
This information exists inside the mind of Scott, causing him to experience hallucinations of Janet’s past, right down to a specific memory with her young daughter Hope (once again played by Evangeline Lilly as an adult, who I’m ecstatic to report is granted a good amount of ass-kicking to dish out), prompting him to attempt reconnecting with her and her father Hank (it is revealed that the parties have had a falling out following the events of Captain America: Civil War), the creator of all this technology and once again played by Michael Douglas (complete with another startlingly real de-aged flashback segment). Naturally, they locate him and bring him into some scientific quantum experimentations, which is very risky considering Scott only has a few days left to serve on his house arrest sentencing.
Aside from featuring more whimsical combat where everything from salt shakers to Pez dispensers become enlarged weapons capable of knocking foes out, alongside a highly inventive car chase playing off of the big and small dynamic, Ant-Man and the Wasp also turns the laboratory into a portable building that bears more narrative urgency and importance than one might assume initially. With that said, some of the film’s most exciting moments come from various characters snatching the laboratory and using it for their own personal gain, while others try to track it back down. It’s like a game of hot potato with dangerous science equipment that everyone from black market dealers (Walton Goggins in a rather empty generic villain role only left with his endearing southern drawl to evoke a sense of personality) and a mysterious woman that can phase through dimensions named Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) seeks out.
On that note, while it needs to be mentioned that Hannah John-Kamen does a serviceable job in portraying both physical and emotional pain suffering from a hologram-like condition she obviously didn’t desire, the film doesn’t do a very good job at making us necessarily care. The issue, and it’s one fairly common with entries in the MCU, is that so many new characters are being introduced and piled on (including an old associate of Hank played by Laurence Fishburne), not to mention side stories with other returning supporting players deserving of screentime, that it becomes difficult to get invested into one particular area. Written by a large amount of contributors for a screenplay (Paul Rudd himself also helps out again and it definitely shows as the brand of comedy is distinctly the flavor he’s known for, and funnier than the first film this time around), Ant-Man and the Wasp takes a broad approach to the narrative that doesn’t yield much of any dramatic resonance.
There are also too many pointless breaks in the action that serves as exposition for characters who aren’t very interesting or quantum mechanics jargon that goes in one ear and out the other. Also, it’s plain odd that the scenery chewing Walton Goggins is cast in a role that doesn’t really give him room to make an impression or do anything exciting; somehow he might be the most boring character in the movie. He is literally just a black market dealer interested in financial profit. Aside from weak villains (thankfully, this is an area where the MCU is turning things around), it’s getting tiring and frustrating watching self-contained sequels place established characters off onto the sidelines while introducing more that end up as weak stand-ins. The case could be made that Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t even need a villain, let alone two sets of antagonists that barely register as anything remotely interesting.
Overstuffed narrative aside, it’s difficult to deny that Ant-Man and the Wasp isn’t entertaining and filled with funny back and forth dialogue from an ensemble containing tremendous chemistry. Even when the sequel is going back to the well with some of the greatest moments from its predecessor (Luis gets to tell another rambling story) you don’t want to call the writers out as lazy or anything because it’s still great material. Is this largely filler? No doubt about it, but at least it’s a blast to watch with a post-credits sequence that smoothly ties into the events of Avengers: Infinity War. Regardless, Ant-Man and the Wasp could have bastardized the superheroes and made no sense inside the MCU, and still would have been worth watching for Michael Peña.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Robert Kojder is a member of the Chicago Film Critics Association and the Flickering Myth Reviews Editor. Check here for new reviews, friend me on Facebook, follow my Twitter or Letterboxd, check out my personal non-Flickering Myth affiliated Patreon, or email me at MetalGearSolid719@gmail.com