The latest installation of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” has buzzed into theaters. You know what that means…
ALL ABOARD THE MARVEL HYPE TRAIN! WOO WOO!!!
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is the TWENTIETH film in the MCU and begins to wrap up Phase Three of the cinematic universe’s larger plan. The film catches up with Scott Lang (Ant-Man) as he tries to balance his home life with his newfound responsibilities, as a superhero. When Hope Van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym reappear in his life, they bring along a new mission that will introduce Ant-Man to his formidable femme fatale of a partner, the Wasp. The film takes place two years after the events of “Captain America: Civil War” and just before the action of “Avengers: Infinity War.”
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Pena, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Douglas, and great, but brief performances from Michelle Pfeiffer and Bobby Cannavale. MCU veteran, Peyton Reed, returns to the “Ant-Man” films as the fearless director.
It’s impossible to talk about “Ant-Man and the Wasp” without having a whole discussion on the entirety of the MCU. Where does this film fit into the bigger picture? Honestly? It’s nonessential. That’s not to say that this film doesn’t throw in those obligatory tie-in goodies, because it does, but it’s entirely possible to skip “Ant-Man and the Wasp” and still be caught up by the time Part II of “Infinity War” rolls around.
However, in such a large field of very well-done superhero movies, it says a lot more for a film to stand on its own (and stand tall) than it does for it to simply fit into the larger puzzle.
I’ve said it before and I’ll repeat it now: “Ant-Man” remains one of my all-time favorite Marvel movies. It was a great standalone film with a personality all its own and totally different from the rest of the MCU lineup. I loved that about the first “Ant-Man” and it had me riding the hype train particularly hard when seeing the sequel.
So how does “Ant-Man and the Wasp” compare to “Ant-Man?”
It’s not quite on the same level as the first. I still enjoyed it. It’s an incredibly fun movie that I know audiences are going to love. But it just didn’t grab me the way that the first film had. I can’t tell you whether or not the novelty of Ant-Man, himself, had worn out. Or if the story just didn’t seem that important, given the sweeping arc of the “Avengers” storyline. Whatever the reason, I just didn’t walk out completely in love with “Ant-Man and the Wasp.”
What I can say for “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is that it keeps up the “Ant-Man” tradition of being one of the most inventive worlds in the entire MCU. So much creativity and humor are poured into the approach that this film takes. The world is zany and fantastical. The characters are funny. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is comfortable with being a little absurd. It buys into itself, so you can’t help but go along for the ride.
I’ll have a few words on specific humor choices, later in this review. For now, let’s just focus on the fact that “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is funny. This film is steeped in a light and playful tone that carries throughout and there is consistent humor that lands over and over. In particular, Paul Rudd’s bit of naming his ants is goddamn hilarious to me.
To deviate slightly from the topic at hand: I legitimately do not know how to feel about Stan Lee cameos, anymore. They’ve become so ensnared in the formula that it comes off as a sort of tired expectation. They’re running out of places to use Stan Lee and, as a result, the cameos are getting less and less funny. That being said, I really don’t know whether or not I’d revolt if they left him out. Just have to wait and see.
So. That brings us to the critique part of this whole critic thing.
For every joke that lands in “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” there is another that falls flat on its face. You get the sense that they’re trying to go for the sassier, rapid-fire banter of “Guardians of the Galaxy” and it just isn’t working. It makes for chaotic writing and it just did not fit well. Sight gags are the bread and butter of “Ant-Man” and they need to remember that.
The “X-Con Squad” of Michael Pena’s Luis and his band of rascals were charming in the first film but came off as downright grating in this one. No Bueno. Disappointing, considering they were a highlight of the first “Ant-Man.”
Another criticism that not even the first film can escape is BAD VILLAINS. In the great Marvel v. DC comics debate, villains are often a point of contention. Marvel, with their more colorful and campy worlds, has their fair share of silly villains. This is fine. I’m not going to go after the history of Marvel comics. But, what I will say is that in other MCU films they have been able to take those campy villains and turn them into formidable and frightening foils.
I cannot understand how, in two films, “Ant-Man” has not been able to churn out a really good villain. I want to see EVIL!
Performances are hit or miss, across the film. Definitely not the unified effort that we’ve come to expect out of our MCU films. Paul Rudd absolutely carries the film with his roguish charm and fantastic comedic delivery. Paul Rudd has a touch of that magic that Chris Pratt has: he can play himself and we’ll all swoon.
The great chemistry of the film did NOT occur between Ant-Man and the Wasp, as the title would suggest, but rather emerged from the interactions between Rudd’s Scott Lang character and that of Michael Douglas’s Hank Pym. These two were having a ton of fun in their scenes and it was even more fun to watch.
When “Ant-Man and the Wasp” was first being promoted, a mild controversy sprung up around it. In particular, it sprung up around how prominently the Wasp featured in the film’s promotional materials. People, myself included, wondered what kind of feminist spin was coming into the MCU. I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what I got was incredibly satisfying.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is a movie about fathers and daughters.
It shows every type of fatherly love. The playful. The tough love. The flawed, but with the best intentions. It’s a film about fathers recognizing and building the strength of their daughters. It’s about being willing to place your faith in the person who knows you best. At many points, the “father figures” in this film look back on their children and see themselves reflected back, for better or for worse. It’s a powerful message.
So, would I recommend “Ant-Man and the Wasp?” Absolutely. The film is a ton of fun. The Marvel hype train is rolling down the tracks and won’t be stopping anytime soon, so you might as well jump on board. It’s a bit of a fluff piece that has some flaws, but the good bits scattered in there are really good.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” opens everywhere on July 6!
Featured image credit: Marvel Studios
Caitlin is a lean, mean writing machine based in Austin, TX. Her love of film began when she was shown “Rosemary’s Baby” way too early in life. Bylines include The Financial Diet and Film Inquiry. Caitlin is a member of the Online Association of Female Film Critics and the Women Film Critics Circle.