I’m going to get a little critical in this review, so I want to say up front that I friggin’ loved Antman and the Wasp and consider it a more-than-worthy final MCU release for 2018.
For me, that unique feeling you get heading into a new Marvel film was magnified for the Peyton-Reed-directed Antman and the Wasp likely because the first Antman is my absolute favourite film from the Marvel Cinematic Universe, or MCU for the cool kids.
This sequel’s story will be no surprise to fans of the first film – very minor spoiler alert.
In the two years since Paul Ru- uh, I mean Scott Lang ran off to Germany to help Cap and co. fight Stark and co., he has been under house arrest and ostricised from his new friends Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lily). On the bright side, he has reconnected with his surprisingly-endearing daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), and started a business with his crew of BFF’s, Luis (Michael Peña), Kurt (David Dastmalchian), and Dave (Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris). As we learned in Antman, the original Wasp Janet van Dyne, Hope’s mother and Hank’s wife, was trapped in the quantum realm when she shrank between the molecules of a missile’s plating in order to save thousands of people’s lives.
Hope and Hank have been working on a way to move freely into the dangerous world of quantumness to bring their loved one back to the world of living large (pun 100% intended because that family is riiiiich). Paul Rud-dammit! I mean Scott and Hope ‘will they, won’t they’ over becoming a crime-fighting duo/lovers. Meanwhile a wonderfully diverse supporting cast are either chasing the protagonists, or trying to defend or obtain some of that sweet, sweet Pym tech.
Overall, the action sequences are fun, the choreography is amazing, and the quips are plentiful and backed up by Rudd’s natural charm. All of the criteria for a Good Marvel Movie are met with gusto. The CG is awesome and I will never, ever get tired of watching a giant Ant-Man mess with regular-sized people.
If you are an MCU fan you are going to like this film. But now I’m going to do my best to nitpick at it like the geek that I pretty much am.
After Infinity War, I was looking forward to a nice, clean, simple-but-engrossing story that built on the Antman mythos and introduced another much needed female superhero, The Wasp.
What I got was another film filled with too many characters and a storyline that plaited together three groups of villains, which is at least one group of villains too many for a 118 minute runtime.
First, we have Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), the detective from the first Antman who is out to keep Paul Rud- seriously, why do I keep doing that… trying to keep Scott Lang from escaping home D. The cops are also trying to track down Hank and Hope who broke the Sokvia Accords by letting Scott steal the suit and go to Germany, I guess? There is a shoehorned line about it being their tech, so – their fault.
Second, we have Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), a black market tech broker who wants to take and sell Pym’s tech and so hunts the protagonists with his (also wonderfully diverse) henchmen.
Third, and by far the best, we have Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who is able to phase through solid objects and knows some intense martial arts, who is joined by her friend who I won’t name for spoiler-related reasons. Ghost’s character is engaging and interesting. She is a powerful threat and a tragic figure. She is also woefully underdeveloped as her screen time is taken up by Burch, Woo and their bands of incompetent underlings.
I’m going to come back to that point because it actually links in nicely with another complaint I have.
The thing I loved the most about the first Antman was the ingenious way it played with film conventions (the fingerprints of Edgar Wright) – the Thomas train, the briefcase, the bathtub! All amazing action sequences that were framed by creativity and thoughtful fun. From the outset, Antman and the Wasp tries to send a nod or two to that idea. Paul Rudd and Cassie open the movie crawling through an enclosed space on a daddy/daughter heist, but it is clear from the outset that it is just a game. The music, the dialogue delivery, the set and the camera work all scream ‘THIS IS NOT REALLY A DADDY/DAUGHTER HEIST”.
It’s the silver hammer version of what was done in Antman. I was hoping for that ‘wtf’ moment where I wonder for the briefest second why Paul Rudd would take his beloved daughter on a dangerous heist before a sudden shot change reveals that it was just a game all along! But I didn’t get that. Antman and Wasp’s powers are awesome but ridiculous and so I wanted to see an awesome, ridiculous delivery of the story. There were a couple of moments that hit the mark in this way (shoutout to my fellow microscopic water bear fans), but overall there was so much ‘shrink and kick, grow and punch, make this thing small and that thing big’, which is badass af but just leaves so much on the table.
Which takes us nicely back to Ghost. She was portrayed by John-Kamen beautifully, with real depth and conflict, and yet she was billed after Sonny ‘boring white business villain’ Burch? How did writer Chris McKenna and Peyton Reed not take this gift and run with it? How did they not see the obvious path of a well-paced movie about a terrifying, unstoppable force that is hunting them and COULD APPEAR OUT OF A WALL AT ANY TIME!?
Aside from all of that lost potential, and the fact that someone forgot to tell Michelle Pfeiffer that we actually do good acting in superhero movies now, I also want to quickly look at the nature of father/daughter relationships in the movie.
It’s not often that we get to see healthy, positive relationships between a female and her dad in films, which is what make both Paul Rudd and Cassie, and Hank and Hope’s relationships so incredible to see on the big screen. Rudd is an incredible father. Not only is he able to make his daughter laugh and have fun with her, but he genuinely listens to her advice and values her opinion. Hank also makes a pretty good dad to Hope. They work together on all of the science-magic they need to bring Janet back. Again, he values her opinion.
The film also turns the traditional gender roles on its head – at no point do Hank or Rudd stand up and make grand proclamations about how it is their job as a patriarch to protect the fairer sex. In fact, Hope as Wasp is clearly Hank’s protector and does all of the dangerous work, and even Cassie has her moment to show that she can protect her father when the need arises.
The ONLY thing that took away from this was the fact that no matter how dramatic, emotional and powerful a scene is supposed to be, no man will shed a tear in the MCU, not even when the women around them are leaking with emotion. Let’s just let boys cry already.
After all of that, I just want to remind everyone that I loved this movie! It has so much going for it and will likely go down as one of the more well-regarded in the MCU… but I just think it could have been one of the best.