Marvel Studios releases the 20th film of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and the first where a female protagonist gets mentioned in the title of the film, Ant-Man and the Wasp. The original Ant-Man is a film that I quite enjoyed, as it was a fun heist movie anchored by a very charismatic performance from Paul Rudd, a scene-stealing turn by Michael Peña, and excellent chemistry between Rudd and Evangeline Lilly. The latest film is a rescue adventure that lacks a lot of the fun of the original (not for a lack of trying), but is ultimately redeemed by great action and a strong villain.
The film opens in the 1980’s where we find out that the original Wasp, Janet van Dyne, is stuck in the quantum realm, (which will be familiar to anyone who has watched Ant-Man). Fast forward to the present day and we find that our hero Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has been placed under house arrest for the past few years for his involvement in helping Captain America in Germany (i.e. – Captain America: Civil War). He is only a few days away from completing his house arrest when the past catches up with him. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) have been trying to create a tunnel to the quantum realm, believing that if they do, they can rescue Janet. They get it to work for a brief moment but the machine overloads and shuts down. During the short time that the tunnel was open, a connection was made between Janet and Scott. Scott decides to phone Hank to let him know about the connection, but is hesitant because Hank and Hope have had a falling out because of the fact that Scott took the Ant-Man suit to help Captain America. Our three main characters reunite and work together to get the tunnel working. In order to do so, Hope has to buy a part from black market dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) and when the deal goes awry, another villain shows up named Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who has the ability to pass through objects. Ghost ends up with the part that our heroes need (and much more) and it is up to our heroes to find her in order to get the tunnel to the quantum realm working again before the window closes to save Janet.
As always, the question is, should you go see this film? Here are my thoughts:
There are quite a few things to like about the film. The first is the character of Ghost, who has a great superpower and a very believable motivation about why she keeps interfering with Scott, Hank and Hope’s plans. Marvel movies, which have been criticized in the past for the weakness of their villains, have done a great job this year with the antagonists in Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War and Ant-Man and the Wasp. The visual effects for the character are quite impressive and the film is way more interesting when Ghost is on screen.
Michael Peña once again steals the film with his fast talking character Luis. When he is on the screen, there is a real sense of energy and fun. He also gets to do the storytelling bit that he did so well in the first film again (which is probably my favourite sequence in the film) and has a great gag in regards to truth serum. His comedic timing, his back and forth with Scott and his interplay with the other members of X-Con Security help bring life to the film.
The special effects are very good. When Ant-Man gets to be different sizes, the effects are all convincing, the de-aging effect on actors are used a little more to great effect (after the original Ant-Man did a credible job de-aging Michael Douglas for the opening sequence) and the shots of the quantum realm are trippy, with all of them being an improvement over the original film.
The action sequences are well choreographed with the stand-out sequence being a car chase that takes place on the streets of San Francisco (which is helped out by the fact that Michael Peña is in this sequence, instantly elevating the energy of the film again). The chase is inventive, exciting and well executed, so kudos to all involved in making it happen.
It is also nice to have a superhero film where the villain is not trying to blow up the world. The smaller stakes to the film make the ultimate quest of trying to save Janet more interesting and, dare I say, relatable. I credit the screenwriters for realizing this early on, and I thought it paid off in the end.
The supporting characters get a lot of the credit above, but probably the most disappointing thing to me was the chemistry of the three leads. Where that was a strong point in the first film, I just didn’t feel that they were in sync this time around. A big reason for my feeling this way is that the humour between the three leads fell flat. There were plenty of jokes in the film, but whenever it involved Scott, Hank and Hope, they were more miss than hit, and that’s not a good thing. We like these characters; they are fun, strong and quick-witted. The unfortunate part is that the screenwriters decided to have them have a falling out at the start of the film, so they tend to bicker and have mean-spirited quips, which takes away from the fun of the film. Now, I have read that the Ant-Man films are geared more for kids (I don’t buy into that), so maybe children will enjoy some of the humour. When I saw the film, the majority of the audience were adults and there were crickets when a lot of the jokes happened. It is also not a good thing when the lead characters are not as interesting as the villain or a sidekick. In my opinion, Rudd, Lilly and Douglas just did not seem to be enjoying themselves in this film and it showed on the final product.
A few veteran actors in supporting roles are not giving much to do, which ultimately wastes their talents. Walton Goggins and Laurence Fishburne are excellent actors and I usually enjoy when they are on the screen, but I think if I was in the writer’s room for this film, I would have asked them to be written out, because their story arcs ultimately do not impact the film one way or the other.
I should also point out that there is a mid-credits and post-credits scene to the film. The mid-credits scene is worth staying for, but you can leave right after, because the post-credits sequence did nothing for me or anyone who stayed around to watch it. I would caution Marvel to only do these extra scenes if they are going to add something to the film.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is a fun but ultimately forgettable film that features some great action sequences, a fantastic villain and a scene-stealing Michael Peña. Although I think this film was average at best, I am interested in seeing more adventures of Ant-Man on screen. As I minor aside, if Marvel ever decides to bring back the Marvel One-Shot short films, please do one with Michael Peña’s Luis. I give the film 2.5 out of 4 stars.