Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)
Directed by: Peyton Reed
Written by: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari
Produced by: Kevin Feige & Stephen Broussard
Starring: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne & Michael Douglas

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Your enjoyment of Ant-Man and the Wasp will probably mirror how you felt about the first Ant-Man, because this sequel is more of the same. It’s breezy and a lot of fun, and much lighter than some of Marvel’s more recent output. Far away from the cosmic apocalyptics of Avengers: Infinity War, it’s a film of low stakes and lower ambition.

It’s not without issues, and those are primarily at the script level. For one, Ant-Man and the Wasp is frequently bogged down by nonsensical sci-fi jargon that even actors like Michael Douglas and Laurence Fishburne can’t make sound natural. But the plot revolves almost entirely on three parties competing for a MacGuffin in the form of Hank Pym’s (Douglas) shrunken laboratory, which houses technology capable of accessing the quantum realm. It’s not big on ideas, so, as a sci-fi film it has little to offer. But as an action-adventure film it excels.

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At times, Ant-Man and the Wasp plays like an 80s action flick, other times like a buddy movie, and frequently like a classic screwball comedy. It’s plot is light-footed and inconsequential, but the film is high on personality. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are effortless in their charm. Abby Ryder Fortson is also a lot of fun as Lang’s daughter Cassie, and theirs is one of a few different parent-child relationships that anchor the film with a human story. Most of the cast of the first film is back, including Scott Lang’s former criminal accomplices (Michael Peña, David Dastmalchian & T.I.), now attempting to go straight with their own security business. Peña’s character Luis retains all the qualities that made Peña the MVP of the first Ant-Man, but he gets a run for his money from Randall Park, who steals the show as Woo, an FBI agent tasked with monitoring Lang’s house arrest. I hope they bring Agent Woo back in the Marvel Cinematic Universe as a recurring side character like Phil Coulson or Jasper Sitwell.

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There’s no true villain here—Walton Goggins’ black market businessman Sonny Burch comes closest—, but Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost offers an interesting alternative antagonist of the kind Marvel has been getting better at lately. Her subplot is a bit clunky and could have been developed better, but her presence is a boon to the film, as are the ‘ghosting’ effects when she phases through people and objects. Visually, there’s a lot to love here, not just in terms of gags, but with the ghosting and size-shifting abilities cleverly employed in service of some really fun action sequences. When characters do travel to the quantum realm, it offers the most surreal visual landscapes since Doctor Strange.

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Does it feel slight? Sure, but in a landscape of superhero movies that so frequently threaten the extinction of the world, sometimes a movie that prioritizes having fun and telling a small story about parental love is a breath of fresh air.

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