Review – Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018)

With audiences still reeling from Avengers: Infinity War, the Marvel Cinematic Universe continues on with Ant-Man and the Wasp. My review series, #RoadToInfinityWar, seemed to put a cap on Phase 3, but really, we aren’t there yet until next summer, following Captain Marvel and the next Avengers film. Lots of emotions were felt over the past couple months, and while I won’t get into why, let’s just say that Marvel owed us a pick-me-up. While the original Ant-Man salvaged a stilted production in incredibly entertaining ways, this sequel is made from the ground-up with that film’s director and cast fully in place to continue everything began there. That original was fairly self-contained as Marvel movies go, and this one carries on that tradition; still, does the film give us a good time, especially right now when we needed it? I’d say absolutely, it did!

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We pick up with the small tidbits of mentions regarding the absence of Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) in the previous Avengers film. He’s on federal house arrest, following his German escapades seen in Captain America: Civil War (which I’d add is kind of a prerequisite to watching this film, as it is referenced more times than the previous Ant-Man movie). It makes parenting difficult with his daughter, Cassie, but he makes the most of it. He has Luis (Michael Pena) and company to keep him occupied, even as his relationship with Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) is almost non-existent at his point. Their hope in Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) being alive in the Quantum Realm was reawakened after Scott returned from there, pushing them to try and find her somewhere out there. Circumstances bring Scott back in contact with them both, but things are complicated by criminal Sonny Burch (Walter Goggins) and the emergence of a mysterious “Ghost” (Hannah John-Kamen), who is after Pym tech for mysterious reasons.

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I leave out the full story from most reviews to allow some level of discovery to those who read before watching. I will say with this film that there aren’t that many surprises when it comes to plot. The surprises come in other enjoyable ways, namely character interactions, dialogue, and action set-pieces. Now that his ability to change size goes both ways for Scott, this film really has fun with the possibilities. People often decry the humor of most of the more recent Marvel films, but let’s face it, folks: that’s what keeps the general populace coming back for more and more with these films. They don’t know the decades of lore, but they can have a good time and good laughs with little homework. This film’s hero, following the original and the fun brought to Civil War, is carving a very unique identity in the MCU. Adding The Wasp to the mix gives him a great foil in everything throughout. I heard the energy equated to jazz in production interviews from the first film a few years ago, and that’s all continued here. Beyond just the fun of the music, you get the crazy flow of everything, visually and comedically here. Jazz was a great descriptor, then and now.

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We can argue all day about the appropriateness of full-on humor in Thor films or even Avengers, but this cast is built on it. It’s safe to say that the original didn’t have as much fan-anticipation as some other heroes have had, but Baskin Robbins made sure you enjoyed the price of admission. We are here to have a light, fun trip, and yes, I expected bigger ties to the MCU, personally. Still, the film delivered all the good times I wanted and more. The story is merely a vehicle here, rather than the focus. Some will detract it for that, but all that said, I got what I wanted here. In fact, I laughed as much or more here than I can remember from most movies of the last few years. Much of that was the doing of Paul Rudd, but he is backed by a full team of actors doing their parts and building on all he’s putting out. He got to get things started before, but now, he has more liberties to inject his trademark charm into the humor. The whole cast is having a ball, and because of that, so are we as the audience.

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Evangeline Lilly gets much of the limelight in all things action here. Her character is more of a stick-in-the-mud than others, but when it comes to fighting and such, you believe her capability. There is just a sense of control to all she does, and it works so well, alongside Paul Rudd just getting by the best he can in these scenarios. Couple the fisticuffs with unique chase sequences, and you have energy in bounds here. Michael Douglas ups the cranky throughout, and even beyond that, we get many touching moments from him. This film expands the “parent-child” motif in other ways, and while I won’t get into all the ways here, it’s interesting to see the film built on this in various ways. Some of the returning cast members get bigger spotlights, but some don’t. It’s possible that Bobby Cannavale probably had his agent arrange a deal for payment based on how many hugs he could give on camera. In that case, he probably earned a fortune.

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The film’s cold-open and many other scenes throughout exemplify the tech-wizardry of de-aging so well that it’s boggling to think what could be coming in the future. This film’s overall scope feels narrow, especially compared to recent Marvel films like the world-building Black Panther and the visually imaginative Doctor Strange. That said, the film-making magic used to make this film work so well is absolutely incredible. They could have rested on, “Oh, we’re making a comedy.” Yet, here, we have impeccable action set-pieces throughout that all feel so natural, even as every action is so out of the norm. That’s a pretty noteworthy accomplishment to me. There’s a ballet-like precision, especially to The Wasp, and you really see how awesome it is to have her suited up here.

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New castmembers like Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, Walter Goggins, and Hannah John-Kamen all play their parts ably, and while each is a little more straight-laced than others we know in the cast, to me, they actually keep the production more in the “real-world” vein like some of the earlier Marvel films. Otherwise, the production might really go off in a unique direction that ultimately feels entirely divorced from that “Marvel feel”. John-Kamen, in particular, gives a uniqueness to a role that was traditionally male in the comics. I won’t get into details about any of the rest of them, but I will say that I wished that Walter Goggins was utilized more here. He is proving to be very capable in any role thrown at him; too bad that he didn’t get more to work with here.

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Content-wise, there is the usual level of language from these films. Sexual content really only came down to a kiss or two and a comment back to Hope and Scott’s past. Violence isn’t directed to any blood and guts (like we surprisingly saw some of in the first film). Still, there is a frenetic nature to things that keep it all exciting, even though it isn’t graphic. God’s name is used in vain, so be aware. Positive things I pulled from the film were the lengths we will go to for those we love and there is mediation to on what lines we won’t cross for those we care about. It’s all not deeply explored (nor would I expect it to be in the midst of all the fun), but it is there to prompt our own thoughts on the matters. I will say that this film does have ties to Avengers: Infinity War, but they aren’t as strongly tied as I suspected they would be. If this film was meant to be a palate cleanser, just be aware that there is an after-taste that will stick with you.

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All-in-all, I had a great time with this film. In comparison to other MCU films, the story is lacking, to be quite honest, but the cast’s energy and rapport together kept me enjoying every minute of it all throughout. The emotional attachments weren’t as strong for me this go-round, but the action and funny was even more of a spotlight. Not every joke lands perfectly, but I’d say the action was a smashing success, beginning to end. The physics of these heroes feels fresh, and by the film’s end, it all still leaves ample room for even more fun in the future. I’d actually equate it to the first in terms of scoring. Neither is my favorite MCU film, but they are just a ton of fun to watch. I love the possibilities of more of these films in the future, as they have been a great time indeed.

7.5

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