And-Man and the Wasp (2018)
According to some Official Internet Research I undertook before seeing this film, Marvel fans need not fear—Ant-Man and the Wasptakes place right before the events of Avengers: Infinity War, so most of the cast of 2015’s Ant-Man is still around for the main action. Half the cast hasn’t been reduced to ash by a magic glove . . . yet.
Sorry if that’s a spoiler. It shouldn’t be; Infinity War has been out for a while now, guys.
In fact, Ant-Man and the Waspis pretty well encapsulated as far as Marvel movies go. The film provided a good deal of exposition and callbacks to the first Ant-Man as well as Captain America: Civil War, so even if you don’t know jack about the Marvel Universe, you’ll still be able to enjoy Ant-Man and the Wasp, or at least grasp most of the plot. This kind of courtesy should be a basic tenet of screenwriting instead of an optional bonus, but hey, I’ll take what I can get when it comes to superhero flicks.
Despite my general dislike for the genre, this is a fun little comic book film. It didn’t change my life and didn’t impress me more than Black Panther, or make me laugh harder than Spider-Man: Homecoming, but had more depth than your average blockbuster fare and a generous handful of laughs. It’s also the only Marvel film to date that has a female character’s name in the title, a heroine who isn’t given the “It was a woman the whole time?!” treatment after taking off her helmet and revealing her true identity. They helpfully save that tired trope for another character.
Briefly, the plot: Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter, Hope Pym/the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), need Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd)’s help to locate Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother. She’s stuck in the Quantum Realm, an alternate dimension where time and space have no meaning, and your physical form is shrunk to the smallest size imaginable. Van Dyne has been able to connect telepathically with Lang, presumably because he’s travelled to the Quantum Realm before, and she uses his body as a conduit to deliver her messages to her family. Unfortunately, Lang’s under house arrest following the events of Captain America: Civil War.
The Pyms need one more mechanical part to complete their portal to the Quantum Realm and locate Van Dyne, but three separate factions stand in their way:
1) An FBI agent played by the hilarious Randall Park; he’s assigned to Lang’s case and supervises his mandated house arrest.
2) Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins of Justified fame), a black market tech dealer who wants the Pyms’ technology to himself, delightfully playing his character as though he’s in a Tennessee Williams play, minus the whiskey.
3) Ghost, a strange figure who doesn’t seem constrained by the laws of physics and likewise wants control of the Pyms’ invention.
Paul Rudd, unsurprisingly, is a delight. He’ll forever be known for igniting a million crushes as Josh in Clueless (1995), and gave us a brilliant piece of cinema to reference every time you clean up dishes with his Wet Hot American Summer (2001) performance. Evangeline Lilly is badass, and arguably the driving force of the film. Her character isn’t a Strong Woman™; she’s capable, but it’s not her only character trait, and she’s allowed to be strong without fetishization or othering.
There are numerous size-related gags—characters get larger or smaller while wearing the Pyms’ specialized Ant-Man and Wasp suits—and a surprisingly thrilling car chase at the movie’s climax. With a car chase sequence in nearly every action movie nowadays, it’s hard to keep things looking original, but the San Francisco backdrop and size morphing proved entertaining enough—keyword “enough.”
The action in Ant-Man and the Waspis cut a little too fast for my taste; I wanted to savor the shots and see what was actually happening onscreen but found myself struggling to keep up. Similarly, the pacing feels a little off. The movie finds its stride a third of the way in and lost me towards the end, but that’s most Marvel movies.
Ghost is a compelling villain in the vein of Black Panther’s Erik Killmonger, with a backstory that had me rooting more for them than the main protagonists. I cried a few times throughout this movie as well, but then again, I cry at Subaru commercials, so that probably doesn’t mean much. There are some moments of genuine familial affection in Ant-Man and the Wasp,but like most superhero movies, emotion is kept to a minimum in favor of action and laughs.
A skilled comedy buff, director Peyton Reed also helmed Bring It On (2000), arguably the greatest sleepover film ever made, as well as episodes of cult classic comedy shows Upright Citizens Brigade, Mr. Show with Bob and David andThe Weird Al Show. Considering his comedic pedigree, I was disappointed by the zippy dialog and plethora of now-typical Marvel one-liners.
Solid jokes arise from character-driven dialogue or actions, not the characters themselves trying to be pithy or zany. Luis (Michael Peña), Ant-Man’s non-superhero buddy, illustrates this rule. At times his overbearing dialogue reads inauthentic and try-hard. Later, though, he has one of the best sequences of the film wherein he describes his grandma’s penchant for Morrissey—among other things—in a rapid-fire monologue.
There’s also a fun Tim Heidecker cameo for Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! lovers—finally, Heidecker and Rudd are reunited after their masterpiece, Nude Tayne—as well as a special thanks in the credits to “Jorge Lucas,” in what I assume is a nod to George Lucas, or perhaps The Simpsons’ Señor Spielbergo.
The movie’s post-credit sequences have been making headlines, and they’re ones you actually don’t want to miss. At the screening I attended, there were gasps from fellow critics; one woman even cried out, “They can’t do that to us!”