The first Ant-Man was a film I didn’t expect to work as well as it did. With the behind the scenes drama of Edgar Wright leaving the film and being replaced by Peyton Reed, there was always going to be a sense of disappointment over what we could have got had Edgar Wright stayed on board. Reed, however, delivered a good, fun experience that is undoubtedly one of the lighted films in the MCU, but still delivered solid potential for the future. With Reed having the reigns to himself this time, there was less pressure on the film and ultimately, we got another fun experience, but again with lower stakes than the other MCU films.
Picking up 2 years after the events of Captain America: Civil War, with Scott Lang, the current Ant-Man, being under house arrest following him going to Germany to help Captain America, which also resulted in Hank Pym and Hope van Dyne having to go on the run since the US government considers them accomplices due to Scott’s use of the Ant-Man suit. With a few days left on his house arrest, Lang gets a vision of Janet van Dyne, who was trapped in the quantum realm sometime in the 60s and established a link with Lang when he went into the quantum realm at the end of the first Ant-Man. Lang ends up calling Pym and Hope to help them rescue Janet, with Hope taking on her alter ego of the Wasp, using the suit we see Pym design for her in the mid-credits scene of the first film. At the same time though, they are attacked by Ghost, a woman who wants to use the quantum realm technology to heal herself since she is suffering from quantum disentanglement, making her intangible. Now what works about the film really is the lower stakes. By making the film more personal, it sets the film apart from the other films in the MCU and creates a strong connection with the characters. There is no big end of the world plot here, the film is about trying to reunite a family and when it focuses on these tender scenes in the film, the film works wonders. It also works in the comedic moments as well. It’s not quite the comedic masterclass that Thor: Ragnarok was but there are a lot of great laughs in the film, all of them feeling believable for the characters, along with giving us another great Luis’ tip scene. There are issues with the film though, one of which being a recurring issue with Marvel, that being a lackluster villain. It’s a real shame though as after a solid run of villains we’ve gone back to fairly forgettable ones. Sure the more personal stakes for Ghost as a villain give her more depth than some of the other ones, but her ultimate role in the film ends up being fairly pointless when all is said and done.
The performances meanwhile add a lot to the charm of the film. Paul Rudd is excellent as Lang, really knowing how best to make the character work, which isn’t a surprise given that he co-wrote the script. He really sells how disappointed he is in himself that he let Hope and Pym down through the events of Civil War and how isolated he felt during his house arrest. He also shows that is still a desire in him to do good, along with a willingness to learn from the mistakes that he made in the past. There are also a lot of smaller scenes that really show Rudd’s skill as an actor, but I won’t spoil them here since they are also some of the biggest laughs in the film. Evangeline Lily as Hope meanwhile shows the desire she has to be reunited with her mum effectively, along with the skill and demeanour necessary to show her skills as a hero in her own right. It’s great to finally see Hope in one of the suits and it’s clear that the skills she has are on point for the hero work. There are some great comedic moments for Michael Peña throughout the film, with him providing a good deal of heart to the film through his friendship with Lang, aided by the chemistry between Rudd and Peña. Michael Douglas as Pym is great at playing an old grump, getting some good sarcastic one liners, whilst also having some good emotional moments with Lily. Whilst the character is underwritten, Hannah John-Kamen is solid as Ghost, showing the pain and anger the character feels and her resentment towards Pym. Some more great comedic relief is provided by Randall Park as Jimmy Woo, the FBI agent monitoring Lang, whilst there are some good dramatic beats from Lawrence Fishburne as Bill Foster, but I don’t want to spoil how those come into the film and Abby Ryder Fortson gets some great moments with Rudd, really selling the relationship between the two. However, Michelle Pfeiffer, Walton Goggins, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, David Dastmalchian and T.I are completely wasted in the film, giving solid work, but being given very little to do.
On a technical level, this has some of the best CG work in any of the MCU films. The way the film takes advantage of the size changing nature of the characters creates some great moments in the action scenes, particularly a car chase in the third act involving the car the heroes are in changing size throughout the scene. There’s also been clear effort into how the physics of the size changing works, giving all the objects a sense of weight and scale, the physics behind all of the objects giving a greater degree of believability to the action scenes. The effects for the quantum realm, aided by the cinematography for those scenes, are some of the most visually stunning scenes in the MCU, really taking advantage of CG to create a unique visual environment.
Overall, Ant-Man and the Wasp is one of the lighter films in the MCU, but it is still a lot of fun. Whilst the villain is fairly weak and a lot of the cast are wasted, the more personal stakes of the film are solid and the main cast, in particular Rudd and Lily are excellent, making us believe in the characters and selling the dynamic between the two that is necessary for the film to work in any way.
My Rating: 4/5