ANT-MAN & THE WASP [Review]: Honey, I Shrunk the Critics.
While most Marvel fans are probably still reeling from the events of Infinity War, along comes a huge breath of fresh air packed in two fun-sized treats called Ant-Man and the Wasp. While there will be no spoilers for the film here, there may be a few nods and references to past MCU films so grab some Pez and a Pingo Dulce (Hulk reference) and let’s get small!
Though the heroes may not be actual size, the film itself is definitely larger than life. Director Peyton Reed capitalizes on what made the first movie a success, then turns the dial up to eleven in a couple specific areas. First and foremost, the humor is on point. Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang has become infamous in the superhero circles for his subtle “dad-joke” style of humor stemming from his child-like nature and the genuine sense of fun he has as a size-altering super. This go around, however, provides far more material for Rudd to show off his acting chops, which shine from start to finish. Again, no spoilers, but there is a scene where the team is trying to enter the quantum realm and only Scott Lang can provide the pertinent information, courtesy of a very unique source. It is in this scene that the sum of the movie is defined by the parts. Relevant information is disseminated, the stakes are raised and a time limited for success is established — all while being one of the funniest moments of the film.
Ant-Man and the Wasp succeeds in a way that perhaps no other Marvel movie does. Sticking with comedy, there are a few other characters that are given more material, most notably Michael Pena’s Luis. Nearly every scene he appears in is comedic gold. And, as balance had been previously mentioned, the amount of action given to the supporting cast juxtaposes the fantastically humorous scenarios in a way that is totally satisfying. David Dastmalchian and Tip “TI” Harris who return as Kurt and Dave, respectively, shine as a result of this formula. Yet the scene-stealer of the film is emphatically Randall Park as FBI Agent Jimmy Woo. While he was awkwardly funny in every scene, he may have been the most accurate representation of an FBI Agent on film, even down to his perplexity over sleight-of-hand magic.
As for the remainder of the star-studded cast, their purpose is the emotional variables factored into the equation, so let’s solve for X. We’ll begin with Michelle Pfeiffer. While her role is somewhat miniscule (pun intended), it is a critical one as she portrays the original Wasp, Janet van Dyne. As a side note, it is nice to finally see Janet in the MCU seeing as she was the one in the comic books responsible for giving the Avengers their name. Used mostly in flashback sequences, Pfeiffer’s character serves as more of a grounding unit for the lightning rods that are both Ant-Men and the current Wasp. She brings an emotional grace to the film in a way only Michelle Pfeiffer can. As previously stated, most of her scenes are from the past which means the de-aging technology used in Civil War and the first Ant-Man movie are put to use once again. Not so much on Pfeiffer, but brutally obvious on Michael Douglas. It works well; it’s just that the star actress has aged considerably better than her co-star.
Speaking of which, Michael Douglas’ Hank Pym had a far more dynamic arc than just the crotchety old man from the first film. With brief allusions to his character’s past — and that of the original Wasp, for that matter — Douglas was able to build off a larger, more solid foundation to bring a rounded and whole character to life. There was even an instance that touched upon the madness of Hank Pym, much like he is portrayed in the comics, but not quite that crazy. He didn’t go full Nancy Pelosi, but close. Another portal that sheds light on this topic is Laurence Fishburne as Bill Foster. From the pages of the comics, Foster is known as Goliath and becomes a version of Giant Man for the Avengers, yet does not reach that level during the course of the film. Rather, he is like the Bill Gates to Pym’s Steve Jobs. They have a relationship supported by the pillars of mutual respect and deep hatred, much like the two sorcerers of Silicon Valley.
Yet, there is another relationship “Fostered” by Bill and that is with Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen. Her performance as the phase-shifting thief is fully justified while having room to explore more of the character’s motivations in future films, should Marvel so decide. That can be said as the movie does not have a clear-cut enemy. Sonny Birch, as played by Walton Goggins, would perhaps be the closest the film comes to a real villain, yet the actions of Ghost are far worse. Ghost is not the mustache-twirling villain that one would find in a Red Skull or Yellowjacket, however, but more of an antagonist constantly caught between a bad decision and a worse one. Ghost has enough empathetic moments to explain her actions, though not quite on the level of Killmonger, nor redemptive enough as in the case of Loki. Nevertheless, the possibility remains to bring her back should Marvel opt for a Young Avengers movie in the future.
One certainty of who should appear in a YA movie is Cassie Lang. Played brilliantly by Abby Ryder Forston, enough winks and nods through her character’s exposition lend credence to an appearance by Stature, a critical member of the comic book Civil War. However, what Cassie Lang does the best is highlight the relationship between father and daughter, which is a pretty central theme throughout the entire film. In fact, there are three distinct aspects of this relationship, told through separate pairings. Bridging from the reconciliation that happened at the end of the first film — minus a few setbacks that occurred during the events of MCU Civil War — Hope and Hank have put the fun back in dysfunctional. Thanks to the tone of the film, both father and daughter are able to have emotionally fulfilling moments without diverting into tear-jerking drama. And that brings us to the true star of the film — the Wasp.
Evangeline Lilly absolutely killed it as the Wasp. There is no argument. She wins. From a performance standpoint, Lilly was able to be the ass-kicking straight man who had perfectly timed quips with the exact emotional need. Almost like she was Harold Ramis to Rudd’s Bill Murray if Ramis was also Chuck Norris. This juggling act delivered a superheroine that is incredibly intelligent, deceptively dangerous and fantastically funny, all while wearing a super sexy skin-tight suit. With wings. And blasters. In short, the one question that will be asked at the end of the film is “why haven’t we seen her sooner?”. To date, the Wasp is probably the best female superhero we’ve seen out of Marvel, which will put some pressure on Captain Marvel later in 2019. Looking to the future, it is a necessity that this Ultimate-inspired Wasp join the Avengers and kick far more ass than Black Widow, which she could.
As far as the film goes as a whole, it was a lot of fun. The fight sequences were excellently choreographed, the chase scenes were intense and well filmed, even the scoring hit the right notes. This is the type of movie to put on when it is a gray depressing day and spirits need to be lifted. Tonally and thematically, Ant-Man & the Wasp is like a combination of Lethal Weapon meets Honey I Shrunk the Kids. It had the throwback nostalgia of a late 80’s early 90’s buddy action rom-com while still maintaining a place in the pre-established universe. Given that the style of humor is far different than in the Guardians films or Thor: Ragnarok, Ant-Man 2 still has the most jokes and visual gags of any MCU entry. And if you’re wondering how this film ties in with the rest, make sure you buzz your way through all the credits. 4/5 Bibles.
Catch Marvel Studios’ Ant-Man & The Wasp in theaters everywhere July 6th.