Ant Man and the Wasp, sequel to 2015’s Ant Man, reminds us that not every comic book movie needs to be about saving the entire world. The world can be interpreted as protecting a community, a city, or even the world represented by an individual’s life and those connected to them. When Ant Man was an Edgar Wright project, the former writer/director envisioned his movie to be a standalone film that wasn’t connected to the mainstream Marvel Cinematic Universe. Although some of his vision changed when he left the film, that idea of Ant Man being an outsider to the MCU has seemingly become part of the characters charm. When Scott Lang was recruited to fight alongside Captain America and his forces in Captain America: Civil War, he gave the impression of somebody who never thought they’d get to play in the big leagues but who now was playing short stop. Although he found himself on the losing side of that battle which had consequences that echo throughout this movie, you notice that Scott is still the center focus of the film instead of a project oversaturated with Marvel cameos and Easter eggs. Some of the best Marvel movies or projects such as Iron Man, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Spider-Man: Homecoming or the Netflix and/or Hulu series worked so well because they were character dominant stories that focused on the individual heroes and their conflicts. The cast and crew of this latest Marvel installment avoid the sequel slump that plagued Iron Man and Thor by delivering a unique, hilarious and unconventional comic book movie which serves as a palate cleanser for those still recovering from Avengers: Infinity War.
It’s been two years since the events of Civil War and already we find Scott Lang has been using his time well in an adorable and creative makeshift Ant Man adventure alongside his daughter Cassie. Days away from being released from house arrest and eager to continue his life without the charming but naïve agent Jimmy Woo monitoring his every move, he receives a peculiar vision involving his estranged mentor’s wife Janet who he may have met during his brief time in the Quantum Realm. He makes a call and just like that, he finds himself back with Hope and Hank who ignore his attempts to apologize for they have been busy while on the run. Hank believes they might be able to get to the Quantum Realm to rescue Janet and Hope has been assisting her father while training to be the new Wasp. Evangeline Lily practically glows as the Wasp and her entire performance is amazing combined with Paul Rudd’s comedic charm. Her action scenes flow effortlessly whether she’s battling thugs in a kitchen or zipping in and out of a car to retrieve a shrunken laboratory. Co-Creator Stan Lee commented that he found it difficult at times to write stories involving Ant-Man and the Wasp due to the complications of writing stories where size and perception could change randomly. In this movie, director Peyton Reed uses it to his advantage. Wasp changes her size consistently within minutes while Scott’s technical difficulties make for some of the more hilarious moments in the film especially the scene where they have infiltrate Cassie’s school to retrieve Scott’s original Ant Man suit. Michael Douglas’ gruff demeanor is perfect whether he’s breaking up the romantic tension between Hope and Scott or dropping hilarious commentary on the current events which have become the everyday fabric of his life.I don’t think anybody has handled talking to his estranged wife through another man in such a calm and sentimental demeanor. And of course where Ant-Man be without one of Luis’s long but hilarious recapping of current events? It’s just like T.I said when one of the antagonists tries to interrupt our fast talking narrator “ You put in the money so now you gotta go along for the ride”.
They say a movie’s hero is only as good as its villain but this movie is special for the reason that I believe it doesn’t have a main villain but rather antagonists; characters who’s goals interfere with the plans of our heroes thus bringing them into conflict. Sonny Birch and his associates are just your run of the mill thugs with Birch being a criminal businessman who wants to get ahead of the competition in the black market and isn’t afraid of using “truth serum” or informants to do so . They make for entertaining banter and effective opponents during the wonderfully choreographed car chase near the end of the film. Hannah John-Kamen takes Ava Starr’s Ghost in a completely different direction than the comic’s version of the character.
Instead of being an anti-capitalist saboteur whose obsession and powers isolates them from the world, Hannah’s performance as a tortured child-turned-weapon whose powers are literally killing her makes her sympathetic instead of clique or one-dimensional. Although she is a trained operative of the now-defunct S.H.I.E.L.D, it’s the humanity and anger of Hannah’s performance that makes us sympathize with her and her surrogate father, Bill Foster played by Lawrence Fishburne. Both of them connected in a way to Hank Pym’s work, one by a failed experiment and the other by a failed working relationship, and yet they clearly care for each other. Ava lashed out in pain and frustration because that’s not only all she knows but she is afraid of dying. Bill wants to help her even when her condition pushes the limits of his knowledge and when she considers kidnapping Cassie in order to draw Scott out, he puts his foot down and tells her no, like any concerned father when his child is considering a decision they can’t come back from. Although I would have liked to have seen more regarding Bill and project Goliath, a reference to the superhero identity his comic counterpart carries, I did find it refreshing that both Bill and Ava managed to remain alive at the end of the film. Considering how Marvel movies have a habit of killing their villains at the end, it was nice to see Ant-Man and the Wasp avoid that tradition. If anything the real overarching villain in this and other Marvel movies are modern day government or terrorist organizations like S.H.I.E.L.D and HYDRA who take in individuals like Ava and make them into weapons only to cast them aside once they serve their purpose or abandon them when their group dissolves for whatever reason. Once Ava regains her life with the help of the returned Janet Van Dyne, she’s eager to turn herself in or run but Bill reminds her that for once in her life, she’s not alone and they flee together. Sometimes even villains can get some amalgamation of a happy ending, even just for one day.
In the end, the true unspoken hero of Ant-Man and the Wasp is Cassie Lang. Without her, Scott Lang would have never performed the heist that put him on the path to become the second Ant-Man in both the movies and the comics. She has always been his first priority and Abby Ryder Fortson plays her with just the right balance of innocence and humor she clearly learned from her dad. In this movie, his goal is keeping out of trouble long enough to see her outside of his house and in true Marvel fashion, that puts him at odds with both of his careers. When his actions seem to have jeopardized Hank and Hope’s plans to save Janet, Cassie sits next to him and tells him that she know he’s Ant Man again but more importantly that she loves him and wants him to do right by his friends, especially his new partner. I found her disappointment about her dad wanting Hope as his partner in the field instead of her adorable in the way that it reminds me of how she becomes the hero Stature years later in the comics which I would love for them to explore in later films. Cassie Lang presence reinforces that one of the main themes of Ant-Man and the Wasp is family. We see the lengths that Scott will resort to maintain but also protect his family similar to the journey that Hank Pym and Hope aspire in order to rescue someone they thought they had lost forever or how far Bill Foster was willing to go to save Ava. These are the kind of decisions anybody would do for someone they care about or love regardless of any risks, doubts or dangers. Even at the end before our feel good happy ending is ended with one hell of a cliffhanger, our heroes were journeying back into the Quantum Realm to further help Ava and her condition because that’s what heroes do: they put their entire world on the line to help preserve every single one of ours. Although the traditional mid credits scene tragically answered where both heroes were during the events of Infinity War, I overall enjoyed the film and hope that Marvel will continue to push the envelope with their characters and how their movies can be. Until then, I’ll just keep wondering what other names Scott can come up for his faithful ant soldiers.
Also the Stan Lee cameo was as always awesome: ” Well 60’s were fun but now I’m paying for it”