Size Matters in “Ant-Man and the Wasp”
By Mikhail Lecaros
“Real heroes, not actual size,” Declare the posters for Ant-Man and the Wasp, the 20th entry in the entertainment juggernaut that is the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). This is the first in the series to give a female hero equal billing to her male counterpart. With Captain Marvel on the way in March of next year ahead of the hotly-anticipated Avengers 4, all eyes are on Ant-Man and the Wasp to deliver the final dose of Marvel big screen action for 2018.
When the first Ant-Man premiered in 2015, it was a welcome respite from the excesses of its immediate predecessor, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Under director Peyton Reed (Bring It On, Yes Man), who inherited the project following the abrupt exit of Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver), Ant-Man was an unexpected hit starring a superhero audiences had virtually never heard of.
Streamlined and efficient in all the ways Ultron was uneven and bloated, Ant-Man served as an excellent palate cleanser that showcased (like Guardians of the Galaxy the year before) the sheer variety of genres the Marvel Cinematic Universe could accommodate.
Flash forward to 2018, and the sequel is here to fulfill a similar function by tiding us over in the wake of the emotional (and narrative) gut punch that was the ending of Avengers: Infinity War. While the film is fun in and of itself, the script leaves one with the impression that it could have used another pass or two. Honestly, at the rate plot threads are introduced, discarded, and brought back (with little concession to rhyme or reason), it is decidedly difficult to attribute any sort of weight to the proceedings.
Of course, as previously stated, one could make the argument that this was always intentional; there was no way no way Ant-Man and the Wasp was going to be as heavy as Infinity War, and that’s fine. However, when the standard of Marvel Cinematic Universe sequels is at Captain America: The Winter Soldier and Thor: Ragnarok levels, Ant-Man 2 is simply outclassed.
To be perfectly fair, the fault isn’t entirely Reed’s; prior to his taking the reins of 2015’s Ant-Man, the outgoing Wright had already laid much of the groundwork with his trademark narrative wit, elegantly frenetic visual style, and preternatural ability to pair songs with story beats (watch the fight in the briefcase from the first movie, and tell me that song choice wasn’t pure Wright). That groundwork, paired with the comedic chops of Rudd himself and his Anchorman director Adam McKay doing script polishes to flesh out the characters and introduce the Quantum Realm, meant Reed had a hell of a standard to live up to when it came time to do the sequel. His work here isn’t necessarily bad, mind you – it’s just missing a lot of the idiosyncratic stylings that made the previous film so much fun.
THE GANG’S ALL HERE
While it’s frustrating to see elements and sequences that, in the hands of a more experienced director, could have worked so much better, but thankfully, the collective talent and charm of the film’s cast help to cover for many of the script’s shortcomings.
The returning stars include the seemingly-ageless Paul Rudd (Clueless, Anchorman) as former-criminal-turned-superhero Scott Lang, the irrepressible Michael Douglas (Basic Instinct) as scientist Hank Pym, and Evangeline Lily (The Hobbit) as Pym’s daughter Hope Van Dyne. With charisma to spare, the core trio makes pretty much any scene they’re in better by default.