Bigger But Not Better Than ‘Ant-Man’
The first Ant-Man, though admittedly a “small” movie, box-office-wise, is actually one of the less problematic movies in MCU’s Phase Two. Ant-Man benefited from the groundwork laid down by Edgar Wright and what dramatic and comedic bits were added later on by its eventual director Peyton Reed and the other writers. Of course there’s the strong performances by Paul Rudd and the rest of the cast.
Ant-Man & the Wasp, with Evangiline Lilly’s character finally wearing the suit for the first time, is supposed to build on Ant-Man and the aftermath of Civil War. In short, it’s expected to tell a more compelling story than the first. And with Michelle Pfeiffer’s Janet Van Dyne and Lawrence Fishbourne’s Bill Foster (Goliath) joining the players, a more nuanced “villain” in Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), and more stuff about Quantum Realm and possible Infinity War connection, on paper it definitely looked more promising than the original’s heist/origin movie. But more interesting doesn’t necessarily mean better.
While the first movie made up some “novel” situations out of the hero’s size-shifting ability (i.e., Ant-Man hanging on the edge of a spinning vinyl record, or dodging bullets while running in a scale model, or Ant-Man fighting Yellow Jacket inside a suitcase while an IPhone plays The Cure’s “Disintegration”) the action and chase sequence in the sequel lacks the same wit and imagination, mostly replacing what could have been funny and/or tense moments with sight gags—funny but kind of pedestrian.
And there are plenty. Though they’re mostly just variations on Lang’s malfunctioning regulator (which keeps him stuck in either pre-chooler-size or giant-size) and Pym’s set of size-shifting Hot Wheels. The whole movie is also just one long chase for a MacGuffin (Pym’s Lab) which ultimately undermines whatever suspense the new characters brought into the equation. Ghost never feels like a real threat; it never feels like Janet was truly in danger.
There’s supposed to be one big emotional moment near the end of the movie that ends up underwhelming. When Hope is finally reunited with her mother it just doesn’t feel dramatic as it’s supposed to be. There’s actually a similar scene in Aquaman, which, despite the movie’s overall campiness, actually worked better there than in Ant-Man & the Wasp.
Even though AM&tW was primarily marketed as the “palate cleanser,” I don’t suppose it’s enough for it to be just easygoing and provide respite after watching Thanos snap-wipe half the universe. Especially when what bugged me the most about Avengers: Infinity War weren’t the large number of characters dusted by the end of the movie, but how poorly written the Battle in Wakanda is to serve as the movie’s final third, to which AM&tW is just a lighter substitute but not really an improvement.
Ant-Man & the Wasp is another in a long list of middling Marvel movies. If only they could give Luis his own suit and his own movie next time.