Last week we finally got chance to see the latest instalment in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Ant-Man and The Wasp. It was released in US back in July, but delayed in the UK, apparently not to clash with the World Cup (which was fairly good foresight on Disney’s part).
I’ll start with my one line review, if you want to keep reading after that please be aware the post will get spoiler heavy.
I really enjoyed the film, I think it grew (lol) on the plot of the first film (2015’s Ant-Man, which I also liked) and is the fifth great Marvel film in a row.
I wonder how deliberate it was to schedule both the Ant-Man films to follow Avengers “event” releases. Ant-Man (2015) was a big step down (lol, again) from Avengers: Age of Ultron, but benefited, I think, from Ultron not quite living up to the expectations set by The Avengers. It also served as a reminder (as did Guardians of the Galaxy the previous year to an extent) that not all films would advance the bigger story plots of the MCU and that it’s ok to have some stories be smaller (ffs, sorry), more contained adventures.
Ant-Man and The Wasp continues this trend. After Avengers: Infinity War (and it’s already cult cliffhanger ending) I did wonder whether this film would feel like too much of a sidetrack. The Infinity War post credits scene teased that Captain Marvel (March 2019) would provide some answers ahead of the next Avengers film (April 2019) and that made it seem even less likely Ant-Man and The Wasp would offer any clues as to what might be coming next for the MCU.
Other than the post credit scene (I’ll come back to that) Ant-Man and The Wasp doesn’t reveal anything we don’t already know, unless you count the film itself serving as an explanation as to where Ant-Man himself, Scott Lang was during the events of Infinity War. It’s not entirely clear how the timeline matches up, and I’m not sure it’s worth wasting time wondering. All we can guess is that at some point during this film Thanos’ attack on Earth is taking place and Scott is blissfully unaware, preoccupied, presumably with the intense plot of his own film.
It’s set up fairly immediately in the pre-titles scene that the focus of this story is an attempt to retrieve Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne’s (Evangeline Lilly) wife/mother, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfieffer) from the quantum realm (we learnt how she ended up there at the end of Ant-Man). The story takes some twists and turns as the technology to access to quantum realm exchanges hands between the Scott / Hope / Hank team up and couple of other interested parties.
In a lesser film this back and forth could’ve become tiring, to be honest it gets close here. It’s saved by the farcical nature of how success continues to slip through our heroes’ fingers, playing into the overall humorous and light hearted tone of this story.
As has become a common trait with the MCU films, humour is pushed to the absolute limits of what a film in this genre can handle before splitting at the spandex seams and becoming an outright comedy or borderline parody. Ant-Man and The Wasp continues to tread this thin line, with the worst offender being Randall Park’s character, FBI agent Jimmy Woo. Paul Rudd and Michael Peña, who reprises his role as Luis, carry the best laughs throughout. The scene in which Scott Lang is shrunk to the size of a small child is, in my opinion, far funnier than Deadpool 2’s baby legs scene from earlier this Summer.
I liked Hannah John-Kamen’s character ‘Ghost’ a.k.a Ava Starr. For a long time people obsessed over Marvel’s villain problem and the studio stood their ground on having an intentional focus on hero characters. Until recently I’d agree that Marvel villains (with the obvious exception of Loki) existed as vehicle to further the hero’s story. The villains of the last five films have been notably more complex. You could argue that Ghost isn’t a villain, more a ant-agonist (i’m proud of that one) with a compelling rationale. Some made that argument for Black Panther‘s Killmonger. Thanos is a little trickier to side with, but the character also appeals for your empathy. Ultimately I felt Ghost’s arc fell flat, despite a strong set up and some great scene. Her exit also left the character’s story feeling unresolved, which I’m ok with, if she returns in a later film.
Which brings us to the post credits scene, or more accurately the mid credits scene. It felt to me as if some time has passed since the end of the film. We see Pym, the van Dyne’s and Lang on a rooftop accessing the quantum realm via a micro version of the same tech used earlier in the film. They discuss that they’re doing this to collect more of a substance that will help heal Ghost. It’s not suggested in the scene where Janet heals Ghost that this is only the beginning of that process and besides, Ghost runs away from the group at the end of the film. What leads them to this? My loose theory is that part of the story is deliberately missing. Perhaps these missing hours, days, weeks would reveal more than we’re permitted to know at this stage?