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Kat returns from the Quantum Realm with the verdict on Ant-Man and the Wasp
~This review contains minor spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp~
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) isn’t your typical superhero. He hasn’t got the virtue of Captain America or the swagger of Iron Man. He’s just an awkward dad trying not to let house arrest get in the way of his daughter’s fun. He’s just doing his best, and in Ant-Man and the Wasp, his best is finally good enough.
The film picks up post-Captain America: Civil War. Scott is on house arrest as part of his plea deal for the Leipzig airport debacle. He’s not on speaking terms with his ex, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), or her father, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). That is until a spooky dream brings them all back together. Hope’s mother, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), was lost in the Quantum Realm 30 years ago after shrinking down to the molecular level to save the world. After Scott returned from the Quantum Realm in the events of Ant-Man, Hope and Hank realize they might still be able to save Janet. What’s stopping them is a greedy businessman, the FBI, and a mysterious fighter who can phase through objects, hence her name, Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Ensue shenanigans.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is a lot of fun. It’s funny, it’s light, it’s action packed. The stakes feel high even though the only world Scott is saving is his own. You don’t miss the grandeur of Avengers: Infinity War in the least, partly because the pacing is phenomenal. The film never drags, always running at peak energy. It shifts between action, humor, and drama with practiced ease. The fight choreography is fresh and surprisingly less violent than recent Marvel Cinematic Universe entries. The first Ant-Man isn’t one of my favorite Marvel films, but this one probably breaks into my top 10.
Putting the film under a microscope
There are two main ways the film stumbles. The first is the way it fails to vilify the primary antagonist. Ghost is a great villain. She’s complex, she’s spooky, she’s qualified. But she is not evil. She fights clean and even worked for the corrupted SHIELD. She is merely a victim of unfortunate circumstances who is fighting for her own life. The film expects the audience to side with Scott and the Pym family and their quest to find their missing matriarch over Ghost’s need to save her own life, merely because the great Marvel hero making machine has declared Scott & company to be Always Right. I definitely empathized with both sides, but watching our heroes physically prevent a woman from finding the cure for her illness felt uncomfortable. If the film had depicted Ghost as more evil, or made it clear that only Ghost or Janet could be saved, rather than leaving room for a compromise, perhaps I wouldn’t have found myself rooting for Ghost as much as for our heroes.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is the first MCU film to give a female character equal billing. Despite this, the film still falls short in elevating the Wasp to the equally shared spotlight. Hope is extraordinary. She’s an accomplished fighter, a technological genius, and a genuinely great person. She certainly gets more attention and screen time than almost any other Marvel lady. But the film is still told almost entirely from Scott’s point of view. We only get a few moments from Hope’s perspective. There’s no interiority and little development to her character. I would, of course, still die for her, but there’s more work to be done with the Marvel ladies on screen.
Even with these two issues, the film is a solid 20th entry into the MCU and an impressive follow up to Infinity War. The humor is energizing, the performances are stellar, and you barely even remember the events of Infinity War (until a certain moment!) as you’re watching. It’s a pleasure to watch and another step in the right direction for Marvel Studios.