Are we all done crying over Peter Parker yet? Because it’s time to move on. We’re just under three months removed from Avengers: Infinity War, and if you go to various websites, you can see if Thanos snapped you out of existence. But in the meantime, to tide us over until the resolution sometime next year, we have two more entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe to look forward to. Opening today (really, last night, which is how I was able to see it “early”) is Ant-Man and the Wasp, which if nothing else, lets you know what happened to one of the two MCU leads missing from Infinity War. As far as we know, Hawkeye was just spending the time avoiding being “it.”
Given the heavy action of Infinity War, this sequel goes out of its way to be exceptionally light. There are jokes on top of jokes on top of jokes, many of which land. We also get a healthy dose of parent/daughter cuteness, via present-day interactions between Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), as well as flashbacks featuring Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and a younger version of daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly in grownup form). I mean, hell, we even have two, count ’em, TWO uses of the Partridge Family theme song! The message is loud and clear – this film is supposed to be fun and happy. And thankfully, for the most part, it is.
We pick things up two years after Ant-Man’s participation in Captain America: Civil War, which landed him in house arrest. He gets regular visits from Cassie, as well as ex-wife Maggie and her husband Jim (Judy Grier and Bobby Canavale, respectively), the two having done a complete 180 from their resentment of Scott in the last movie. He also gets frequent visits from Luis (Michael Peña), who along with Scott and his other two associates from the last film are trying to “go legit” and start a home security business. He’s three days from the end of his sentence when he has a vision of Hope as a child from the Quantum Realm, leading him to believe he might have encountered her mother, Janet, who was lost when she went subatomic to disable a nuclear weapon, as was shown in the last movie.
This leads Hope and her father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to make contact once again, as they’ve been developing in secret a quantum tunnel that will allow them to enter the realm and retrieve Janet if she is in fact still alive 30 years after her self sacrifice. They’ve been in hiding since Civil War, as Ant-Man using Pym’s suit and tech means that they too were also in violation of the Sokovia Accords. Remember those? The idiotic “We promise not to be super heroes because of collateral damage” cop out from Civil War? Yeah, somehow that still matters in the MCU. Asgard is destroyed, half of the universe is blinked out, but yeah, this stupid treaty is still a thing.
Anyway, Scott accompanies Hank and Hope on their mission to obtain a needed component for their tunnel from Sonny Butch, a black market tech dealer played by a goofy as fuck but still somewhat endearing Walton Goggins. Pym has temporarily freed Scott from his house arrest (grafting the ankle bracelet onto a giant ant who’s programmed to mimic Scott’s daily routine of watching TV and video game drumming) for the mission because he believes that dream was the result of a quantum entanglement between Scott and Janet, and that they can use Scott’s memories to triangulate a position within the quantum realm in order to reach Janet. Think that’s a lot of use of the word, “quantum?” Well, you’re not alone, as the film itself comments on the overuse.
Goggins is one of three separate antagonists in this film. He wants more money and to apprehend Hank Pym’s tech (which he totes around in his portable lab, a complete building that he shrinks and grows at different locations), but he’s basically just a recurring annoyance. The same goes for FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Fresh Off the Boat‘s Randall Park), who is trying to catch Scott breaking his house arrest. He has some pretty hilarious exchanges with Paul Rudd throughout the film, but again bears no real threat.
The real villain is Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen, the corporate assassin from Ready Player One). She has the ability/curse to always be slightly out of phase with the rest of the world, thanks to an experiment in quantum mechanics that killed her parents after Hank fired her father from S.H.I.E.L.D. As such, she can walk through walls with ease, and she’s been spying on Hank and Hope, waiting for the opportunity to go into the quantum realm and steal Janet’s life force in order to stabilize her body.
That’s basically the long and short of the story. Scott resumes the Ant-Man identity in order to help Hope and Hank recover Janet, all the while trying to not get caught and get sent to prison, thereby losing his relationship with Cassie forever. Hope has donned her mother’s mantle as The Wasp, and along with Hank is desperate to save her mother whatever the cost. Hank has to deal with the consequences of past decisions, particularly with regard to Janet, Ghost, and his former partner Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne). Ghost wants her life back after S.H.I.E.L.D destroyed it. Luis and the X-Cons want to get their business off the ground. Sonny wants the tech. Woo wants to catch Scott. That’s it.
Now, in order to make this all work, there still has to be some good fights, and this is where the film comes up short. From the very first encounter between Wasp and Ghost, the set pieces look like just a bunch of hastily thrown together shots with cheap CGI. Occasionally you get Ghost throwing a punch or Wasp kicking air while stuntmen fall down, but everything else is just a bunch of shrinks and pop-ups and shit going through walls. Now, the phase effect on Ghost is pretty sweet looking, but of course if comes with a major cost when it comes to suspension of disbelief. She can shift through walls and other surfaces like they’re nothing, but of course, she can also still sit on surfaces and not fall through floors, which is something that people always ignore when there’s a “ghost”-type character.
More importantly, the editing is all over the place. The climactic four-way chase is basically an excuse to highlight the standard tourist destinations of San Francisco, particularly the hairpin block of Lombard Street and Fisherman’s Wharf. Honestly, it’s to the film’s credit that the Golden Gate Bridge isn’t destroyed for once, but the action is everywhere and the logic is nowhere. Ghost shows up just because. Ant-Man goes from flying on an ant to being full-size inside a van. Every time Sonny or Woo crashes, the other one magically appears to keep the chase going. There’s a moment where Sonny momentarily evades Ant-Man, who then spies him on a whale-watching boat leaving the wharf mere seconds later, leading him to comment, “How did he even have time to get a ticket?” Just because you ask the question as a meta joke doesn’t mean you get away with the impossibility of the situation.
And then of course there’s Pym’s lab itself, a much more clunky version of the briefcase from Pulp Fiction, except we know what’s inside, which makes it even more nonsensical. During the final action sequence, there are people literally inside the building as it’s being shaken and tossed around. There are somehow no physics inside the building, because with every toss, someone should be throttled into a wall. The best we get is Hank’s quantum diver telling him he can’t regrow himself from the quantum realm until the building “settles.” Never mind that we never actually address how Janet could have survived as a subatomic human for 30 years with no food or water.
Essentially, this robs the fight scenes of any real stakes, but again, that really doesn’t matter, as this is meant to be a much more lighthearted entry than the last three MCU films. So yeah, the fights (and the plot) make no sense, but they’re more in service to the sight gags of Ant-Man rising up like a giant from the water to pick up Walton Goggins like a bug, or for Michael Peña to drive a souped up roadster that enlarges from a Hot Wheel box, or for any number of other visual bits. Is it annoying? Yes, but it’s understandable and forgivable in this instance.
The entire film basically hinges on the undeniable charm of Paul Rudd, and he delivers in spades. That’s really all that matters. The rest of the cast is fine as well. Even Evangeline Lilly is tolerable, and she was annoying as all get out in the last movie. Admittedly, I’m a touch biased because she was the only character on LOST anyone wanted to die, and of course she was invincible. But putting that aside, she was alright. No one is truly compelling except for Rudd, but that’s really all you need to carry this.
Now, I will offer one brief spoiler – SO SKIP THIS PARAGRAPH IF YOU DON’T WANT IT – and this is in regards to how long you should stick around after the movie’s over. There is a mid-credits scene that explains exactly where this particular crew of heroes stands after the Infinity Gauntlet is activated. I won’t say who stays or goes, only that it’s addressed, which I don’t think is too big a spoiler, as you knew they’d have to reference it, given Ant-Man’s absence from Infinity War. There is a post-credits scene as well, but that is not worth seeing. It’s just the shot of the enlarged ant playing Scott’s toy drum kit, which was shown in the trailer (and briefly earlier in the film). I have no qualms about telling you that. After the mid-credits scene, do yourself a favor and beat the traffic.
Join the conversation in the comments below! What film should I review next? Who’s your favorite MCU hero? Can we crossover with Adult Swim and get The Monarch for the next sequel? Let me know!