Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Written by Gaden Sousa.

After the emotional rollercoaster and unarguable cruelty of Avengers: Infinity War there was one question sitting atop the others in the great pile: what on earth is going to happen in Ant-Man and the Wasp? Now, finally, we have the answer to this puzzling question.

What is Ant-Man and the Wasp like? So much fun.

I liked the first Ant-Man fine. It was entertaining enough, the action was smart enough, the characters were likeable enough, the film was overall just fine but Ant-Man and the Wasp delighted me. This film just exudes fun. This is because everyone is given more to do this time around and the story feels so personal and small scale compared to the grandiose epic we’d just experienced from Infinity War. Ant-Man and the Wasp is a breath of fresh air.

Paul Rudd’s character Scott Lang is under house arrest following the events of Civil War, which is really clever. The MCU once again goes to show us that it is worth watching all the other movies, or at least most of them, due to the relationship of cause and effect between each film. The choices characters make in other marvel films create real consequences for their own film.

The villain of the film, Ghost, is a little bit deeper and more interesting than your average Marvel villain. She has a personal vendetta against Hank Pym, in her own twisted mind he is the cause of her pain. She sees the only way to end her pain as through violence and destruction—coming from violence she sees it as her only resort. But she doesn’t want to destroy the world, or kill a city. She wants to save herself.

She lives in constant pain as she phases in and out of existence, a ‘power’ caused by her exposure to the quantum realm. The visual look of Ghost is something I’ve never seen before. She will phase in and out of vision, her arm will appear in three different places as she moves it or her face will arc in a mirage as she talks. If her motivation for self-preservation due to being a victim of mankind’s thirst for knowledge isn’t interesting enough for you then the design of her suit and the after-image flicker of her powers will still glue your eyes to her.

Personally, I’d say the biggest strength of the film is Michael Pena playing Paul Rudd’s non-superhero best friend Luis. He is unbelievably funny. There is a sequence involving truth serum that made me and my mum explode with laughter. One of his jokes still makes me chuckle when thinking about it. And that’s because he’s given so much more to do in this film and that is such a good thing—more Pena means oodles of more entertainment.

Pena actually gets to do some heroing. He’s given agency within the world, finally having a purpose. He’s a reason much of the plot happens: offering information to various parties, serving as a bridge from one antagonist to our protagonists. And he always finds room for humour. He’s always given the best lines, at the most unexpected times. Pena is clearly a natural improviser and has a manic energy, Peyton Reed (the director) knows how to utilise this energy to his advantage and draws it into the forefront to keep the film moving with comedic momentum.

The action is far more interesting than the first film and you can feel the creators saying, ‘Well they can shrink and grow big so why don’t they do it way way more.’ The powers feel cooler and are used in a much more creative and entertaining way than in the first. The one negative I would have for the action is that it does feel like it’s cut a little too quickly, meaning that location and geography is lost to the viewer and we end up just assuming they’re hitting each other. But thankfully this isn’t nearly on the scale of fast cuts of previous entries in the MCU.

And now here feels like the perfect time to mention the Wasp. Wasp is probably the most exciting thing about this film. Evangeline Lily’s performance and the way she’s handled even had one of my friends say that she’s their new favourite hero. Because, in Ant-Man and the Wasp she isn’t just some uptight businesswoman here to ruin everyone’s film. This time around she’s a source of fun. She doesn’t stop people’s fun but has her own. She’s a far more experienced fighter, as established in the original Ant-Man, and so she’s given these intelligent fight scenes where she gets to flaunt her stuff and show off. In this film the Wasp has far more agency to be her own character, she’s half of the title and you better believe she’s making her name well known.

At the core this film is about family and most of those themes hang off the Wasp trying to get her mother back. That’s the main goal for the film, for her to save her mother from the quantum realm where she has been for the last 40 years. It’s an emotional beat that pulls us through the entire film, thus making the Wasp not just a badass but someone for whom we care and want to see succeed.

I know at this point it sounds like the film is perfect, but it isn’t (like all films). I think there are too many antagonists in this film. We have Ghost as a really nice foil for the Pyms and Scott, but the writers couldn’t just hang the film on one antagonist so we get a second human antagonist in the form of Walton Goggins’ Sonny (an arms dealer). Goggins does a good job, it just doesn’t feel like we really need him between Ghost antagonising the Pyms and Scott on the run from the FBI. It muddies the waters of the plot.

Following on from that, the only part where the film feels a little too ridiculous is the pseudo-science used throughout. It really feels that they just yadda yadda over any of the actual ‘how is this working’ with the quantum this and quantum that. I would have liked a tad more explanation or at least a little more thought into how all this is possible. But, this is a film about saving someone from the quantum realm so we forgive a lot.

It stays just this side of ridiculous and several times threatens to cross it’s own line. But the performances of the whole cast make it such a delight that you rarely find yourself thinking ‘Hang on a second. That is impossible.’

Ultimately, Ant-Man and the Wasp is such a breath of fresh air and levity after the seriousness of Infinity War. It’s filled with love and joy and happiness and up until the last moment leaves a good taste in your mouth and a better feeling in your heart. In a world where we are surrounded by hate and malice, and on our screens this is being played out to us in increasingly darker and sombre storylines, it feels so good to have a film that is about love and family and kinship. It’s a film that will just make you laugh and smile. It even made me cry not ten minutes into the film (I’m a big, big softy).

Watch it to remind yourself that every story we tell doesn’t have to be a sad or serious story, it’s okay to laugh and feel good sometimes.

Gaden’s work appears in the Euphoria, Power, and Atmosphere editions of WORDLY Magazine.

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