Written by David Holland
Our last movie was a dire, dramatic, tragedy with impossibly high stakes for the entire universe in which we witnessed the deaths of several beloved characters. How do you possibly top that with your next installment?
With Paul Rudd, of course.
“Wasp” was announced shortly after the original “Ant-Man” released, continuing Marvel’s trend of incredible confidence in their superhero movies, even those featuring less well-known characters. Peyton Reed is back to direct again, but without all of the baggage of the Edgar Wright dust-up from the first film. Although “Wasp” is the chapter after “Infinity War”, it is the fallout of the airport fight in “Civil War” that provides the context for this movie. Scott Lang decided to help Captain America, got caught, and now he is dealing with the consequences of his actions. It doesn’t help that he was super obvious about being in Germany.
Paul Rudd is back as Ant-Man, Evangeline Lily returns as Hope van Dyne aka The Wasp, and Michael Douglas is Hank Pym again. They are joined by Walton Goggins as the sketchy tech black market dealer Sonny Burch, Hannah John-Kamen as Ghost, Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne, and Laurence Fishburne as Bill Foster, although let’s be honest he will always be Morpheus in every role.
How Does it Hold Up?
As I said above, Ant-Man immediately follows “Infinity War”, but doesn’t touch on its events until the post-credits scene. Instead, this film focuses more on Scott Lang’s actions in “Civil War”, which was six movies ago. I like this decision a lot. I had plenty to say about the tone of Infinity War, which I won’t repeat here, but suffice it to say I think an “Ant-Man” movie that takes place in the immediate aftermath of The Snap has a tone that is just too bleak. Don’t get me wrong, Paul Rudd does a great job jump starting the plot of “Endgame”, but I think taking the focus off the sprawling Marvel Universe and refocusing on a specific character’s story arc was the right decision.
Everything you loved from the first Ant-Movie is back with a fresh take. There is tiny fighting, manipulating the size of objects to hilarious ends, and a Luis story fueled by truth serum. Scott even breaks Hank and Hope out of custody in a reversal of the breakout scene in the first movie. This time the villain isn’t a sort of bland Evil Tech Genius like “Ant-Man”. There is an Evil Arms Dealer, but he is more of a side villain. The Big Bad is Ghost, a woman who has the ability to phase through objects but is also dying as a result of a failed experiment. When we finally learn Ghost’s backstory, when we sense her desperation at being told she has days or weeks to live unless she can get her hands on Hank Pym’s tech, we see an actually sympathetic villain – someone who has had a normal life taken from her, been lied to, feels rightfully wronged, and has very little left to lose. She is the sort of sympathetic villain that other Marvel movies have failed to create. The plot weaves many threads – Scott’s house arrest, rescuing Janet, avoiding Burch, dealing with Ghost, and the X-Con business together, all intersecting in a final big finish.
Yes, I realize that this is also a play on the name of one of the characters. That is by design. But this theme also fits because in a lot of ways this movie is about hope. When it opens, Scott is looking forward to getting his normal life back and getting his business going. Hank and Hope are trying to save Janet. Ghost is trying to survive. When the movie starts, Scott isn’t an Avenger anymore and he has lost Hope (his girlfriend, not the idea. This is getting complicated). But helping rescue Janet and save Ghost restores his sense of purpose. Scott can’t help but try to save people. This compulsion got him in trouble in “Civil War” and it does so here as well, but Scott believes in doing what is right and being as helpful as he can. It pays off in this film when Scott not only helps save Janet but also helps that sympathetic villain I mentioned earlier. After the dire mood of “Infinity War”, a little bit of hope is exactly what the Marvel Universe needed. Of course, in this movie Hope also fights.