When superheroes team up, there will always be a weak link. Whether in movies or in comics, there will always be a hero who won’t get as fanfare as the others. For the DC Universe, that unfortunate role falls on Aquaman. For the Marvel Cinematic Universe, however, it’s Ant-Man.
When the original Ant-Man was released in 2015, it paled in comparison to that year’s other MCU movie, Avengers: Age of Ultron. Ant-Man just wasn’t a worthy cap-off for the MCU’s Phase Two.
Now, Ant-Man finds himself in another precarious spot: in between two behemoths, Avengers: Infinity War and Captain Marvel. As always, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a victim of poor positioning. However, is it just poor planning or does Ant-Man really just suck?
Growing into a niche
Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place between Civil War and Infinity War. Scott Lang takes a more lenient deal after Germany, enjoying house arrest instead of maximum security for superheroes. While he struggles to be a better father for his daughter, he finds himself thrust back into the life as Ant-Man when dreams of the Quantum Realm suddenly haunt him again.
As mentioned above, the first Ant-Man never lived up to the hype. Prior to its release, the film received a lot of hype over Edgar Wright’s helming as director. However, creative differences caused the esteemed director to leave the project. Hence, Ant-Man never recovered. It features an uncharismatic hero, a harried plot, and a pointless villain.
Thankfully, Ant-Man and the Wasp learns from its plethora of mistakes. Paul Rudd isn’t trying too hard to be the next Robert Downey, Jr. There’s more Michael Peña. Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp enjoys more spotlight this time around. The villain (or at least, one of them) is more compelling.
Also, unlike the first film, Ant-Man and the Wasp features Pym’s technology more prominently. Thankfully, we can finally see ants as part of Lang’s full repertoire. It’s a huge step up from the last film’s copout of just super strength and growing powers.
At the very least, Ant-Man and the Wasp is an improvement over its predecessor.
Luis needs to narrate every movie
As with most Marvel movies, Ant-Man and the Wasp has a healthy infusion of humor. Thankfully, the film isn’t as cringe-inducing as its first outing. Much of its improvements draw from where the jokes come from.
In the first film, Paul Rudd mistakenly brought all the humor without much bravado. This time, the film relies a lot more on Michael Peña’s character Luis and his cohorts, the X-Cons (insert Wakanda/X-Force pose here).
Additionally, the visual gags take off the training wheels. Their more outlandish nature gets a lot more chuckles from the crows.
However, the film’s humor buckles under the pressure of its more serious plot. Unlike Guardians of the Galaxy, the Ant-Man franchise is only barely hyped as comedy. As such, jokes are often played to the cast-iron expressions of characters not in on the joke. Often, there were moments where the humor was jarring, taking place during an intense action or chase scene.
Thanos needs to cull the plot
One of the biggest gripes with the first film was its terribly bland villain and plot. Yellowjacket’s story never breathed life into Ant-Man. It was a less witty rehash of the first Iron Man’s story with Obadiah Stane and the Iron Monger. It was a simplistic good versus evil plot without a compelling motivation for either.
Ant-Man and the Wasp attempts to solve this by going all the way to the other end of the spectrum, i.e. stuffing the story with oodles of subplots and secondary characters.
When the first promotional material was released, the film’s plot was crystal clear—finding Janet Van Dyne in the treacherous Quantum Realm. Over time, more plot reveals—Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost reveal and Walter Goggins nabbing a role—indicated that this was more than just a rescue operation.
True enough, Ant-Man and the Wasp suffers from a lot of unnecessary bloat. While Ghost serves as the main protagonist most directly linked with the heroes’ quest, the others can fall by the wayside.
Ghost portrays a disgraced remnant from the corrupted S.H.I.E.L.D. of the past. While underwritten, she holds the most stakes among all the characters in the film. She doesn’t have a rule-the-world mentality, as with most forgettable Marvel villains. Her motivations are more personal and, hence, more interesting. Sadly, the film’s other antagonists take so much screen time away from what should have been hers.
On the other hand, Walton Goggins plays Sonny Burch, a gangster archetype reminiscent of Iron Man’s Justin Hammer and the previous Ant-Man’s Darren Cross. Sadly, as with its mentioned contemporaries, the profiteering salesman just isn’t a compelling plot anymore. It’s tired and overused. With Sonny Burch, the trope reaches near-useless heights, contributing absolutely nothing to the story. In fact, they seemingly exist just to gave Luis and his X-Cons a plethora of visual gags.
Aside from that, Randall Park plays an FBI agent tasked with keeping an eye on Scott Lang during his house arrest—another strangely placed plotline. Scott Lang’s family returns for some cameos. Oh, and Laurence Fishburne appears for some reason.
Blast from the past
Overall, Ant-Man and the Wasp was still entertaining. It stands as a testament to how Marvel’s worst can still be considered a great movie today.
In a cinematic universe that continuously pushes the boundaries after every film, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a return to classic form. It feels like a movie stuck in an industry before the MCU started. It’s your standard superhero film.
But that’s okay. While it has its flaws, it still shines brighter than Lang’s first outing. Further, after the heavy-hitting Infinity War, we all needed the light-heartedness.