Ant-Man was something of an unexpected surprise back in 2015, especially considering all the behind-the-scenes debacle involving original director-for-hire Edgar Wright departing and passing the baton to Peyton Reed, but nonetheless, that film was a fun ride. It cleverly utilised the shrinking gimmick, had likeable and charming characters that was helped by a great cast, plus Thomas the Tank Engine ruled, even if the film didn’t go far enough with the subatomic scenes or having the best of villains in Yellowjacket. Then, an appearance in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War brought out the best in Paul Rudd’s Ant-Man, taking his powers and gimmicks to new heights (literally!). However, despite all of that, Ant-Man hasn’t has that much of a bigger presence in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and for this reviewer, in the three years since the first film (two years if you count Civil War) any hype and excitement for more Ant-Man has dissipated somewhat thanks to the MCU delivering more exciting prospects with Spider-Man: Homecoming, Thor: Ragnarok and Black Panther. Now, following the phenomenal peaks and boundaries with Avengers: Infinity War (which this movie takes place prior too), Ant-Man and the Wasp seems somewhat unimportant, yet there is the argument that this fun, light-hearted movie is exactly what the audience needs following the bleakness and dread that was steeped in Infinity War.
In that sense, the movie delivers on just that, delivering a fun, action-packed, size-altering adventure, but it’s nothing more than that though. The cast do an excellent job throughout, and it’s no surprise to learn that Paul Rudd is still as delightful and charming as ever as the titular Ant-Man, although it does seem that the filmmakers involved have somewhat depowered him and, at times, make him out to be something of a bumbling clown. Now, Ant-Man may charismatic and funny, but he has never been this bumbling, and one wonders if the studio did this in order to offer more spotlight and prowess to Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp. Lilly is the standout in the film and she truly nails the Wasp, bringing a real wit to every scene she’s in, having real screen presence and her powers are realised perfectly, but one wishes that Ant-Man was treated as more her equal and not just a comedy sidekick. Michael Douglas was delightfully cranky as ever, it’s great to see Michelle Pfeiffer in film again, Michael Peña is true comedic scene-stealer, and Abby Ryder Fortson was simply adorable.
However, the movie does suffer with story and pacing issues that does detract a lot from the overall quality of the film. There are two major occurrences that happen in the last third of the film that make absolutely no sense whatsoever, lacks any internal logic or explanation, and it completely cuts down the dramatic tension of the whole film, which was a shame considering that the film did a reasonably entertaining job up until that point. This reviewer went into this movie wanting to see the Quantum Realm realised and explored more, and that did happen, although the way it was handled was less than stellar. The visual realisation was solid enough, although one would expect the VFX team to go further considering just how far Doctor Strange went with its visual imagery, but there are aspects about the Realm that are far too convenient and kind of contrived in narrative terms, devolving into the realms of magical mumbo-jumbo logic.
Also, Marvel’s villain problem is back with a vengeance. The talented Walter Goggins was painfully underused as criminal businessman Sonny Burch, becoming just as wasted as Mads Mikkelsen was in Doctor Strange and the character of Burch is just as forgettable and bland as whoever-the-hell that Dark Elf King was in Thor: The Dark World. Also suffering greatly is poor Hannah John-Kamen as tragic villain/anti-hero Ghost, who isn’t allowed anything to truly sink her teeth into, and it’s a real pity that this is the third film this year where John-Kamen is wasted in a thankless role (the first two being Tomb Raider and Ready Player One). If you truly want to get a sense of how truly witty and charismatic Hannah John-Kamen can be, watch her in Syfy’s underrated TV series Killjoys; you won’t regret it. But in all honesty, what’s the point of hiring talented actors in thankless roles like these?!
However, it’s not all negative as there’s still plenty enough to enjoy and the ultimate highlight sequence of the film was the mid-credits scene that brilliantly ties into another MCU film and cleverly teases what’s in store for the future. Now that was freakin’ fantastic!
In the end, there is a lot to like in Ant-Man and the Wasp, and if you want to have a good time at the movies, then this is worth checking out, but it is one of the weakest installments in the MCU, hovering around the same level of good as the flawed yet enjoyable Avengers: Age of Ultron. In all honesty, if this was released sometime before Infinity War, it would’ve been a lot better for it, but coming after it, you do get the sense of stalling, and at times, the movie did feel a little bit like a chore to get through before the Infinity Gauntlet storyline resumes next year.
Dir: Peyton Reed
Scr: Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari
Cast: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Bobby Cannavale, Judy Greer, Tip “T.I.” Harris, David Dastmalchian, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Douglas
Prd: Kevin Feige, Stephen Broussard
DOP: Dante Spinotti
Music: Christophe Beck
Run time: 118 mins
Ant-Man and the Wasp is out now in cinemas.