Having missed seeing Ant-Man and the Wasp closer to its release date, due to being on holiday, I made it a priority to see it this weekend. It looks like I was just in time as the film is down to one screening a day at my local cinema, while Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again and Hotel Transylvania 3 are still getting three or four despite being released earlier. I can’t say I have a passion for Ant-Man, but you pretty much have to see a Marvel Studios movie when it comes out at this point: firstly because you might miss something important in the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s overall continuity otherwise, and secondly because Marvel Studios can be generally relied upon to produce entertaining, worthwhile films. Unfortunately, both points only barely apply to Ant-Man and the Wasp; within the wider MCU, this film feels like little more than filler, especially coming after the far more significant Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War.
When we are re-introduced to Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), he has spent almost two years under house arrest, as punishment for helping the rebel side in Captain America: Civil War. With his sentence almost at an end, a peculiar dream about his experience in the quantum realm brings him back into contact with his old comrades Dr Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly); it turns out that, while living as fugitives, they have been working on a way to safely enter and return from the quantum realm, in order to retrieve Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer). Scott is reluctantly dragged in to provide the information that they need – and of course, things quickly become more complicated, with a black-market dealer (Walton Goggins) and an assassin suffering from molecular instability (Hannah John-Kamen) each trying to get their hands on Pym’s technology.
Watching this film, you can’t help but reflect on and admire the different styles that Marvel Studios is able to employ in its projects, even when they’re set in the same universe. Ant-Man and the Wasp is a thriller/comedy, and I certainly enjoyed the more serious and action-oriented aspects. When the story is moving forward, it’s exciting and tense, with the heroes facing trouble on all sides, and Scott having limited time to do his job and go home before the authorities know anything is amiss. As promised at the end of Ant-Man, and the title of this film, Hope gets her own shrinking suit equipped with wings and blasters; she and Scott don’t get to fight bad guys hand-to-hand all that often, but when they do, watching their fast-paced shrinking and growing combat manouvers is more than satisfactory. A car chase through the streets of San Francisco in the film’s second half, with vehicles also growing and shrinking back and forth, is the highlight.
Unfortunately, I didn’t like the comedy nearly as much. There’s a lot of focus on it – with Scott’s ethnically diverse buddies getting a lot of screentime, and even the FBI agent monitoring him being used for comic relief – and that’s a problem when the jokes fall flat more often than not. A scene where Scott sneaks into his daughter’s school is extended for little more than cheap laughs as his suit starts malfunctioning, leaving him stuck at child-size. At their worst, ill-timed jokes destroy the tone of more serious (and interesting) scenes. As well as that, I felt dissatisfied with how simplistic the film ultimately is – there’s very little to it beyond the basic story. The non-comic-relief villain, Ghost, has potential with her sympathetic motivations, but not much time is taken to properly get inside her head. Even the ending feels too neat, aside from the mid-credits scene.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is definitely in my top three least favourite MCU films – it doesn’t feel sufficiently necessary or meaningful after what has come before. It’s still a Marvel Studios film, however, so it’s able to provide a little entertainment. Rating: 3/5.
Now to wait for the next comic-book movie, coming out at the beginning of October. This should be an interesting one…