When Ant-Man arrived in 2015, I couldn’t help but find myself disappointed in the finished product. In truth, it was an average-fare that would have left me satiated had it come in the initial phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Unfortunately, as Marvel’s series of films encumbered the theaters at a more rampant, abundant rate, and began reaching new heights, it was definite to me that Ant-Man simply couldn’t tread water to the best of them, providing a light-weight, disposable film that found itself more toward the bottom of the Marvel catalogue, while films like Captain America: The Winter Solider and Guardians of the Galaxy stood out with home-runs for the series in Phase Two. Thankfully, with that said, I feel comfortable saying that Marvel’s twentieth film in their series Ant-Man and the Wasp is a noticeable uptick from its predecessor. But, how much of an actual improvement is it?
Ant-Man and the Wasp follows where its predecessor left off, as well as after the events of Captain America: Civil War and before the events of Avengers: Infinity War. The Peyton Reed directed film brings back Paul Rudd as Scott Lang who is under house-arrest for violation of the Sokovia Accords in Captain America: Civil War and has since lost ties to Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). As he begins having hallucinations brought on from entering the quantum realm in the previous film, which bring Hope and Pym out of hiding when he claims to have seen Hank’s wife in one of his dreams. The film has received a warm reception from critics, a brighter response than what was received for the original Ant-Man film, whereas the box-office admittedly leaves something to be desired. The film is pacing a little ahead of its predecessor, but it’s also rumored to have a considerably higher budget than that film, and after Infinity Wars, I would imagine Marvel Studios anticipated the film would receive a financial increase like how Phase Two’s films increased after The Avengers was released.
Something I felt about Ant-Man with its release is that it had too many cooks in-terms of stylization and thematic tone. This is likely due to the troublesome production it underwent, with Edgar Wright being abruptly replaced by Peyton Reed as director. From the get-go, I want to say that I believe Ant-Man and the Wasp not only acts as a superior film to its predecessor, but it feels like a more consistent, functional film altogether.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe has always been criticized as depending on more light-heart casualness in-contrast to more mature themes. I believe this criticism has been heard by those involved and responded to subsequently, with the higher-stake, more serious films like Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War. However, films like Thor: Ragnarok and Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 show Marvel still very much enjoys providing lighter, more comedic entertainment. Personally, as a fan of almost all the MCU films, I like the approach of getting the best of both worlds, Marvel has a certain style and identity, and I appreciate that it can deal with heavier subject-matter while keeping it fun all the way through. That said, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a much lighter affair, and likewise with its predecessor, I think it can be described as light-weight.
Fortunately, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a lot more entertaining of an experience than its predecessor, bolstered by the charming performance of Paul Rudd, as well as his supporting cast of characters, which includes a dialed back performance from Michael Pena, who I thought was a little overboard in the original film.
The villain in this film can fairly be described as run-of-the-mill, but I did like the motive of molecular instability and thought it added more nuance to her. It’s like the portrayal of Vulture in Spider-Man: Homecoming, where the villain isn’t motivated by cruelty per se, but, instead, focuses more toward survival.
The action-sequences are entertaining and vibrant, and the comedy that’s incorporated has a very similar novelty to the original film, but I think it’s better balanced than that. I think it has moments, particularly when Ant-Man is left trapped in a school-building, where I think it is allowed to do some unique things. I will admit that it could have done more than what it did with its concepts from a comedic perspective, but I am mostly satisfied with what we received.
Ant-Man and the Wasp can’t escape feeling like a holdover film after the grandiose events of Avengers: Infinity War, and honestly speaking, similar to sequels like Iron Man 3, it can occasionally feel like it coasts off charm more than substantial subject-matter or ideas. The best aspects in the film aren’t action-scenes or a villain, but the comedic, zany one-liners, usually quipped by Ant-Man himself, and the fast-pace enthusiasm it bolsters. Then again, it is very watchable, and charm or entertainment-value isn’t something to be discounted, if this was a action-comedy from another studio, I think many, including myself, would be able to set aside how it stands with the core-series, and would simply appreciate it as a good action film.