While ANT-MAN AND THE WASP is definitely a better film than the first, it certainly is not Marvel’s best. It’s right there in the middle with Doctor Strange and GOTG Vol. 2 meaning, “good, but maybe not as memorable down the line.” It’s a good, half way decent little treat and a fun summer escapist adventure that is pretty funny at times and isn’t as dark and serious like recent fare we’ve gotten with Avengers Infinity War and most of Black Panther. Have you ever been to one of those taste tasting experiences? Where they have the cracker and water to cleanse your palette before the next food item? While it’s a little refreshing, you definitely won’t remember that cracker and water later? That is this film. It’s a more personal story and the stakes aren’t that high, probably because they can’t be considering the stakes at the end of Infinity War. But that’s okay, because I didn’t need the stakes to be that high to enjoy this film. I mean, it looks like Citizen Kane next to The First Purge and Jurassic World Fallen Kingdom. I don’t think I could’ve asked or considered getting much more than that.
I’m not going to get into the plot of the film other than to say the reason why Scott Lang isn’t with the Avengers in Infinity War is that he’s been under house arrest for two years for violating the Socovia Accords. He only has a few days left and is trying to have those days come and go peacefully, but a couple of weird visions he has and the return of Hope and Hank might make things a bit complicated for him. While I am recommending this film wholeheartedly, it does have some problems, so let me get those out of the way before I get to the praising parts. While the film is very funny at times, there were about a handful of joke beats and some humor that really didn’t work, like they were trying to force a couple of laughs. It didn’t come off too well and you will know the humor when it comes, because you’ll be making that half smile face you make when a friend makes a lame joke and you just want them to move on. Next, while Marvel was beginning to solve its villain problem with their past couple of films, this definitely felt like a step backward. I didn’t expect this Ghost to be more intriguing or elegant than Thanos or Erik Killmonger, but I expected a little more of the villains’ plight and a bit more screen time that didn’t involve fighting or trying to kick Ant-Man and the Wasps ass. And I know that while you see that Walton Goggins is part of the cast, and while he is sort of a villain and Goggins always brings his A game, he’s more of a side ordinary human villain that really isn’t going to be memorable that down the line. Come on Marvel, if you get Walton Goggins, use him for something fantastic where he can bring his ultimately A+ game in scene chewery! Also, you might see Michelle Phieffer in the promotional material for the film but she is more of a MacGuffin than a character and it is really just a glorified cameo. Even though I did say this movie is better than the original, the only thing the original did better was its villain in Yellowjacket.
Phew, ok, got my criticisms out of the way. Let’s get to the good and fun stuff for why I really do like and recommend this film. I mentioned some of the humor not working earlier, however, when it does work, it works like gold. You can thank Paul Rudd and Michael Pena for that. Michael Pena completely steals every scene he is in. He has another one of those “stories” like in the original where it flashes back and his voice takes over all of the other characters. The one in this was definitely the funniest and the best. I’ve always loved Michael Pena, and we always need more of him. Paul Rudd does his Paul Rudd funny schtick most of the film, and he is as hilarious and heartwarming here as in every other comedy you’ve seen him in. I really like that he loves being in the Marvel Universe and loves being Scott Lang. It shows. Michael Douglas gets a shit load of more screen time in this film than the last one, and it is certainly a welcome addition of minutes as he adds to the emotional story a great deal more than you would think. But the real hero of this film is easily Evangeline Lilly. I always loved her on Lost, and I really liked the limited amount of screen time she had in the first film, but in here, she rocks the socks off everything she does. She’s finally free reign to combine her acting chops with her action skills, and she’s absolutely incredible. Now, in the previous paragraph I did complain about the Marvel villain problem taking a step back. However, the praise I do want to give Ghost is that her motivations aren’t just another grab at having too much power, taking over the world, or destroying it. It was more of a personal physical gain and I appreciated that the film, while certainly giving her more screen time would’ve helped, didn’t just give her another stupid eye rolling “not again” motivation we have gotten in previous Marvel and DC films.
Also, the action and special effects in this film are very good. The last 30 minutes of the film is this rock and sock ’em sort of chase scene that thrills, excites, and keeps your attention. All in all, the entire film shines when it uses the whole superpower idea of dramatic size change and abilities. It makes for intriguing action and some very funny sight gags. Scott Lang visiting his daughter at school is a huge sight gag laugh that worked tremendously well. Director Payton Reed is not an action director, and in the first film it kind of showed a lot, but in this, he seems to have honed in his skills a little bit and is getting better, even though there is always room for improvement.
While we shall see if this installment is ultimately really more memorable down the line in several years and Marvel films to come, for right now, it gets the job done. Marvel thankfully usually always gets the job done, they have a proven movie making formula working and they just keep on keepin’ on. If you are groaning because I said it is better than the original but still is in the middle of the pack with all these other Marvel Universe films, just remember, while it may not reach the heights of Civil War, Infinity War, the first Avengers, Black Panther, or even the first Guardians films…at least it is no where near the fire ant bite or poisonous wasp sting that was Thor The Dark World or Iron Man 2. And for that, we should be grateful. OH, WAIT! ONE MORE THING! STAY THRU AT LEAST THE MID CREDITS SCENE (if you’ve seen the trailers you’ve partly seen the very end credits scene and it doesn’t much matter). The Mid Credits scene had one of the best reactions I’ve ever seen from an audience. And while you can predict what it is, it still doesn’t make it that less astonishing to see.