Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) by Peyton Reed
Review by Courtney Anderson
Watching a Marvel movie after having watched Infinity War is a little weird.
It’s a little weird because Infinity War was marketed as Marvel Studio’s BIG EVENT: the culmination of a decade’s worth of movies. The statement “It all comes down to this” was used repeatedly in the promos for Infinity War. The film was meant to give the audience a sense of finality.
So, it feels a little weird that another Marvel was released two and a half months later. The fact that this movie is Ant-Man and the Wasp makes things feel even more weird.
This movie is so very different than both of the movies that precede it. While Black Panther was a complex exploration of family, anti-blackness and globalization and Infinity War was the catastrophic cliffhanger billed as the greatest of Marvel’s achievements, Ant-Man and the Wasp is just a film about a somewhat regular guy who is just trying to get his life back on track.
This film’s Scott Lang is a man who made a dumb decision and is now facing the consequences. Scott has spent the last two years on house arrest because of his adventure in Germany, where he took his mentor Hank Pym’s suit and went off to fight alongside Captain America. He took off without consulting his partner Hope Pym and got into a whole lot of trouble. As a result, Hope and Hank had to go on the run from the feds.
When we first return to Scott’s character, he hasn’t spoken to Hope or Hank since he got arrested in Germany. Scott spends his time trying to entertain his daughter Cassie during her weekend visits, and helping Luis run Luis’s new security business, charmingly titled “X-Cons.” Scott’s got three days left of his two-year sentence, and he just wants to get through him so he can finally get the ankle monitor off.
Scott just wants simple things. His freedom, a decent job, and to spend time with his daughter. Normal stuff. But of course, that’s not going to happen.
At the beginning of the film, we see a conversation between Hank and Hope that takes place immediately after the events of the first Ant-Man movie. Hank tells Hope about her long-lost mother, Janet Van Dyne, who disappeared when Hope was very young. Turns out Janet actually disappeared into the Quantum Realm. She and Hank assumed that Janet would be lost there forever. But then Hank witnessed Scott’s successful return from the Quantum Realm. It got Hank to thinking: could Janet still be alive down there? And could they somehow get her out?
Fast forward two years, and Scott has a weird dream where a woman he presumes to be Janet is playing hide-and-seek with a little girl.
From there, Scott gets sucked back into the weirdness. Scott, Hope and Hank embark on a mission to rescue Janet from the Quantum Realm, evade the feds, protect their lab and get Scott back to his house before the three days is up so that he doesn’t get sent to federal prison.
So much for wanting simple things.
Throughout this film, two characters show up to ruin our heroes’ lives: the character advertised as the villian, and the actual villain.
The character advertised as the villian is called Ava, a.k.a Ghost. Ava wants to steal the lab from them and forcibly remove Janet from the Quantum Realm. Which is bad, yes. But her motivations behind her actions negate her status as an actual bad guy. When she was very young, Ava was in a horrific accident. As a result of that accident, Ava developed an extremely painful molecular abnormality: her cells are constantly dividing and re-attaching themselves. She has no control over it: S.H.I.E.L.D. gave her a suit to help stabilize her condition, but they were only doing that because they wanted her to work for them. When they fell, she lost access to the resources they provided.
Now, Ava is faced with a terrible predicament: if she doesn’t find a way to cure herself, she will die.
I don’t consider her a villain. She’s menacing and definitely does some not-nice things to our heroes. But she mostly comes off a scared person who wants the most simple thing of all: to stay alive.
And then there’s Sonny Burch, who I consider to be the actual villain. He’s a money-hungry, super-rich arms dealer who wants to steal the lab so he can sell it to make himself richer. He sucks, and gives Southerners a bad name.
Despite how busy it sounds, Ant-Man and the Wasp is very straightforward, light-hearted film. Even though I find it odd that it was released so soon after Infinity War, it’s probably a good thing that it was: it’s a nice pick-me-up for Marvel fans who were shell-shocked.
Everyone involved seems to be enjoying themselves. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope is lowkey the actual center of the story: she’s the most kick-ass, and thanks to desire to reunite with her mother, the most driven. The movie grants her full personhood, and it shows the audience that she is not Scott’s dependent or his sidekick. She is his partner, in every meaning of the word.
Hannah John-Kamen as Ava is also a stand-out. She plays Ava as frenzied and desperate, and her performance really reinforces the idea that Ava is quickly running out of time. She’s aided by Laurence Fishburne, who proudly plays Ava’s de facto caretaker and Hank’s old rival Bill Foster.
Luis and the X-Cons are good comedic relief, but I have to admit that Luis has always given me pause. I mean, yeah Luis made me laugh several times and Michael Pena is a treat, but that character feels like a bunch of the stereotypes surrounding Chicanos rolled up into one, right down to the van he drives. I feel as though they could’ve made Luis funny without making him so cringeworthy.
At the end of the day, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a solid, enjoyable movie. It’s probably not going to break any records, and it isn’t a revolutionary film by any stretch. But it’s entertaining, low-stakes fun. And I think that’s necessary nowadays.