High and Low: A review of Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Image owned by Disney, Marvel Studios and EW

 

After a month long hiatus which was partly due to a two week trip to Colorado, I’m back to review the MCU’s twentieth motion picture and the first to come after the events of Avengers: Infinity War. People are probably more interested to see the connection Scott Lang’s second semi-solo outing has with the cataclysmic events of April’s record breaking film than with the actual continuation of his story from the events of Captain America: Civil War. Both parties should find satisfactory and enjoyable answers during the course of the last MCU film to be released this year with the next, Captain Marvel, a painful eight months away.

Due to Scott Lang’s small but wonderful part in Cap 3, he is now under house arrest for aiding the titular fugitive and now is forced not to be the hero his adorable and growing daughter Cassie rightfully thinks he’s become after a stint as a burglar. He’s trying to help his fellow ex-con friends and allies led by Luis (Micheal Pena) make an honest living despite being stuck at home and on top of that, make up for disappointing his mentor Hank Pym and daughter Hope in helping out Captain America. Scott’s helping hand put a lot of people in trouble, which shows how even a not necessarily important role in a prior film can have considerable consequences.

That being said, Scott’s first movie experience in the microscopically small “Quantum” realm has given him a literal connection with Hank’s long thought dead wife Janet, the original Wasp, of which her daughter will take up the mantle. This spark of hope Scott discovers sets in motion a series of events which while intriguing and building on the foundation the original set, does feel over encumbered by sub-plots, however well written and acted, as well as a pace which stalls the momentum a bit too much.

So to recap, Scott ala Ant-Man/Giant Man has to help Hank Pym and daughter Janet van Dyne, the new Wasp and partner, find a way to reenter the quantum realm to rescue Pym’s wife while avoiding a phantasmic assassin who desires the same technology to get there that can help with a particularly awful “phasing” problem of hers while avoiding black market dealers who have helped the Pyms with gaining the technology for this project as well as the FBI who are both trying to keep Scott on house arrest and are also being bought out by those same black market dealers. Gasp.

It’s a lot to take in for a film which is still breezier and more light-hearted in tone than the monarchy and race politics of Black Panther and the universal crisis of Infinity War. It doesn’t hurt that everyone involved feel like they want to be here and are having fun with what essentially is Honey, I shrunk the Kids meets Spider-Man. It also helps considerably that Marvel’s formula of injecting humor surprisingly and consistently well is still intact, taking more advantage than ever with the comedic hijinks that shrinking and enlarging your body can have. That the new experimental Ant-Man suit Scott uses constantly malfunctions adds to the more enjoyable set pieces.

Evangeline Lilly’s role as Hope ala the Wasp is the best part of the film. While Scott is an effective lead, he does manage to come off as the comic bumbler to Hope’s straight woman. Some may make the knee jerk reaction that Wasp being overall a much better fighter in the field than Scott is a play on the “women are competent, men are incompetent” accusation that modern pop culture has been called out for. This never felt that way for me for a number of good reasons. One, when Ant-Man and Wasp do work together which to be honest I don’t think was enough, they work well, not to mention as a likely romantic couple. Two, Scott has spent a long time stuck in house arrest trying to be a good father to his daughter while Hope has had much more time to practice or just be the Wasp in the field. The disparity of skill between the two feels understandable and also appropriate considering the story’s circumstances.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is the weakest of the three MCU films this year but that is hardly surprising or even all that disappointing. Black Panther became a cultural milestone for having a mega blockbuster superhero film with an African lead cast and Infinity War was the successful culmination of eighteen prior films. AMATW was never meant to be a bigger and badder motion picture than those two, exactly the opposite. A calmer, less serious moment before the plunge we expect from Captain Marvel and Avengers 4. It does what it set out to do in continuing one of Marvel’s intentionally smaller franchises as well as letting us know at the end that they are still very much part of a larger universe.

I want more adventures from Scott and Hope in the future. I’m also hopeful that Scott’s daughter Cassie will one day become a hero herself, like in the comics. The film does seriously play with the prospect as I’d hoped. After what comes in the fourth Avengers, Cassie may despite her father’s noble concerns  have to step up to the plate. Perhaps a bigger or smaller step than usual.

 

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