Retro Review: Ant-Man and the Wasp
This is our retro review of Ant-Man and the Wasp, a film that wins through casting.
As a kid, I loved Ladyhawke an unhealthy amount. I even own a first edition of the book, which would matter if literally, anyone else enjoyed the film.
What was the cause of my obsession? It’s the same one that caused me to buy the Into the Night soundtrack.
When I was young, my celebrity crush was Michelle Pfeiffer. As such, I viewed Ant-Man and the Wasp as a blessing and a curse.
Yes, Michelle Pfeiffer joined the MCU, but her first appearance was in…an Ant-Man movie.
In 2018, I enjoyed this film more than I’d expected, though. Does that warm fuzzy remain?
The Grand Plan
Evangeline Lilly stole every scene she had in Ant-Man, as she saw Scott Lang the way director Peyton Reed knew the world would…as a total putz.
When Lang earned the respect of Hope van Dyne, he thereby caused audiences to acknowledge, no matter how grudgingly, that he was a worthy hero.
Ant-Man loaded the deck by casting Paul Rudd, the eventual Hollywood replacement for Tom Hanks, as the star.
Also, Reed turned this character into the world’s greatest weekend parent, a super-proud girl dad who has punched above his weight class with his love life.
Even better, the Ant-Man sequel provides Lang with a noble opportunity. He can rescue his potential mother-in-law from oblivion! How could Hope break up with him after that?
Meanwhile, this story prevents Michael Douglas’ character, Hank Pym, from going crazy. If you’ve seen What If…?, you know it’s crucial that he stay sane.
The current Ant-Man informs his predecessor that Janet van Dyne may live in the Quantum Realm, an epiphany with future time-traveling significance.
More pertinent to this film, Lang’s visions reveal Hope’s Hide and Seek location from childhood. Somehow, this verifies that Janet has survived.
Look, you’re not watching Ant-Man movies for the story. You want small things to turn big and big things to turn small. Accept this about yourself.
All Marvel plans come with hiccups. In this case, the drama stems from a phase-disrupted character named Ghost.
An accident has trapped her without physical form. She’s visible but just barely, like a…well, you get it.
The marvelous Hannah John-Kamen portrays Ghost, while my beloved Walton Goggins plays an arms dealer who seems like the big bad but isn’t.
Yes, Marvel’s just casually throwing Boyd Crowder into the mix because it can.
More importantly, Laurence Fishburne appears as Bill Foster. This name resonates with Marvel fans, especially those who remember THAT moment from Civil War.
Foster has reason to dislike Hank Pym in this story, while Ghost flat out despises the previous Ant-Man.
As usual with superhero stories, the blurred line between the mystical and the physical leads to some sort of science magic wherein all roads lead to the Quantum Realm.
Surprisingly, Hank Pym is the one who does most of the traveling. Scott stays in the city to show off all sorts of size jokes.
We’ve got Matchbook cars that turn out to be authentic. An empty Ant-Man suit deflates at the optimal moment. Even a fall into the water gag plays to the core theme of scale.
Peyton Reed’s tone with Fantastic Four carries through to this film, which is little more than a glorified excuse to be silly.
Ant-Man and the Wasp remember what we were like as kids, acting out the impossible and believing anything was possible for superheroes.
The Truth about Ant-Man’s Sequel
You’ll never notice the similarities until you look for them. Still, Ant-Man employs the same underlying mechanics as Dr. Strange.
I noticed this more when I watched them consecutively. Both hide behind splashy graphics that provide action in place of plot development.
Both the Ghost fights and the Quantum Realm encounters work as shiny baubles in the meaty sections of the movie.
Those action scenes distract and lead to some poignant moments. That marital reconciliation scores are high on the Marvel Feels scale.
Meanwhile, Scott Lang gets Inspector Clouseau treatment. He’s skilled enough to get the job done, but he looks like an incompetent doof many times along the way.
Marvel has settled on the character of Ant-Man as comic relief, a weird choice for a superhero. It’s entirely understandable for a guy with ant powers, though.
Interestingly, Reed dials up the comic relief from the supporting cast as well, making this film border on a Monty Python flick at times.
Baba Yaga and truth serum jokes get run into the ground, and I’m not mad at it.
The witch joke pays off in spades at one point. Meanwhile, we know the truth serum will come back to haunt some villains.
Even so, Goggins sells this joke like it’s the most important thing he’s ever done. And Walton Goggins can sell a joke.
The Heart of Ant-Man
Something I hadn’t remembered as well about the film is its emotional resonance.
Yes, the marital reunion decades in the making plays a factor in this. However, some other aspects matter just as much.
Ghost’s fate requires some maternal instinct from an unlikely ally. This event reminds me of that marvelous Ted Lasso quote, “Be curious, not judgmental.”
One of the characters approaches someone they recognize as suffering and attempts to heal them.
They have no consideration over whether this action might jeopardize their own life. They can help, so they do.
The MCU needs more of this sort of selfless recklessness. And it pays dividends by turning a potential foe into an ally. Those potential redemption arcs matter, too.
We’re outgrowing the tired white hat/black hat days. Even Thanos had a point, something that the MCU continues to drive home today.
Still, my favorite moment in this film occurs when someone tries to protect someone else. They try to send this individual away, but friends stand with friends in time of need.
This story resolution is exceptional in what’s otherwise a pure popcorn movie with little memorable about it.
In truth, that’s proven to be the default setting for these MCU movies around the time of the big Thanos fight.
Save for Black Panther, most of these titles were filler and little more. Filler’s not bad, though. It keeps us entertained while waiting for better.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is a perfectly charming B+, but it’s no Ladyhawke.
That’s our Retro Review of Ant-Man and the Wasp! What do you think? Let us know below!