I’ve been behind the Ant-Man series of films since the first rumblings of an adaptation. Yes, he might not be the obvious choice for a standalone movie and he may not be the most impressive of all the potential Marvel heroes. But I like him. And initially having Edgar Wright sign on as the co-writer and director only helped to increase my excitement. Unfortunately, as we now know, that was to be nothing but a fantastic dream. Though we also know that the first Ant-Man film was pretty good all things considered. It wasn’t the film we had expected or even the film he deserved but it was entertaining and charming. Paul Rudd has proved, every time he’s donned his shrinking suit, that he is the perfect choice to play Scott Lang. He was a true high point in Civil War and was sorely missed in Infinity War. So, the question was, what exactly was Scott doing whilst his friends were trying to stop Thanos from snapping half of the Earth’s population to dust? Well, thankfully Ant-Man and the Wasp is here to answer it… with added Michell Pfieffer.
Has it really been two whole years since Civil War came out? It barely feels like one year has passed but, no, apparently we have all rotated around the sun a whopping 2 times (give or take) since we last saw Paul Rudd in his guise as Ant-Man. As we were informed in Infinity War, Scott Lang, along with Clint Barton, opted to undertake voluntary house arrest for his part in breaking the Sokovia accords. So, whilst his friends are battling the Black Order, Scott is learning close-up magic tricks and learning to play the drums. After stealing their suit to help Cap, Hank and Hope (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly) have turned their back on him and been forced to go on the run from the authorities. Although, unlike Scott, they are hardly frittering away their downtime and have been secretly building a bridge to the Quantum Realm with the intention of tracking down Hope’s lost mother Janet, who went missing decades earlier.
When Scott starts to have dreams about Janet, the pair realise that he holds the key to Janet’s location so they have to find a way to get his assistance without breaking the conditions of his house arrest. Their cause is further complicated by the appearance of a sketchy businessman intent on getting his hands on their equipment for some reason and the mysterious Ghost, a trained fighter who keeps phasing in and out of existence. The Ghost is trying to use Quantum energy to heal an injury sustained years earlier and is willing to take down anyone who gets in the way.
After the mega-blockbusting excitement of Infinity War earlier this year, it is impossible to not see Ant-Man and the Wasp as kind of quaint and underwhelming in comparison. We were all left ripped apart by the third Avengers movie and the inevitable step back in time does, kind of, cause us to lose momentum slightly. Especially when you consider that the next big Marvel release is Captain Marvel, something that looks set to be just as amazing as the Marvel films we are used to. After watching Ant-Man and the Wasp it kind of feels like Marvel just gave up on it a bit. Which isn’t to say that it isn’t worth a watch but that it could have been so much more.
Especially when you consider just how amazing the cast are. Paul Rudd was the greatest choice for the role of Scott in the first film and the sequel just goes further to prove it. His mix of comedy, emotion, and drama all come together in a really great performance. He’s the kind of actor that is often underrated because of the roles he picks to play but Rudd is a sophisticated performer and he really deserves more from these films. Thankfully, this time around his female co-star Evangeline Lilly gets a much more exciting role to play as Hope has now officially become the Wasp. Hope is all business and it’s a genuine joy to see her out her superior skills to the test. The pair work very well together and even manage to make the repeated love story narrative kind of charming… despite it being almost exactly the same as the last film.
In fact, that’s a large part of this film. A lot of the jokes are call-backs to the original instead of fresh and hilarious new insights. Michael Peña is irritatingly underused and plays exactly the same story arc as last time. There are several visual gags that are obvious and desperate throwbacks to the original and more than enough jokes that come back time and time again. This is a film that wasn’t written or created with love and care. It was made to pay fan-service. This is a film is so intent on remaining as familiar as possible in the perhaps hope that fans that liked the original just think they’re watching the same movie and fans that didn’t won’t have anything new to moan about. There is nothing particularly bad about it but it’s kind of uninspiring.
You could argue that Ant-Man is always going to be a little less exciting than the other movies because of scale. And I’m not talking about the times when our heroes have shrunk down. They don’t deal with huge universe threatening issues. They deal with a more domestic catchment area. But that isn’t a bad thing as long as everything falls into place. This film suffers from so many underdeveloped or rushed ideas. It’s messy and confused about what it’s trying to be in places. The villain, though not the worst in Marvel history, isn’t as developed as they deserve and fell flat after the depth we’d just seen in Thanos. At a basic level, I just found that I wasn’t as gripped as I’d hoped to be. Although, there are some vast improvements in certain areas. The film feels more comfortable about what tone it wants and has taken a more light and carefree approach. It manages to have a lot more fun with its basic conceits and the whole changing size thing becomes more of a workable gag in the sequel. It feels less fractured than the first one. And I did enjoy it. Just not as much as I’d wanted to.