TL;DR – A fun self-contained romp in the MCU that has all the charm of the first film with a bit more focus and a more interesting opponent.
Score – 4 out of 5 stars
Post-Credit Scene – There is a mid and post-credit scene
Ant-Man (see review) was a bit of an odd duck of a film when it first came out. It followed on from Avengers: Age of Ultron (see review) as a kind of epilogue to Phase Two even though it didn’t kind of fit there. As well as this, it had the misfortune of being one of the two films in Phase Two where Marvel had big director missteps, with Edgar Wright stepping away from the project. It had all the makings of Marvel’s first big complete failure, yet it wasn’t. Indeed it was a fun little heist film with a lot of charm. Part of this has to be the groundwork Edgar laid down, but also the commitment of the actors to just go for it. Ant-Man was also one of those crystallising moments that showed that Marvel needed to work on a few things behind the scenes and the fruits of those decisions have been films like Black Panther (see review) and Thor: Ragnarok (see review). With this in mind, today we look at the first direct follow up which fixes one of the issues from the first film, and we see that right in the title because today we are looking at Ant-Man and the Wasp.
So to set the scene, during Infinity War (see review) we discovered that in the fallout of Civil War (see review) Scott/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) signed a deal with the government that he would go into house arrest rather than go back to The Raft. Well as the movie opens we see that Scott is indeed stuck in his own home, but that he has become a better dad to Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) and also has a better relationship with his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her husband Jim (Bobby Cannavale). It is here we find out that he has just three more days of house arrest left, and also that by going to Germany during the Civil War he unknowingly threw Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank (Michael Douglas) under the bus as the technology was traced back to them causing both of them to have to go on the run. All Scott has to do is not leave his house until his house arrest is over and he is a free man … or he could get kidnapped by Hope after he remembered something about his time in the quantum realm as Hope and Hank are trying to track down her mother Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) who was trapped there at the start of the first film. However, there is more than just the FBI to contend with as a mysterious Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) appears with the ability to phase through solid objects appears on the scene.
The first thing I want to talk about is champion one of the unsung heroes of the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While everyone knows the actors and the plethora of Chrises. They may know the directors like The Russo Brothers, James Gunn, Ryan Coogler & Taika Waititi. They may even know the man behind the curtain, producer Kevin Feige. However, there are so many other people in the art; music; cinematography; design; costuming; make-up; special effects and other departments that help make the films shine like they do. One area that is overlooked often is casting and for the MCU the champion of casting is Sarah Finn. Sarah has probably had as big an impact of the MCU as almost any other single person and she really deserves a lot of the kudos. I bring this up because we see that effect clearly in Ant-Man and the Wasp. There is an instant rapport between all the cast members both old and new and that can only happen with solid casting and good on-set culture. Bringing Paul Rudd into the MCU was both a big jump but also a refreshing change up because he completely sells that Robin Hood-like figure that at the heart of it really cares for his family. Add to this Evangeline Lilly who is finally able to cut loss and the charm of Michael Piña. As well as this, we have newcomers Randall Park, Walton Goggins & Hannah John-Kamen who feel like they instantly click with the rest of the cast. I mean the whole ensemble is a masterpiece. Sarah has cast nearly every film in the MCU and I really feel she should get more recognition for the amazing work she has done here and for the whole MCU.
One of the other areas where Ant-Man and the Wasp shines is in how the story is laid out, but to talk about the story we need to get into [SPOILERS] so be warned if you have not seen the film yet. One of the things I really liked was how there were three (maybe four if you count the FBI) forces at play in the film that all interact with each other in different ways. So we have Hank, Hope, and Scott trying to get Janet back, you have Ghost needed the quantum tech probably because she is phasing through solid matter, and then also Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) who have worked out what they are doing and has promised the tech to higher-ups and now kind of has to deliver on it. This changes up the flow of the film because there is not a villain per say but opponents standing in each other’s way for (mostly) understandable reasons.
This flows into the action as you have everyone competing with each other, creating some interesting scenarios. Adding to this is a sense of fun, which we do see in the MCU from time to time, but was really needed after the emotional roller-coaster that was Infinity War. So yes you see it in the jokes and the banter between the cast, but you also see in the small things, or the big things, or the small things that become big and the big things that become small. The highlight for me is when they first walk out of the lab and then they shrink the 15 story building to the size of a box, which is funny but then Hank walked over and pulled out a handle so it could be wheeled around like luggage and that was hysterical. Also, you know that sometimes it is nice that the stakes are just ‘we got to save mum’ not every film has to be about saving the world.
All of the characters and story is supported by some really top-notch production. So the Ghost’s ability is that she can phase through solid objects by phasing in an out of space and to do that they have a kind of shimmer and echo, almost like there are multiple universes and we are seeing motions of different Ghosts playing out their lives. So part of this effect was having Hannah John-Kamen film a lot of different passes on the same line but then they are blended together in such a striking an interesting manner. After her great work in shows like Killjoys, it is really great to see Hannah getting roles like this that really allow her to show her range. The ants are also back and play more of a role in the supersized form, which leads to some amazing banter between Hank and the ants. They are all really well created and become like little characters in their own right. One area that didn’t quite work as well is that it is clear that we are still not quite there with de-aging someone through visual effects, there is a marked difference between those using the digital de-aging and the one cast member who used their own son to fill in for the younger version. As well as this, I loved all the small details in the sets like how they blended the use of normal and supersized objects in Hank’s lab. Add to this Christophe Beck is back to provide the musical score, which I adored, there was one sequence in a school that stands out the most but because they have wisely avoided showing it in any of the trailers I won’t spoil it here.
In the end, do we recommend Ant-Man and the Wasp? Yes, yes we do. It is a fun film, that that at its heart is all about family. I had a smile on my face throughout, there were times when I laughed out loud, oh Scott we have all had those The Fault In Our Stars tears before, and the action was a joy to watch. The cast is having fun with their roles, the effects hold up, and after all the pomp and circumstance it was nice to have a change in pace and have a smaller more intimate Marvel film.
By Brian MacNamara: You can follow Brian on Twitter Here, when he’s not chatting about Movies and TV, he’ll be talking about International Relations, or the Solar System.
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Credits – All images were created by the cast, crew, and production companies of Ant-Man and the Wasp
Directed by – Peyton Reed
Written by – Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer & Gabriel Ferrari
Based on – Ant-Man by Stan Lee, Larry Lieber & Jack Kirby and Wasp by Stan Lee, Ernie Hart & Jack Kirby
Music by – Christophe Beck
Cinematography by – Dante Spinotti
Edited by – Dan Lebental & Craig Wood
Starring – Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, Abby Ryder Fortson, Michael Piña, Tip ‘T.I.’ Harris, David Dastmalchian, Randall Park, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, Michelle Pfeiffer & Michael Douglas
Rating – Australia: PG; Canada: PG; Germany: na; New Zealand: PG; United Kingdom: 12A; United States: PG-13