Honestly, this might be the most innocent of the Marvel movies. I really want to take my kids to go see this, but I know that Henry is going to get all wibbly about the bad guy, Ghost. Like, if there was going to be a superhero movie without a bad guy, he would totally be down for that. His favorite superhero movie would just be Ant-Man shrinking to a not scary size and then getting really big. Just for an hour and a half, he would watch that. Honestly, I would probably watch it too. But there's some mild cursing in this movie, I think. Also, divorce is a pretty heavy topic if you want to broach that subject with your kids. PG-13.
DIRECTOR: Peyton Reed
Man alive, it is getting hard to write two reviews for the same movie. If you want the one that had a lot of thought and care put into it, read my CNA one here. It's fairly spoiler free and I write in publication-talk. This is all stream of consciousness and, since I wrote the other one, I'm probably going to go pretty heavy into SPOILERS in this one. I just want to get this out of the way because I probably only have about twenty minutes to write this before I get in trouble for staying up too late to write something that doesn't really need to be written.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe can't always be really intense. It's weird to think that. Kevin Feige has to go up to some of those directors and say, "Yours is just going to be the fun little popcorn movie. Everyone's going to be talking about this other movie, but you aren't allowed to make that movie because people are going to get overloaded with bummerness." That's got to be a conversation at whatever big MCU retreat that Feige has to organize. I get it. It's why every episode of a TV show can't be the 100th episode or the season finale. There has to be a bit of filler to cleanse everyone's palates and that movie is once again an Ant-Man movie. But I want Ant-Man to be awesome! Captain America is always going to get these intense, world changing movies and Ant-Man is always going to be kind of the same thing over and over again. I mean, look at how good Ant-Man was in Civil War! He's got the potential to be this amazing thing for the universe, but that's always going to go to other characters. The odd thing is, Spider-Man: Homecoming's mission was to be the smaller movie in the MCU. It was supposed to be about a superhero stopping street-level crime, but that movie was completely amazing. (Spectacular? Web of...?) Ant-Man and the Wasp just seems like such a low stakes movie and I still want it to make all of the money. I need to slow down with my thoughts. Ant-Man and the Wasp is kind of a boring movie that's a little bit funny. It's got good parts and, honestly, is kind of a good movie. I had a pretty good time at it. If I had seen Tim Burton's original Batman and then immediately went into Ant-Man and the Wasp, I'd probably be a cinema trailer and say that I liked Ant-Man and the Wasp a little bit more. Sure, Batman probably had more artistic merit, but Ant-Man and the Wasp is a pretty good time. I read from a pretty unreliable source that Ant-Man and the Wasp isn't doing great financially. I mean, I could easily look this up, but I'm going to take it with a grain of salt and complain about that happening. I don't like that Ant-Man and the Wasp might be a stain on Marvel's reputation. I mean, the reviews are pretty good for that movie. I don't agree that the movie is as amazing as all of the reviewers are making it out to be, but I still want it to succeed. But it is also a pretty boring movie compared to what it could be.
Paul Rudd is too good for a mediocre movie, is what I'm getting at. He might be one of my favorite casting choices in the MCU. He's just perfect for that role. Okay, yeah, he's playing Paul Rudd. But that's not the worst thing in my book. Paul Rudd makes you kind of believe that if Paul Rudd was given superpowers, Paul Rudd would actually be a reluctant superhero. (I'm ashamed of how many times I wrote the name "Paul Rudd" in that previous sentence. I DID IT AGAIN!) He seems like he would be an excellent dad and that he'd be the guy who always tried to do the right thing, despite the fact that it rarely worked out for him the way he wanted it to. That's great. At the center of the character is a guy who really seems to like the role and plays it spot on. He delivers jokes like nobody's business. And, hey!, guess what? Michael Peña and his team are in it. They're great too! How is this movie not amazing? Those guys get comedic timing...even T.I.! They have this great little schtick about how these inept ex-cons are trying to be the best superhero team that can be, despite the fact that they suck at it. HOW IS THIS MOVIE NOT AMAZING? These elements are great. You know what kills it, though? I mean, I don't want to call anyone out, but the story and the other supporting cast just aren't doing it. In my review for Ant-Man, I griped about Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly. They sucked really hard in that movie. Michael Douglas looked like he could not care for a hot second about being in that movie. I always got the vibe that he thought he was a bigger superstar than Ant-Man. Well, he's in this movie too and he's better now. But he's a long way from matching the intensity and the enthusiasm of Paul Rudd. Lauren pointed out that Michael Douglas has no sense of comic timing and I wholeheartedly agree with that assessment. Evangeline Lilly is also better in this one, but I don't get any sparks between the two of them. I have to give props to Lauren for the following theory. I wish I included this in my actual review, but I'm going to have to bury it in this practically unseen review. A lot of times, the dynamic is comic guy, straight man. Comic guy and straight man argue throughout a movie, earning each others ultimate respect. Both characters change for the better after going through trials and tribulations. Ant-Man / Ant-Man and the Wasp has one comic guy and two straight men / woman. Michael Douglas as Hank Pym and Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne both yell at comic Scott Lang / Paul Rudd. This creates a whole different dynamic. There is a bullying element to the whole thing. So when Scott Lang doesn't screw up and actually manages to save the day, it comes across as "Well, you didn't screw up for once." There's not a whole lot of respect thrown around. That might be a bit of a comedy killer.
Hank Pym also kind of deserves more. I'm a big fan of comics. Hank Pym is now Ultron. I won't explain how he got there, but it happened. In fact, I'm not entirely sure I get how Hank Pym became Ant-Man. But Hank Pym is one of the more tragic heroes of the Marvel Comics. He's not even a hero a lot of the time. But then he's also one of the founding Avengers. He's on the cover of issue one. I like that Feige pointed out that all of the original Avengers are now on screen because we have the Wasp, both in Hope and in Janet Van Dyne. That's pretty exciting, but back to Hank. Hank Pym only teases that he had kind of a crappy life in this one. Bill Foster at least gives us a clue that Hank isn't the superhero we want him to be. But this seems so watered down to this rich history that the character has. Maybe I'm being nostalgic for this character with undue obsession. Reading those comics, the biggest problem that the character has is with consistency, so it is probably just poor writing that Hank Pym is always crapped on when a story needed a guy to screw up. This fluffy movie franchise is never going to give us Hank Pym: Accidental Spousal Abuser. That's far too bleak. But I don't quite get that the Ant-Man movies have to be the most straight-up action-comedies in the franchise. There are lots of other movies in the MCU that are absolutely hilarious, but I would define as action or sci-fi, but not action-comedies or sci-fi comedies. Just because Paul Rudd can tell a joke doesn't mean that we could get to into some really deep stuff. Before I completely lose the thread, I do want to talk about the treatment of Bill Foster in this movie. I am still settling about the Bill Foster reveal. I knew that he was in the movie. He's in the trailer talking about his alter ego, Goliath. I got excited. I don't know why I get excited when I recognize a bit of a deep cut to the comics in the movies, but I do. But Bill Foster kind of turns out to be a bad guy. He's not the big bad guy in this movie. But how cool would it have been to have Laurence Fishburn as this other giant superhero in the movie? I'm really bummed that I didn't get that.
This movie does have another villain problem. Ant-Man had a criminal villain problem (pun intended). Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn't really have that. But it does have too many villains and not much to do with any of them. I mentioned that Bill Foster was a villain in this one. He, oddly enough, has the most character development without a wealth of exposition. Through his interaction with Hank Pym, we get a lot of what happened to him and I like that a lot. But he's not the film's main villain. Ghost is the main villain. Ghost also has a compelling reason for being a villain, so I like that, but she seems more like a reactionary villain rather than one who shows any initiative. If there's another movie with Ghost, she's not going to be a major threat. Hela, Loki, and Thanos...those guys cause you to quake in your boots. Heck, Vulture was a small time villain in both the movie and in the comics, but he was absolutely terrifying in the film. Ghost just seemed to be a pain in the butt for the protagonists. She kept on showing up when the team was trying to ignore her. Considering that the protagonists knew about the antagonist, their primary mission in the film was to ignore her and hope that she didn't show up at a bad time. (Spoiler: She always did.) Then there's the step too far villain. Sonny Burch is the character that doesn't belong in the movie. He's a nice addition to the chaos that this movie needed. Because he was such a low stakes villain, he kept showing up when no one was expecting him because everyone forgot about him. So there are three villains and none of them add up to a credible threat. I guess you could also consider Jimmy Woo and his team of FBI agents villains, but they are more set dressing and might be considered part of the setting. Okay. I can forgive them.
After Infinity War, I suppose we needed something lighter. But I don't see why lighter doesn't let me invest in it as much. I constantly felt like this was a throwaway movie to remind audiences that Marvel movies aren't just one thing. But I want the tone to be closer to Spider-Man: Homecoming than to the first Ant-Man. This might be a gross oversimplification, but I feel like a lot of responsibility lies on Peyton Reed's shoulders. Ironically, his scale is all screwed up. I want him to make the Ant-Man franchise the movies that people need to see not for plot, but for character. Ant-Man and the Wasp is a fun and good movie, but it doesn't have that specialness that the other Marvel movies have. It's good for a Disney superhero live action, but not a great Marvel movie. (And I know, they are technically the same thing now.)
Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.