Ant-Man and the Wasp brings Paul Rudd’s goofiest Marvel superhero back to the big screen with a new adventure. It is more restrained than the first film and that works in its favor. In theaters July 6th.
We live in a world where, increasingly, family is everything. More importantly, the value placed on that word has changed. Despite my misgivings in the earlier phases of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the one thing that I can say about its construct is that it is very much on the order of what “family” means today.
Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, which hits theaters on July 6th, continues to build on the MCU themes of family values. Paul Rudd returns to the role of Scott Lang/Ant-Man who is on house arrest following his antics in Captain America: Civil War (which I had forgotten about). His house arrest has separated him from Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), but in Ant-Man fashion, that separation doesn’t last long.
Ant-Man fashion . . . I was not trying to be punny, but I just realized how appropriate that statement is, and not just because of the Ant-Man suit Scott wears. Peyton Reed infuses a lot of the same humor into Ant-Man and the Wasp using visual and musical cues as he did in Ant-Man. Where I ripped the first film for being so over the top, there was a welcomed sense of temperament with this new film.
Much of that temperament comes from how Ant-Man interacts with the supporting cast. Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale are back as Scott’s ex-wife and her new fiancée, respectively. They are Scott’s link to the outside world during his house arrest along with his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). There’s a scene between Scott and Cassie that really drives home what Ant-Man is to the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, potentially opening it up to the macro-Marvel Cinematic Universe rather than leaving it as a self-contained series of entries. This is also part of its problem. Back to that in a minute.
Michael Pena returns as Luis, Lang’s former cellmate and now business partner. If I had a nit to pick with the Luis character in the first film, it was that he was all over the place. Pena’s take on the role this turn is more reserved and equally as funny as he is in the first film. Between Peyton Reed and screenwriters Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Rudd, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari, they realized that Luis could continue to be the prankster and they fleshed out his role just a bit more here.
One of the struggles that I have had with Marvel villains is that they have so very little teeth behind their villainy. Hannah John-Kamen makes for an exceptional Ghost as character of action. As a character of means, her story has less teeth. As strong as her phasing ability pushes and pulls her physical body, the screenwriters pushed and pulled too much on her objectives that they lost sight of her true threat. Her physicality makes her a threat of its own accord, but the ends didn’t justify the means.
One of Paul Rudd’s endearing qualities is that, as an actor, he cannot upstage someone else (even as he gets into a sizing competition with Fishburne’s Bill Foster). He is able to give his fellow players room to be their own characters. With this in mind, we can appreciate what Evangeline Lilly brings to the character of Hope van Dyne/Wasp. There is a sense that she and in a way the film, are more emboldened to push the boundaries of their micro-world something that Peyton drives home in spades.
Perspective is everything in the Ant-Man films and the computer generated effects do not disappoint, even if they are not as effective as the first film. The same issue that plagued the Ghost character really sets the tone for the film. It is fun, it is engaging, and it fits into the overall MCU, but it is clear following his interaction with S.H.I.E.L.D. in Captain America: Civil War, the Ant-Man character remains an outsider.
Ant-Man and the Wasp works on many levels. It works best as a stand-alone series of films where he remains an outsider. Perhaps that’s also for the best.
In theaters July 6, Ant-Man and the Wasp is rated PG-13 by the MPAA.