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– by Nick Doll

It feels like it’s only been two months since Avengers: Infinity War and only five months since Black Panther. Time sure flies, doesn’t it?

In all seriousness, Ant-Man and the Wasp is the third and final Marvel Cinematic Universe film of 2018 — yes, already — but unlike the original, the film is not carelessly tossed behind an Avengers film, causing us all to scratch our heads at why that film was the end of Phase 2. Yes, Ant-Man and the Wasp comes after another Avengers movie, where it was very carefully placed, as if this has been the plan since the Ant-Man film. As Ant-Man and the Wasp does take place before Infinity War, it is still essential viewing for anyone looking forward to Avengers 4.

Not that you should only see this film to be ready for next summer’s extravaganza that officially ends the first “book” of the Marvel Studios’ MCU; Ant-Man and the Wasp is another great Marvel film that doesn’t stray too far from the basic formula, but does allow itself to be far more creative, ridiculous, and fun than the first Ant-Man.

The latest film takes place a few days short of two years to the day that Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) took a deal so he could be with his daughter after he was arrested on that tarmac in Germany during the events of Civil War (huh, I wonder what other Marvel Studios movie this year was set about two years after Civil War…). Meanwhile, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) are on the run from the government, seeing as it was Pym’s technology that allowed Lang to fight the legally registered Avengers on behalf of Cap. When Pym and Hope are able to open their gateway to the Quantum Realm, where Hope’s mother aka the original Wasp was trapped 30 years before when saving the world for S.H.I.E.L.D. (we all remember this from the first film, but the movie will repeat it for you), Lang receives a vision of Janet, suddenly becoming of use again to Pym and Hope. Lang must help his friends, as a new player called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) arrives with her own agenda for the Quantum Realm, and return home in time for check-ins by Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), as he is days from freedom from house arrest.

As evident from the trailers, like Deadpool 2, Ant-Man and the Wasp is far braver with its ridiculous situations, allowing for a more creative film overall with some action scenes far wilder than the first film. The film is at its best when it is ridiculous, funny, and over-the-top. Ant-Man and the Wasp may not be the most laugh-out-loud MCU film, but it is the funniest film, where comedy rarely steals from tension or big character moments, whereas I would say both Guardians of the Galaxy films, Thor: Ragnarok, and even certain scenes of Infinity War lose tension at certain points when leaning into the comedy. This film’s jokes are so carefully written, that each act is funnier than the first, just because each little joke builds on the last, with many paying off for the third time (the “rule of three”) later in the film.

My favorite example of shaking things up is Scott Lang’s latest suit, which is merely a prototype and doesn’t have the best regulator, meaning Lang cannot control in some scenes how big or small he is, which ranges from the size of an ant to the 65-foot record he set in Germany. It serves for some of the films more hilarious moments, one in particular reminding me of Deadpool’s baby legs in his latest film.

The plot is fine, but very much a continuation of the last film. That being said, Ant-Man and the Wasp is perhaps the most standalone film Marvel has done in a while, really only requiring viewing of the first film and Civil War… and Infinity War, to an extent. Its plot and MacGuffins are also fairly self-contained, no Infinity Stones left to find here. Ant-Man and the Wasp works great as a film that requires less brain-power and emotion to sit through after the complicated and harrowing Infinity War. It’s a fun palate cleanser between two “super-duper” serious Avengers films — just what Dr. Hank Pym ordered!

The returning and new cast are great, whether it’s Lang’s old crew of Luis (Michael Peña), Dave (T.I.), and Kurt (David Dastmalchian), and his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), or newcomers Michelle Pfieffer, Park, Hannah John-Kamen, Laurence Fishburne, and especially Walton Goggins — who I still feel was born to play Joker. Sure, it may seem there are too many villains in the pack, with Goggins as Sonny Branch, Ghost, and Ghost’s mysterious partner, but really, it works, as rather than having a film about stopping the villains, we have a world of villains trying to stop Pym and Hope from opening the Quantum Realm.

If not mostly told from Lang’s point of view, I would call this film “The Wasp… and Ant-Man,” as for at least most of the film, Marvel Studios is smart to focus on their new heroine in most action scenes, with Lang’s aforementioned size issues making him either more useful or useless in battle, depending on his random size. The villain is also a woman, another excellent move for a studio that required Shane Black and Drew Pierce to change their female villain in Iron Man 3 into an accomplice of a male villain because it wouldn’t sell action figures. The shift has begun, and I couldn’t be more excited for the future of Marvel!

That being said, the villain is fairly weak in motivation compared to Thanos, Killmonger, or Vulture. She has a very justifiable reason to want what she wants, but she’s not nearly as fleshed out as even Hela or Ego, let alone the aforementioned stronger villains of late in the MCU. That being said, her look is amazing, her powers are really cool, and she’s not a clone of the hero, so that’s a partial win, right? The other villains act as a fun distraction in what is basically a race-to-the-finish type of film, that like Infinity War, takes place over less than 24 hours. 

Ant-Man and the Wasp’s biggest weakness is that it doesn’t stand out compared to the last four MCU films, with Spider-Man: Homecoming bringing Spider-Man fully into the MCU, Thor: Ragnarok reinventing that franchise’s tone, Black Panther blowing the doors off everything, and Infinity War being the first true comic book “event film.” Some of its jokes are retreads, it’s not as edge-of-your seat as Infinity War, and the stakes just can’t be as high.

That being said, Ant-Man and the Wasp is another worthy addition to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, even if it seems to fall at a weird time and is not necessarily a “Top 10 Film” out of 20. Hopefully, it will not be overlooked, or there may be some confused faces in that auditorium where you see Avengers 4 next year…

Grade: A-

Will you be checking out Ant-Man and the Wasp when it comes out on July 7? Let me know your thoughts down below!

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