PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Marvel Wisely Goes Small with 'Ant-Man and Wasp'

Peyton Reed's campy follow-up to the epic Avengers: Infinity War serves as a welcome breather from saving the world.

Ant-Man and the Wasp
Peyton Reed

Walt Disney

6 July 2018 (US) / 3 Aug 2018 (UK)


It's a credit to mastermind Kevin Feige that each of the superhero cliques within Marvel's sprawling Cinematic Universe (MCU) has a distinct personality. The Guardians of the Galaxy are irreverent and morally… questionable. The Avengers are larger than life and eager to save the world. Now two films into the Ant-Man story, it appears that director Peyton Reed's breezy creation intends to stay rooted in comic book goofiness.

And why not? This is the story, after all, of a man who can shrink to the size of a Matchbox car or tower over tall buildings with the push of a button. It's silly to expect anything approximating drama from a man who rides flying insects and uses giant Pez dispensers to thwart his foes. What you can expect is plenty of ingenious sight gags involving shrunken objects, and more importantly, further expansion upon the Quantum Realm that promises to play a huge role moving forward in the MCU.

Things have grown decidedly chilly between Scott "Ant-Man" Lang (Paul Rudd) and his sexy sidekick, Hope "The Wasp" Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) since 2015's Ant-Man. Wedged firmly between the events of Captain America: Civil War and Avengers: Infinity War, Ant-Man and the Wasp (a franchise that has, thus far, remained free of colons) finds Scott under house arrest for rendering assistance to Team Captain America. Hope and her inventor father Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) are also on the FBI's most wanted list, as their miniaturization technology enabled Scott's shenanigans. Let's just say that Hope and Scott won't be sharing ant rides anytime soon.

What's immediately refreshing about Peyton's film is the simplicity of the storyline. Hank Pym, haunted for years by a mission gone wrong, wants to rescue his doomed wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Realm. While there is plenty of nonsense swirling around the periphery, including a phase-shifting baddie called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who wants to steal Pym's tech, this is a modest rescue story that has no intention of saving the world.

Action set pieces utilize the miniaturization conceit to its maximum potential. Characters dance across knife blades and use flatbed trucks as glorified skateboards in CGI showcases that still emphasize ingenuity over videogame laziness. We can agree that car chases are boring -- accept when the hero's car can shrink beneath the villain's car and then expand skyward like a rocket launcher! Peyton uses objects and critters of all shapes and sizes to keep things fun.

© null (IMDB)

Where Ant-Man and the Wasp stumbles a bit, like its 2015 predecessor, is with the casting. Everyone loves Paul Rudd, which makes this admission feel all the more sacrilegious: he's just not a good 'fit' for this role. Perhaps Peyton's lively pace is clashing with Rudd's laidback charm? Maybe Rudd is just too cerebral and quick-witted to carry such a ridiculous premise? Unlike other MCU entries, maybe the characters in the Ant-Man universe aren't engaging or well-drawn enough to cultivate all of the comic possibilities? Whatever the reason, Rudd continues to feel like the awkward kid on stage who doesn't know what to do with his hands. He's not bad; he just doesn't elevate the material, which is so not Paul Rudd.

It's also shocking that a talented writing crew (which includes Rudd) could whiff on so many one-liners. For every joke that connects, there are probably three jokes that fall flat. Compare this to 2017's Thor Ragnarok, which lands an absurdly high percentage of quips and zingers, and the writing here feels flabby. Several obvious attempts at improvisation are particularly painful. When Scott and his new business partner Luis (Michael Peña) debate the proper usage of the saying, "Land this fish," it feels so forced that you wonder how this scene survived to final cut.

© null (IMDB)

Luckily, the supporting cast, especially Peña, feel nice and comfy in their roles. Walton Goggins (as the unscrupulous tech trader "Sonny Burch") and his cadre of incompetent henchmen try their hardest to be menacing, with hilarious results. Laurence Fishburne is also solid, though underutilized, as Pym's old partner, Bill Foster. But Peña continues to be the comedic gift that keeps on giving. His frenetic style fits the material perfectly, as he cracks off one-liners and non sequiturs with alarming precision.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a comparatively modest film that puts a premium on fun. After the bombast and revelations of Avengers: Infinity War, it serves as a gentle re-introduction into this world… until the crackerjack post-credit stinger (don't leave early!). Ultimately, this film should settle somewhere in the middle of the ever-expanding MCU canon. With such a strong track record for quality, that's certainly no disgrace.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Laura Veirs Talks to Herself on 'My Echo'

The thematic connections between these 10 Laura Veirs songs and our current situation are somewhat coincidental, or maybe just the result of kismet or karmic or something in the zeitgeist.


15 Classic Horror Films That Just Won't Die

Those lucky enough to be warped by these 15 classic horror films, now available on Blu-ray from The Criterion Collection and Kino Lorber, never got over them.


Sixteen Years Later Wayne Payne Follows Up His Debut

Waylon Payne details a journey from addiction to redemption on Blue Eyes, The Harlot, The Queer, The Pusher & Me, his first album since his 2004 debut.


Every Song on the Phoenix Foundation's 'Friend Ship' Is a Stand-Out

Friend Ship is the Phoenix Foundation's most personal work and also their most engaging since their 2010 classic, Buffalo.


Kevin Morby Gets Back to Basics on 'Sundowner'

On Sundowner, Kevin Morby sings of valleys, broken stars, pale nights, and the midwestern American sun. Most of the time, he's alone with his guitar and a haunting mellotron.


Lydia Loveless Creates Her Most Personal Album with 'Daughter'

Given the turmoil of the era, you might expect Lydia Loveless to lean into the anger, amplifying the electric guitar side of her cowpunk. Instead, she created a personal record with a full range of moods, still full of her typical wit.


Flowers for Hermes: An Interview with Performing Activist André De Shields

From creating the title role in The Wiz to winning an Emmy for Ain't Misbehavin', André De Shields reflects on his roles in more than four decades of iconic musicals, including the GRAMMY and Tony Award-winning Hadestown.


The 13 Greatest Horror Directors of All Time

In honor of Halloween, here are 13 fascinating fright mavens who've made scary movies that much more meaningful.


British Jazz and Soul Artists Interpret the Classics on '​Blue Note Re:imagined'

Blue Note Re:imagined provides an entrance for new audiences to hear what's going on in British jazz today as well as to go back to the past and enjoy old glories.


Bill Murray and Rashida Jones Add Another Shot to 'On the Rocks'

Sofia Coppola's domestic malaise comedy On the Rocks doesn't drown in its sorrows -- it simply pours another round, to which we raise our glass.


​Patrick Cowley Remade Funk and Disco on 'Some Funkettes'

Patrick Cowley's Some Funkettes sports instrumental renditions from between 1975-1977 of songs previously made popular by Donna Summer, Herbie Hancock, the Temptations, and others.


The Top 10 Definitive Breakup Albums

When you feel bombarded with overpriced consumerism disguised as love, here are ten albums that look at love's hangover.


Dustin Laurenzi's Natural Language Digs Deep Into the Jazz Quartet Format with 'A Time and a Place'

Restless tenor saxophonist Dustin Laurenzi runs his four-piece combo through some thrilling jazz excursions on a fascinating new album, A Time and a Place.


How 'Watchmen' and 'The Boys' Deconstruct American Fascism

Superhero media has a history of critiquing the dark side of power, hero worship, and vigilantism, but none have done so as radically as Watchmen and The Boys.


Floodlights' 'From a View' Is Classicist Antipodal Indie Guitar Pop

Aussie indie rockers, Floodlights' debut From a View is a very cleanly, crisply-produced and mixed collection of shambolic, do-it-yourself indie guitar music.


CF Watkins Embraces a Cool, Sophisticated Twang on 'Babygirl'

CF Watkins has pulled off the unique trick of creating an album that is imbued with the warmth of the American South as well as the urban sophistication of New York.


Helena Deland Suggests Imagination Is More Rewarding Than Reality on 'Something New'

Canadian singer-songwriter Helena Deland's first full-length release Someone New reveals her considerable creative talents.


While the Sun Shines: An Interview with Composer Joe Wong

Joe Wong, the composer behind Netflix's Russian Doll and Master of None, articulates personal grief and grappling with artistic fulfillment into a sweeping debut album.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.