PopMatters is moving to WordPress in December. We will continue to publish on this site as we work on the move. We aim to make it a seamless experience for readers.

Film

'Ant-Man and the Wasp' Is Fun But Fails to Remedy Marvel's Most Egregious Convention

Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly in Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018) (IMDB)

Paul Rudd is at the top of his game in Ant-Man and the Wasp, but Evangeline Lilly isn't given an equal platform, despite what the title suggests.

Ant-Man and the Wasp
Peyton Reed

Walt Disney

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

Other

Marvel Cinematic Universe movies have been dominating the box office for a decade now (oh, how time flies), and audiences have become accustomed to counting on Marvel Studios to deliver fun, flashy blockbusters that send them home smiling. But this past April, mega-crossover Avengers: Infinity War broke hearts across the world, ending on an uncharacteristically somber, tragic note that left moviegoers reeling from shock and sadness.

Mercifully, Marvel's next offering, Ant-Man and the Wasp, acts as a welcome respite from the high drama and mass-murdering of Infinity War. It's a dazzling, fast-paced, outrageously funny superhero romp that feels more cohesive than its 2015 predecessor, Ant-Man, which infamously switched directors from Edgar Wright to Peyton Reed part-way through production. The story isn't as heartfelt this time around, but the action, humor, and top-notch cast firing on all cylinders makes up for the lack of tenderness.

Paul Rudd stars as Scott Lang/Ant-Man, and again, he anchors the movie with his impeccable comedic timing and irresistible, self-deprecating charm. Ant-Man (2015) is a comedy-caper film that buoys every scene, from the inventive fist fights to the more dialogue-driven moments, with Rudd's charisma, and the same is true for the sequel. Rudd is one of those rare talents, like Cary Grant and George Clooney, who's blessed with leading-man good looks but has no problem making a fool of himself at any given moment. His willingness to poke fun at himself is his greatest strength as a performer, and Reed is keenly aware of this, constantly putting Scott in humiliating situations, giving Rudd ample opportunity to endear himself to the viewers as only he can. His "Does anyone have any orange slices?" quip was one of the most bizarre, hysterical one-liners from Captain America: Civil War.

That movie saw Scott help Captain America/Steve Rogers and his team of super-powered rebels take on Iron Man's law-abiding Avengers, an excursion that landed him in prison, a place he was all too familiar with as an ex-con. Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place over the last three days of a two-year house arrest sentence Scott has, so far, served without incident. He hasn't spoken to the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), or Hank's daughter, Hope Van Dyne/The Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), since the Civil War debacle (which made them fugitives by association), but when he starts seeing visions of Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), Hank's wife and Hope's mom, who disappeared into the "quantum realm" 30 years ago, Scott's former partners in crime begrudgingly ask for his help to bring back their long lost matriarch.

The ensuing heists, fight scenes, and car chases through the hilly streets of San Francisco make up the bulk of the runtime and are all thoroughly inventive and entertaining, though not exactly thrilling. There's a lot of humor infused into virtually every moment of the movie, which is good, but the constant stream of laughs have a sort of dampening effect on certain moments of peril that would otherwise be incredibly tense. It's hard to say if this is such a bad thing, considering the humor is so strong, but the imbalance is certainly noticeable during the most dramatic moments, none of which are as touching as they are intended to be.

Walton Goggins, Paul Rudd (IMDB)

Hank and Hope spend a lot of time talking about Janet throughout the movie, but it's hard to feel their longing/grief when you're constantly expecting every other line to be a joke or one-liner from Scott. But that's not to say the humor is unwelcome; the effectiveness of the comedy far outweighs the ineffectiveness of the drama. Lilly and Douglass are the perfect straight men for Rudd to volley with, and the supporting cast overachieves, some of them getting the biggest laughs in the movie. Randall Park plays an FBI agent hellbent on catching Scott with his pants down (figuratively and, perhaps, literally), and Michael Pena reprises his role as Scott's best friend and fellow ex-con, Luis, whose superpower of sorts is the ability to stretch out even the most mundane, simple anecdote to ungodly lengths. Either one of these actors' performances would have made the movie worth watching alone, but to have both in top comedic form alongside Rudd takes it over the top. It's a fantastic cast.

Ant-Man's ability to shrink down to, well, bug size, as well as grow as big as a building, is as pervasive and integral to the film as the witty banter. Scott's suit malfunctions on several occasions, at one point awkwardly shrinking him to the size of a five-year-old at his daughter's high school (Deadpool 2 offers a similar gag, but this version is more clever), and later ballooning him up to Goliath proportions, taking a toll on his body and leaving him unconscious at the bottom of the San Francisco Bay. Each action and fight scene sees Ant-Man and the Wasp oscillate between tiny and big frequently, a clever device that keeps you on your toes. Seeing the action play out on different scales is a lot of fun: The Wasp shrinking down and running the length of a chef's knife thrown at her by a thug is badass, and seeing her take out a bunch of baddies on motorcycles with a giant Hello Kitty Pez dispenser is insane in the best way possible.

Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly (IMDB)

There's one major annoyance to Ant-Man and the Wasp that will likely rattle around in your head as the story unfolds, and that is that Hope/The Wasp actually doesn't play any larger of a role in this movie than she did in the first one, despite sharing top billing with her male counterpart. Scott is still very much at the center of the story, and almost the entire movie is seen from his point of view, and almost never hers. Sure, she gets to crack some skulls here and there, and she's clearly a lot cooler than Scott, but we never get to step into her shoes. In fact, Hank gets more solo screen time than his daughter. This is a shame when you consider that, aside from Black Panther, every MCU movie has been about a white man. Surely one would think from this film's title that we'd finally see the MCU from a female perspective, but alas, it's yet another missed opportunity. Hopefully, next year's Captain Marvel, starring Brie Larson, will remedy the Marvel Studios's glaringly sexist convention.

7

Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology provider that we have until December to move off their service. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to fund the move and further development.


Music

Books

Film

Recent
Books

Is Carl Neville's 'Eminent Domain' Worth the Effort?

In Carl Neville's latest novel, Eminent Domain, he creates complexities and then shatters them into tiny narrative bits arrayed along a non-linear timeline.

Film

Horrors in the Closet: Horrifying Heteronormative Scapegoating

The artificial connection between homosexuality and communism created the popular myth of evil and undetectable gay subversives living inside 1950s American society. Film both reflected and refracted the homophobia.

Music

Johnny Nash Refused to Remember His Place

Johnny Nash, part rock era crooner, part Motown, and part reggae, was too polite for the more militant wing of the Civil Rights movement, but he also suffered at the hands of a racist music industry that wouldn't market him as a Black heartthrob. Through it all he was himself, as he continuously refused to "remember his place".

Music

John Hollenbeck Completes a Trilogy with 'Songs You Like a Lot'

The third (and final?) collaboration between a brilliant jazz composer/arranger, the Frankfurt Radio Big Band, vocalists Kate McGarry and Theo Bleckman, and the post-1950 American pop song. So great that it shivers with joy.

Music

The Return of the Rentals After Six Years Away

The Rentals release a space-themed album, Q36, with one absolute gem of a song.

Music

Matthew Murphy's Post-Wombats Project Sounds a Lot Like the Wombats (And It's a Good Thing)

While UK anxiety-pop auteurs the Wombats are currently hibernating, frontman Matthew "Murph" Murphy goes it alone with a new band, a mess of deprecating new earworms, and revived energy.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 80-61

In this next segment of PopMatters' look back on the music of the 2000s, we examine works by British electronic pioneers, Americana legends, and Armenian metal provocateurs.

Music

In the Tempest's Eye: An Interview with Surfer Blood

Surfer Blood's 2010 debut put them on the map, but their critical sizzle soon faded. After a 2017 comeback of sorts, the group's new record finds them expanding their sonic by revisiting their hometown with a surprising degree of reverence.

Music

Artemis Is the Latest Jazz Supergroup

A Blue Note supergroup happens to be made up of women, exclusively. Artemis is an inconsistent outing, but it dazzles just often enough.

Books

Horrors in the Closet: A Closet Full of Monsters

A closet full of monsters is a scary place where "straight people" can safely negotiate and articulate their fascination and/or dread of "difference" in sexuality.

Music

'Wildflowers & All the Rest' Is Tom Petty's Masterpiece

Wildflowers is a masterpiece because Tom Petty was a good enough songwriter by that point to communicate exactly what was on his mind in the most devastating way possible.

Music

Jazz Composer Maria Schneider Takes on the "Data Lords" in Song

Grammy-winning jazz composer Maria Schneider released Data Lords partly as a reaction to her outrage that streaming music services are harvesting the data of listeners even as they pay musicians so little that creativity is at risk. She speaks with us about the project.

Music

The 100 Best Albums of the 2000s: 100-81

PopMatters' best albums of the 2000s begin with a series of records that span epic metal, ornate indie folk, and a terrifying work of electronic music.

Books

The Power of Restraint in Sophie Yanow, Paco Roca, and Elisa Macellari's New Graphic Novels

The magical quality that makes or breaks a graphic novel lies somewhere in that liminal space in which art and literature intersect.

Books

'People of the City' Is an Unrelenting Critique of Colonial Ideology and Praxis

Cyprian Ekwensi's People of the City is a vivid tale of class struggle and identity reclamation in the shadows of colonialism's reign.

Music

1979's 'This Heat' Remains a Lodestone for Avant-Rock Adventure

On their self-titled debut, available for the first time on digital formats, This Heat delivered an all-time classic stitched together from several years of experiments.

Film

'The Edge of Democracy' and Parallels of Political Crises

Academy Award-nominated documentary The Edge of Democracy, now streaming on Netflix, lays bare the political parallels of the rise of Bolsonaro's Brazil with Trump's America.

Music

The Pogues' 'The BBC Sessions 1984-1986' Honors Working-Class Heroes

The Pogues' BBC Sessions 1984-1986 is a welcome chapter in the musical story of these working-class heroes, who reminded listeners of the beauty and dignity of the strong, sooty backs upon which our industrialized world was built.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

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