If you’re still a little traumatised by the events of Avengers: Infinity War (see our review) just three short months ago, you’re not alone. And it seems Marvel Studios knows that too, because the latest MCU offering is a perfect little palate cleanser.
Ant-Man and the Wasp — which is the third MCU movie released so far this year after Black Panther (see our review) and Infinity War — fills in some of the gaps and questions that the fans might’ve had after Infinity War. Namely: where is Ant-Man and why wasn’t he in Infinity War?
Turns out Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is still under house arrest after fighting alongside the Avengers in Berlin during the events of Captain America: Civil War (see our review). Days from being released, he has a vision of a woman who turns out to be Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who disappeared into the Quantum Realm 30 years ago.
Lang ends up turning to his old friends Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) to make sense of things. In the ensuing mission to try and rescue Janet, the trio come up against Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a mercenary hell-bent on stopping them for reasons of her own.
Three years after the first Ant-Man movie (see our review), director Peyton Reed is back at the helm and doesn’t disappoint. At its best, Ant-Man and the Wasp is exactly what audiences needed after the overwhelming, all-encompassing scope of Infinity War. It’s a story that is neatly contained within the confines of the Ant-Man universe and deals mostly with the characters and concepts directly associated with the eponymous hero.
Reed has outdone himself again with increasingly innovative and exciting action sequences as the movie progresses. There’s a fight that involves various kitchen utensils as well as an extended car chase through the winding streets of San Francisco that features a ginormous Hello Kitty Pez dispenser. Ant-Man and the Wasp both make full use of Pym’s technology and shrink and grow as needed in a combat style that is unique to each hero, and it is a sheer joy to watch.
Of course, this being the MCU, there are references to the bigger picture: the fallen spy organisation SHIELD is mentioned several times, as are the Sokovia accords. But for the most part, it’s actually refreshing to not have to worry about how this fits into the the MCU (At least for now).
I wasn’t a fan of Lilly’s Hope van Dyne in the first movie, and was pleasantly surprised to see her given a better narrative arc and placed in a position that made her Ant-Man’s equal. In fact, the self-assured, confident Hope is central to the plot of Ant-Man and the Wasp and ties everything together.
Also great was the mysterious figure of Ghost, played with surprising nuance by British actress Hannah John-Kamen. This iteration of Ghost is very different from the one in the comics, but it has convinced me that Marvel has finally learnt its lesson and is starting to make their villains more complex and sympathetic. She’s not quite at the level of Loki or Thanos, but if people can understand Thanos’s need to cull half the world, then there is no reason why they can’t understand Ghost’s motivations.
Undoubtedly, the movie has its flaws. A good number of jokes just do not land the way the script wants it to, but when it’s good, it’s really good. It also suffers from some bad pacing in the middle third of the movie, as well as Marvel’s usual problem with wrapping up the third act, but overall it does have its charm. Or maybe I’m just grading this movie more generously because I’m still not over the end of Infinity War.
I have to admit: I’ve been a fan of Marvel comics and the MCU for a very long time, but I am definitely feeling the geek fatigue. This was the first MCU movie in years where I went in cold and with nearly zero expectations. It felt freeing in a way, but I’m also anxious to see how Marvel Studios tries to address the very real problem of audience fatigue. They’ve made some steps recently by making sure the villains are more fleshed out and the plots slightly less nonsensical (let’s not talk about Age of Ultron), but they’ve still got a long way to go.
Oh, and do stay for the post-credit scenes. There’s one that happens at the end of the main credits, and then another stinger right at the end.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is playing in cinemas now.