It’s always going to be tough for the first Marvel movie to come out after ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’ People are still reeling from the aftershocks of that film and there’s still a meme or two that pops up here and there. So director Peyton Reed and the people at Marvel did everything they could to make sure that ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ could succeed: they set the story right after ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and right before ‘Avengers: Infinity War’ and they kept the story contained, made it personal to the characters, and not some big battle to save the world.
And they brought in the laughs. A lot of it.
And this was a double-edged sword. ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ suffers from having way too many moving parts in the narrative that there’s a whole lot of exposition happening at any one moment. It’s highly verbose, and often stopping the flow of the narrative to give way to gags from popular characters like Michael Pena’s Luis and his team of ex-criminals turned outsource security service.
It’s all well-and-good and makes for actual laugh out loud moments, but at the expense of the story. And there’s a lot of it.
The film revolves around Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), who is now under house arrest for his involvement in ‘Captain America: Civil War’ and he just wants to finish his sentence so that he can get a good job with Luis and be there for his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Forston). But he ends up getting dragged into Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne’s (Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly) plan to rescue Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum universe.
Unfortunately, Hope and Hank Pym are now running from the FBI because of Scott’s involvement in Germany with Captain America. And to make matters even more complicated, a mysterious masked vigilante called the Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) is after Hank Pym’s technology for an unknown agenda.
There’s a lot happening in this movie and it doesn’t always flow well because all the narrative points of each character don’t seem to resonate with each other the way they did back in the first ‘Ant-Man’ movie. In the first film, Scott Lang’s relationship with his daughter paralleled Hope’s relationship with her father, Hank. It’s the relationships that added meaning and depth to what they had to do, which also happened to be about saving the world.
In the sequel, Scott’s relationship with Cassie is its own story with no real strong connection to Hope’s or Hank’s need to reunite with Janet Van Dyne, the original Wasp. And the agenda of the Ghost is just as detailed but also has no real connection or emotional bearing to the narrative as a whole.
Sure, there are so many gags, many of it involving the multiple ways shrinking and enlarging objects for various reasons, that are fun and funny and how people react to the open display of superpowers is hilarious. Michael Pena reprises Luis’ hilarious narration of past events with perfect comic timing. The action is good. But all of these elements don’t mesh in together that ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ is better in parts than it is as a whole.
If anything, the film showcases Paul Rudd’s charm and comic timing. He steals your heart and you care about him. Evangeline Lilly is given a chance to show her leading lady presence, but as the film hits each of its emotional beats, it doesn’t take hold.
It’s great that they decided to give us something fun and zany after ‘Avengers: Infinity War.’ They even make fun of themselves as there’s a lot of technological jargon being thrown around and Scott blurts out, ‘Are you just putting quantum in front of everything you say’ and you laugh because it’s true. There’s just so much exposition and because of the laughs, and the many moving parts -- including a black market dealer who joins the fray -- it’s hard for ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ to still land its emotional punches, the same way the first movie did despite all of its gags.
It’s fun when a movie can make fun of itself and have fun, but not at the story’s expense. What both ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’ films taught us, you can have fun without sacrificing the emotional payoff. Or take the ‘Thor: Ragnarok’ path and just deliver a grand fun time and let it just be that and that’s cool too. ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ just didn’t find that balance or fully commit to being all-out zany and wacky, which it could have been, and might have become one of Marvel’s lower-tier films, in my opinion.