Thinking back to my first time watching the sequel to one of the more dubious Marvel movie concepts back when Ant-Man and the Wasp came out, I remember thinking the movie was not all that; a pale imitation of the first one. Having gone back and watched it again for only the second time since June of 2018, I came to a realisation.
Ant-Man and the Wasp’s biggest problem wasn’t that it was a weaker movie than it’s predecessor, it was that it had the misfortune of being the movie that had to follow Infinity War. A problem the last movie didn’t have when it was coming off the back of the sour taste Ultron had left in many people’s mouths.
Before I get any deeper though, this is coming to the end of a year long series where I go back and watch all of the movies of the MCU from the beginning. If you want to see the archive of posts so far then look no further than this here link. Otherwise, I’ll get into Ant-Man and the Wasp.
A movie that deserved a second chance
I just remember being underwhelmed by this sequel in most regards. I thought it has less charm and less originality than its predecessor, when in reality, the movie is still wonderfully weird and entertaining in its own right. The biggest change being the focus on a wider cast and the move away Scott being small being the major visual centrepiece of the movie.
The original Ant-Man made a lot out of the scenes where Scott was tiny and showing the, now giant, world from his perspective. It meant we got a tone of really unique and creative action sequences which also doubled as great comedy bits. There is far less of that in the sequel, which plays itself far straighter as a movie in the MCU style and less of a full-on comedy than the first one was.
Scott’s story and his relationship with his daughter was the primary driving focus of the first movie. While Hank and Hope’s story was in there, it was primarily focused on Scott. As the name to this sequel would imply, this movie is much more an ensemble piece. Telling multiple stories throughout, of which Scott’s is actually the least important.
This movie really is Hank and Hope’s story, one of them bringing their family together again. All heavily sprinkled with a ton of goofball antics courtesy of a malfunctioning Ant-Man suit and a four way game of cat and mouse between our heroes, the F.B.I., Walton Goggins’ character and the movie’s “villain” Ghost.
It’s really fun and silly, and in hindsight, my disparagement of this movie was completely undeserved. Like I said at the top, the biggest thing thing this movie had going against it was the fact that it had to follow up not one, but three incredibly successful movies before it.
A victim of bad booking
Ant-Man and the Wasp is far more “normal” of an MCU movie compared to those that came before it. Which is saying a lot for a movie which deals with a “quantum realm”, characters changing sizes and riding a flatbed truck like a scooter. But think about it this way for a minute; Black Panther was a movie that was met with universal acclaim, with an absorbing story and amazing cast of characters.
Not even getting into what an important cultural touchstone the movie would become, bringing a much needed piece of representation to black fans who already loved the MCU, but lacked that sense of identity in the movies they were watching. Not to mention how much it changed the face of the MCU’s world by introducing Wakanda into the mix.
Then you had Thor, which reinvented that particular series, as well as majorly shaking things up by literally destroying Asgard. And the numerous reality shattering events of Infinity War don’t need to be repeated again.
But by comparison to these three staggeringly good movies, Ant-Man and the Wasp almost seemed pedestrian by comparison. Which really isn’t fair to it. You could argue that the quantum realm is just as important to the state of the MCU as anything, especially considering how much of an impact it had on the events of Endgame.
What really made this movie feel small by comparison though was that it was telling a much more personal story. It was a story about family and personal stakes rather than global/universal ones. That doesn’t make the story any less important, but it just ends up being a victim of its own sense of scale.
Pun not intended
It’s a strangely unique situation that Marvel Studios found themselves in. As they continue adding more and more stories into this grand web of narrative, they need to account for how every movie will affect every other movie and what order they need to come out in. It’s an issue that’s become even more apparent in the current time when I’m writing this post, and we’re seeing most of our businesses still closed thanks to the COVID-19 pandemic sweeping the world.
Because Black Widow has been delayed, it means that every other announced movie in the MCU timeline will also need to be knocked back. Normally, that wouldn’t be an issue, but with the upcoming lineup of Disney+ series that are reportedly going to tie heavily into the events of the movies that come out at a certain time; WandaVision, Doctor Strange 2 and Loki, all the fine tuned plans have been thrown into chaos.
Disney and Marvel need these movies to come out in a certain time frame and in a certain order for them to have the maximum impact. Ant-Man and the Wasp was a movie that needed to come out in the 12 months between Infinity War and Endgame; it sets up important information and sets up Scott to be the catalyst that kicks off the events of Endgame after the time skip.
Yet, as a movie plopped into the middle of six where every other one is telling a story that is either on a global or universal scale, it was inevitably going to be one that felt small in stature (dammit) when being lined up against the movies being put out either side of it.
In the end though, I kind of feel that all these hangups regarding Ant-Man and the Wasp were my own, rather than a commonly accepted belief amongst the fan community. So, going back and watching this again was a very cathartic exercise for me personally.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is a much better movie than I remember it being. It’s a ton of fun and has all the right emotional and action highlights it needs. All that being said, there are a few things that the movie misses out on due to being packed with so many different characters and events throughout. As much as I love Evangeline Lilly, Hope Van Dyne is not an especially interesting character in this movie, which is kind of a bummer considering this is more her movie than Scott’s in terms of emotional weight.
She’s just hyper competent and has no real hangups or personal obstacles to overcome. From a pure character writing perspective, she’s just a static figure, the same character she was when we first met her during the first movie. But it worked better there because she wasn’t the one in the shrinking suit beating the crap out of the bad guys.
On the other hand, Hank Pym is a fascinating character. A fantastic curmudgeonly figure, one I would have loved to see a movie about in his hayday, and it feels like him reuniting with his wife takes the emotional precedence over Hope with her mother.
It’s a fun movie though, only let down by it’s placement in the continuity of the franchise, and a little at the loss of the comedic weirdness of the first movie to be a little more straight laced by comparison. Well worth a revisit.