Ant-Man and The Wasp - Spoiler-free review
I really liked the first Ant-Man movie. I thought its light-humored approach and small scale (no pun intended) was a nice change from the overly-busy mess that was Avengers: Age of Ultron.
And while I thought Avengers: Infinity War was excellent (in fact, it was the first movie in quite a few years I've seen more than once in the theater), it was kind of exhausting. I left the theater feeling like I'd just been out running. Admittedly, I could stand to exercise more...
Ant-Man and The Wasp brings the Marvel Cinematic Universe back down to a personal level. Rather than having 20+ characters all vying for screen time while the fate of the universe hangs in the balance, this film is about a handful of characters and their relationships with each other.
One problem with sequels is when they just trudge over the same ground as before because it worked and they don't want to risk something new. But if they do try something new, they can't go too far because the audience wants the characters to be true to who they were, and to not change the tone too drastically.
Ant-Man and The Wasp manages to retain what was good about the first film, while expanding on it and developing the characters further. There are certainly nods to the first film, but this feels like a proper continuation of these characters' stories, rather than just trotting them back out to do the same schtick as before.
Watching the trailers, I wasn't really sure what the plot of the film was going to be. There's a character named Ghost who can phase through things, and has to be stopped from doing bad stuff. That's about as much as I knew going into it. The movie isn't just about that though. Ghost is certainly an important part of the film, but isn't the entire focus of it. Actually, I found the way they handled Ghost to be decidedly refreshing. Not as a villain in the traditional sense. I'll leave it at that.
The central theme of the movie is about relationships. Between Hope Van Dyne (The Wasp) and her family, and Scott Lang (Ant-Man) and his, between the two of them, and other relationships that stretch beyond that, and the impact those relationships have. This is a more character-driven movie, and this is where Marvel really excels. Sure, you have the big showpieces like Infinity War which are fun for what they are, but some of the best Marvel films dive down deeper into the characters' personal stories: Iron Man, Captain America: The Winter Soldier, Black Panther, Spider-Man: Homecoming, etc. This is what made Marvel Comics (and Stan Lee's writing) so revolutionary. It's something DC still hasn't figured out yet in their movies.
Now that's not to say that this is a two-hour talking heads movie about people getting in touch with their feelings. It's still a superhero movie, and it's a fun one at that. The Wasp is easily the best female superhero the MCU has put on screen so far. Her first fight scene is amazing, and I couldn't help but think, "Yeah... Hank should've given her the Ant-Man suit in the first movie. She would've had that whole thing wrapped up in about five minutes." The movie plays around a lot more with the ideas of shrinking and growing people (and objects), which makes for some genuinely funny moments and pretty cool action scenes. Just don't think about it too much, and you'll be fine.
The entire main cast is back from the first film, and it looks like they're all having a lot of fun making this movie. Evangeline Lily particularly shines - her character gets to show a broader range of her personality, she's revealed to be a brilliant scientist in her own right, and of course she gets to kick all sorts of butt throughout the movie. Scott Lang is back as the everyman hero, who more than anything just wants to be a good dad for his daughter, sometimes to his own detriment. Abby Ryder Forston returns as his daughter Cassie, a little bit older now, and she absolutely steals just about any scene she's in. Michael Peña and his crew of oddball ex-cons are back, bringing some of the funniest bits in the film; and while Micheal Douglas is back playing the perfect straight-man to all of the craziness going on around him, he also has an expanded role as he plays a more pivotal part in the main plot. Really, there's not a misstep in the entire cast. Even some of the periphery characters who are only there to introduce some extra conflict are well-cast, and they end up bringing some of the biggest laughs in the film.
I found Ant-Man and The Wasp to be a nice change of pace after Infinity War. Some other reviews have referred to it as a palate cleanser. It's lighthearted, yet warmhearted. It has great action and a lot of funny moments. The Wasp is awesome. And maybe best of all, the stakes here are actually higher than in the first Ant-Man movie, because they're personal. A good superhero movie doesn't always have to be about how bad the bad guy is.
Wasp and The Ant-Man get a 9/10.
As an afterthought, something I noticed in this movie which seems to be a growing trend, is there was quite a bit of dialog (and a couple of shots) that were prominently featured in the trailers, but weren't in the final film. I'm wondering if filmmakers are beginning to create scenes or dialog specifically for trailers now. I don't really mind this, because it can give audiences an idea of what's going to be in a film, without having to spoil more dialog or scenes from it. The downside is when you see a scene in the movie that was dubbed differently for the trailer, and that dialog is conspicuously absent. Anyway... that's just an observation. Not a criticism.