Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest following his support of Captain America in the events of Civil War. He is forbidden from contacting the Pym family or using his size-changing super-suit. However once he has a vision of Janet Van Dyne, long thought lost to the phantom realm, he is forced to reconnect with his estranged surrogate, super family and help them to save the lost scientist. This is complicated when villains of some sort get in the way.
As with the previous Antman, the film is quite sloppily assembled. The editing is particularly jarring. Scenes end suddenly, characters move inexplicably from one space to another, there’s even clunky moment to moment editing as characters abruptly change position in between shots. There’s a lack of polish to the film that’s often distracting. There’s also a feeling that some important legwork just isn’t being done.
Although the characters all seem to be having fun, there’s little effort made to really earn the film’s pathos. The dramatic heart of the film is the return of Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), but the pursuit of this goal feels arbitrary. She’s Pym’s wife and Hope’s mother, therefore they want her back. Emotionally, it’s underwhelming. This is the first marvel movie to feature a female character in its name (Evangeline Lily’s Hope Van Dyne/The Wasp), and yet her primary need is to find her mother and forgive the dopey but loveable main character, and her primary characteristic is of quiet competence. Evangeline Lily is given little to do.
Most of the cast seem a little sleepy, especially Michael Douglas as Hank Pym. This is except for Michael Peña who reprises his role as Luis. Peña’s exuberance is perhaps the most genuine part of the film. Abby Ryder Forston is also very endearing as young Cassie Lang, and it’s nice that more prominence is given to Lang’s daughter seeing as this is supposedly his main character motivation. Lawrence Fishburne is also in the film.
The film also lacks a compelling villain. Hannah John-Kamen plays Ava Starr, who’s alter ego is the mysterious “Ghost”. She has a condition that causes her to phase through solid objects. Her ability to control this varies from scene to scene, but does lead to some inventive fight sequences reminiscent of The Twins in The Matrix Reloaded. She needs to use the same machine that the gang are going to use to rescue Janet, and so keeps trying to steal it. The dramatic tension between heroes and villain is simply one of misunderstanding or impatience. There’s no great difference in ideologies or tough decisions to be made. There are attempts at rival ticking clocks but it’s clear that the writers don’t want us to think our heroes are heartless in pursuing their own goals over that of a dying woman, and so time frames are left vague. She definitely needs a cure, in the next few days or weeks or whenever everybody’s free really.
Secondary villain Sonny Burch is played by the always interesting Walter Goggins. He’s a southern gentlemen arms dealer who wants to steal the tech for money, a motive that becomes increasingly weak the more embroiled he becomes in the super-powered destruction. He provides the goons to be fought at various stages.
The action sequences are kinetic and lively, but does not have the creativity of its predecessor or Civil War. There’s a fun gag with a salt shaker and some of the vehicular mayhem is inventive. For the most part we have our two main characters jumping around with no sense of peril or weight to their actions. Perhaps the writers felt Lang was over-powered because they’ve introduced a fault in his suit that means he’s unable to control his size changing for much of the film. Powers suddenly working imperfectly is often a lazy method of creating tension. It’s the surprise vile of Kryptonite.
The film does, however, boast some interesting visual flairs. Phase 3 of the MCU seems to be embracing psychedelic colour as its pallet and the sequences in the quantum realm are quite conceptually adventurous. There’s something very enjoyable about the 50s style shrinking machine. Ghost becoming unstuck in time as well as space is also very interesting aesthetically.
Ant-Man and The Wasp is a fairly generic Marvel release in a year when they’ve offered nothing but cinematic events. However it’s not only in this context in which the film is underwhelming. Characterisation and thematic development take a back seat to action scenes that aren’t quite fun enough and jokes that aren’t quite funny enough. As a family action movie it’s sure to entertain, but it’s unlikely to endure.