I was confident that the first Ant-Man movie was going to be Marvel’s first bust in the modern era. Edgar Wright leaving the project in turmoil coupled with a D-List (at best) superhero was a recipe for disaster. What we got was a charming romp with better comedy than most original comedies, incredible action sequences of varying size and scale, put together in an overall surprisingly well-executed package.
It’s possible that my low expectations influenced what I thought of the original. Given that the movie trounced my exceedingly low expectations, maybe my perception of that movie is skewed. The real test would be a sequel, with far higher expectations. Marvel of late has spoiled us; they have churned out billion-dollar blockbusters like no studio ever has. So, with far higher expectations from both the studio and the franchise, could they deliver yet another winner?
The answer: sort of.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is really, really, good; however, it is not exceptional. My first observation is that it is nowhere near as funny as the first. Don’t get me wrong, there are laugh out loud moments, but it isn’t as downright hilarious as the first. I will say; however, it is leagues funnier than most so-called “comedies” these days, which eschew real humor and jokes for lewd and outrageous behavior. I would go as far as to say that Marvel has actually become the kings of what I call the “adventure comedy.” I consider an adventure comedy something in the vein of Back to the Future, Ghostbusters, or the Goonies. Ever since the Hangover, studios don’t seem to want to waste time on these, preferring instead to crank out endless Hangover clones and Melissa McCarthy nonsense. Marvel then grabbed the baton and ran for the hills, cranking out the best adventure comedies in years, with both Guardians movies, both Ant-Man films, and Thor: Ragnarok all being funnier than any other comedy released in the last 15 years. So, when I say AM&W isn’t as funny as the first, understand that it’s still funnier than 99% of other movies in the comedy genre.
I have to admit that I was a Paul Rudd hater. He never really resonated with me in any of his various roles, even on shows I loved such as Parks and Recreation and Friends. The initial casting of him the Ant-man franchise did not exactly instill me with hope. However, he’s really stepped up and paired with excellent writing and direction, has made the character his own. Taking a D-list character and making it a top-tier show stealer is challenging to do, but he’s done it, much in the same way the cast did for Guardians of the Galaxy. Evangeline Lilly, who we all got acquainted with on Lost and in the Hobbit, delivers an acceptable performance as the partner to Ant-Man. She brings in far superior technology to Ant-Man, and they have some wonderfully choreographed fight scenes with another of Marvel’s hallmarks: Compelling villains, this time it’s Hannah Kamen as the Ghost.
In great writing, especially in comics, it has to be understood from day one that you cannot have a great hero without an equally great villain. Batman, for example, would not be nearly as popular as he is without the Joker and the rest of his rogue’s gallery. Following in the footsteps of great villains such as Red Skull, Killmonger, and Thanos, we have yet another excellent villain, with Ghost having actual motivations for the things she does. The best villains always believe they are right, or at the very least justified in their actions, and Ghost delivers just as her precursors did before. Despite being slightly less “cool” than her predecessor YellowJacket, she is far more relatable and sympathetic, given what has happened to her. The phasing ability she possesses makes for some incredibly well-choreographed action when coupled with Ant and Wasp’s shrinking and growing abilities.
I also have to give the surrounding cast a lot of kudos. First, I just can’t get enough of Walton Goggins. I’ve been a big fan of his going way back to The Shield and Justified, and as always, he knocks whatever role he’s given out of the park. Michael Pena, Michael Douglas, Laurence Fishburne, and Michelle Pfeiffer all elevate the film with their presence. It’s hard to overstate the amazement watching such a group of top-tier actors do a superhero movie, growing up in the era I did where only Batman and Superman warranted any love from the A-List in Hollywood. Now, even D-List superheroes are propped up by big stars, and it definitely makes a difference in the caliber of the films.
Overall, Ant-Man and the Wasp is an enjoyable romp with its share of action, laughs, and hijinks. This is one film that doesn’t deal with difficult themes, so the entire family can easily enjoy it without worry. I’d even go as far as to say it’s more family appropriate than Infinity War, which had some themes that might be difficult for children. Also, as usual, Marvel has done a great a job of keeping the obvious political and social justice nonsense that pervades Hollywood to a minimum, as I didn’t notice any particular agenda being pushed, which is rare nowadays. It’s not a masterpiece by any stretch, but definitely worth seeing. If you enjoyed the original adventure comedies or Marvel movies in general, go see it, it’s definitely worth your time.
Rating: 7.5/10 Worth a Shot
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