Don’t get me wrong, the Avengers movies are great. But fun is dead, along with a number of your favorite superheroes. So thank the heavens for Ant-Man and the Wasp. Thank god for the light-hearted banter after seeing literally all your favorite heroes evaporate into dust.
Fun without the Avengers
Marvel movies have always been about creating enjoyable, exciting universes. More recently, Marvel’s non-Avengers films have been about creating humor without those worlds. With Guardians of the Galaxy, Ant-Man, and Thor: Ragnarok, the Marvel Cinematic Universe leaned into the inherent absurdity of the superhero universe. And it paid off beautifully, with charming, lovely films that are exciting to watch.
It helps that Marvel can field some absolute A-list actors who are at the top of their game. If we look back on Chris Hemsworth’s career and don’t see the Thor character as his absolute pinnacle, then he must have done something amazing afterward.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is an old-style science fiction film, from the days of ridiculous sixties sci-fi thrillers. It’s mixed in with a heist and a fun central conceit about changing size. It could be employed more adventurously in some part of the film, but scenes like the one where a now-gigantic PEZ dispenser flies at Ant-Man are highly effective and feel earned.
The B story about Scott’s life as an ex-convict and an entrepreneur is also a perfect addition. It’s so common in superhero movies for that stuff to just be relegated to the background, hand-waved away to focus on the more interesting aspects of the story. But Ant-Man’s story is so much about his life as a human being who has accidentally become a superhero.
Seeing that information covered in the movie in a dramatic, interesting way is much more appealing than simply acting like everything is just dealt with. I mean, who buys the Avengers their dinner? Is it Tony Stark? Does Thor have money? It might be cliche to use this word, but this inclusion makes Scott’s character dramatically more relatable.
The Sokovia Accords are still silly
Even though they’re a central premise of the Ant-Man film, the Sokovia Accords are still stupid. They basically only exist because they are permitted to exist by the heroes they purport to control. So they have to agree to be held by these terms that give them literally zero benefits. What happens if they all “strike” on the Sokovia Accords? What is the government going to do to keep them from doing that? There’s literally nothing that can be done with a united front. It was only the schism between voluntarily turning over their authority and keeping their freedom that allowed the Accords to be established in the first place. Are they now held in place by inertia alone?
So the idea that Ant-Man has been held under house arrest thanks to violating the Sokovia accords feels just a little bit silly. Are they really enforced by the FBI? Are the other heroes as vexed by the accord’s consequences, or is it just because Scott Lang is an ex-convict? That question isn’t really explored, but it’s also only interesting from a meta perspective. Devoting movie time to answering that question might be kind of dumb.
It’s a little hard to not see the Accords as a conflict generating machine, something put in place by the creators of the Marvel universe to allow conflict to be created. Without them, would the universe change materially? Not really. True, the events of Civil War would not have happened, but it’s not as if they were necessary or inevitable. Other dramatic events could have filled that movie, which could have been completely different. So the world is not dependent on the Sokovia accords in any way that movie-only viewers can get. So what’s their purpose outside of serving story motivation? It’s hard not to imagine the first person to propose the Sokovia Accords being laughed out of the room.
And before you say that you should read the comics, that’s not how movies work. They shouldn’t require research and reading. They should stand on their own as an independent work that is, at most, part of a continuous universe of other movies in the form of a cinematic universe or series.
A flick worth flicking
In the final analysis, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a highly enjoyable film that deserves the title of “romp” that’s broadly applied to so many films. It’s exciting, exotic, and just simply fun, with charming performances and amazing visual effects. The story is tight but lightweight, perfect for a summer blockbuster film.
If the film has flaws, which all films do, it’s the lack of a stable, appealing villain. Ghost is there, and Ghost is cool, especially from a visual effects perspective. Her visual effects work is awesome and well-integrated into the story and the visual universe.
But Ghost doesn’t feel like a known quantity. She feels like a bad guy that exists to create a movie, rather than a natural creation of the universe that inevitably falls into conflict with our protagonist. There’s more of a villain club in this movie, with a tree house worth of baddies working together to disrupt our heroes’ plans. It’s a minor gripe, but it impacts the power of the film as a whole.
The humor in the film is absolutely great. And after the gut punch of Infinity War, it’s completely necessary. It’s so great to see Paul Rudd playing with his daughter and bantering with other characters. Even the less comically capable actors put in a solid performance in comedic moments, and it makes the film far less weighty than recent Avengers fare.
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