RECAP: Ant-Man and the Wasp
Ant-Man and the Wasp (2018): Peyton Reed
Marvel’s unlikeliest hit was Ant-Man, a superhero movie starring Paul Rudd in a shrinking suit. It was hard to imagine such a hero fitting into the Marvel Cinematic Universe of world-shifting heroes and villains, but Ant-Man found a way to entertain.
The sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, returns to check in on Scott Lang after the events of Avengers: Infinity War, the biggest movie yet in the 20-film-deep MCU. That made the movie must-see viewing.
ONE SENTENCE PLOT SUMMARY: With mere days to go until the end of his house arrest, Ant-Man and the Wasp try to find Wasp’s mother, long thought lost in the Quantum Zone.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is stuck in his San Francisco home. Two years of house arrest have not sapped his jovial nature or his parenting skills. In the first scene we see the lengths Scott has gone to entertain himself and his every-other-weekend daughter.
Scott has built an elaborate cardboard maze in an upstairs playroom, a mock vault to break into and out of, a place for his daughter to practice her skills. This fort is complete with a cardboard escape chute that flows down the stairs and out into the yard.
It’s a sweet setup, and it gives you an idea of Scott’s life in the two years after his imprisonment for siding with Captain America in Captain America: Civil War. Scott is one day from retirement, I mean, three days from release.
Scott’s played the drums, learned magic, mastered indoor basketball, and spent nearly two hours a day in the bathroom, all to keep from going back to prison for 20 years for violating house arrest. So it’s a big deal when he calls old friend and collaborator Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) to tell him that he had a dream about Pym’s long-missing wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) and wakes up to find himself outside his home, violating house arrest, with Janet’s and Hank’s daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) driving him in a Matchbox car.
Back in Ant-Man, Scott shrank to a subatomic level to save the day. Janet has been subatomic for about three decades, and Hank believes that Janet might have tagged Scott with a message when he was down there.
Ant-Man and the Wasp follows the Pym family and a befuddled Scott as they try to science their way to family reunion. That’s the sneaky part of the movie; it’s not really about Ant-Man. The hero is Hope, aka the Wasp.
Hope is the scientist of the two titular characters, and she’s eager to find her mother again. Many characters do much explaining, to which Scott laments, “Do you just put the word ‘quantum’ in front of everything?” He’s game to do what the scientists ask.
Hope understands the science AND knows how to fight. She’s received an upgraded Wasp suit similar to one her mother wore in the ’80s. It’s got wings and shoots shrink bullets. Her will to find her mother drives the movie. Scott just wants to serve out his sentence so he can stay out of prison. For Hope, the success of the quantum tunnel is life or death.
Lilly brings intensity to her role and leaves the flirtatiousness behind. She’s all business, a trait remarked upon by Luis (Michael Peña) in a funny montage of the titular characters’ relationship so far. Fierce and determined, she knows she’s in a comic book movie but leaves the comedy to Rudd.
Hope Van Dyne gets the lone solo fight scene, fighting both villains. She does most of the fighting. She leads the lone car chase. She saves Scott in the climax. This is Wasp’s movie.
Ant-Man and the Wasp has an awesome villain underused. Ava (Hannah-John-Kamen) is Ghost, a woman tortured with the world’s first case of molecular disequilibrium. Ghost first appears when fighting Wasp in a swanky French restaurant. She disappears in key moments dissimilarly from Wasp, in that she fades from place to place, like a blurry movie come to life.
Ghost captures the heroes partway through the movie and explains her motive. Long ago, her father was working on a quantum tunnel, much like the one the Pyms are trying to make. Something went wrong and her father and mother died, though she survived. For most of her life Ghost has been barely able to control her fading. Her cells reconstruct themselves each moment. She’s a walking Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle.
Ghost doesn’t have much to do. She lives in a cabin in the woods, like many specters and bugaboos, and sleeps inside a glass box that resembles a lighthouse lamp. This chamber and her suit help her control the molecular disequilibrium. Problem is, she’s got a few days to live. Her only possible cure lies with, or within, the quantum tunnel.
Aiding Ghost is former Pym associate Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne). Foster and Pym had a falling out (don’t they all fall out with Pym?). Foster’s spent much of his adult life trying to cure Ghost. He’s willing to do almost anything, but when Ghost is prepared to attack Scott’s daughter, he won’t allow it.
I didn’t follow Ghost’s motivation or how she was to save her own life. I did follow the supremely scary quartet of red eyes from her suit. It’s her coolest feature.
Ant-Man and the Wasp pulls its punches. Aside from the ending, there’s only one action scene. Early in the film, Hope visits a black market dealer named Sonny (Walton Goggins) to purchase the final piece she and Hank need to complete the quantum tunnel.
Sonny learns some things about Hope, some things like who she is and who her father is, and he doesn’t like learning those things. So he reneges on the deal, while choosing to keep Hope’s cash.
Hope, of course, dislikes that. She returns in the Wasp suit and fights. She bashes the first wave of guys using roundhouse kicks and elbows. Wasp also shows superior skill in shrinking and normalizing mid-attack. Wasp shrinks and flies around a chandelier as Sonny’s men shoot it to shreds. Then it’s into the kitchen.
Plenty of ways to die in a kitchen, but would you think a salt shaker one of them? Wasp shows another great piece of tech–resize bullets. Blasting from her wrists a la Spider-Man, Wasp fires, uh, things that shrink or embiggen items. She throws a salt shaker, shoots it to enlarge it, and it blocks a door. The goon carrying the tech piece runs into it and is knocked out.
These heroes can take a thousand hits, but a goon runs into a salt shaker and he’s out.
The other goons catch wind of Wasp and start throwing things at her. First a knife, then a potato masher. Wasp deftly dodges these items and fights back by kicking a flour bag and lighting a man’s arm on fire. She gets the piece of tech and is about to walk outside when a specter materializes and punches her.
Enter Ghost, and she’s a slippery one. Like, she slips through space-time, sort of. Wasp tries to punch Ghost, but that doesn’t work. Ghost lets the blows pass through as she’s phase shifting into different dimensions. Or something. Ant-Man enters on a flying ant and they try fighting Ghost together, to no avail.
Ghost is next seen in the van with Hank, where she’s shoved her ghost arm into Hank’s neck. She demands the shrunken lab sitting in the van and housing the quantum tunnel, and when someone has their arm inside your neck, you listen.
And that’s it. That’s the lone, short action sequence outside the clomax. That’s unusual for a Marvel movie.
The effects game is as stellar as usual. Many scenes occur in the quantum void, a place of, as Willy Wonka would say, pure imagination. The void shimmers and shakes, full of 256 colors vibrating randomly. Humans can walk on this surface. A pod can land on it. Don’t try to understand it.
Filmmakers dial back the shrunken-vision scenes, which I found the least interesting parts of Ant-Man. Instead we get a scene with child-sized Scott, which is as funny as it is creepy.
Hank Pym remains as salty as ever. He trusts only his daughter and, by necessity, Scott. He’s driven away everyone who he ever worked with, including Foster and Ghost’s father. He’s also a genius. Pym is Tony Stark with simpler facial hair and about 20 extra years.
Janet is the real story here, and she’s completely washed over. Janet returns from a generation of exile in the quantum zone, when she can touch people and heal them. What Could Jesus Do. Janet is the new Jesus, and all we know is that she can make her fingers glow and heal Ghost’s disease.
Janet claims that being in the quantum zone “changes you.” Yeah, but I was thinking it changes you in a disturbed psychological sense. Janet goes full healer, and not villain. Perhaps future movies will touch on her skill as Jesus 2.0?
Luis is back, and he has the movie’s funniest scene. Injected with truth serum, Luis answers questions fully and openly. Sonny asks Luis where Scott is, and Luis interprets the question as “Where is Scott, emotionally.” Well, he’s in a really tough place. Luis narrates the plot of Ant-Man, while the actors lip-sync his words in a montage, a la Drunk History on Comedy Central.
Luis also runs X-Con, his and Scott’s security company, while Scott is under house arrest. He’s worried about a big deal going down and needs Scott’s help to close it, because, the company is almost bankrupt under Luis’s guidance.
Luckily for Luis, he helps save Janet from permanent quantum entanglement and attacks Sonny on TV, landing X-Con dozens of new job offers.
The black market dealer Sonny is nearly the villain. Sonny’s got a contact at the FBI, who helps him steal the shrunken lab after Ghost stole it. Sonny is only in this game for money, and he wants to sell the quantum tunnel to black market bidders.
OK, I have no idea what Sonny wanted. He was there, he was mean to the heroes, and he drives a white Escalade. He’s to be mistrusted. It appears that I didn’t pay attention to this movie. I was too busy listening for fish references (see below).
Since this movie is light on action scenes, let’s start the climax early.
Ghost has stolen the lab, again, and re-embiggened it in a parking lot. One question no one asks: Why does the lab building have to be so big? The only people to use it are Hank and Hope, but it’s ten stories high.
Anyway, Ant-Man, Wasp, and Hank arrive ready to enact their plan to save Hope’s mom down in the quantum realm. And hey, here’s Luis as well. “Wazzup,” he says, like the Budweiser commercials from ancient times.
Ant-Man sets up outside the building, where Ghost spots him. Inside the lab is Hank, who, with the help of giant ants, herds Foster into an elevator and out of the building.
Ghost attacks Ant-Man by bashing his head into glass hard enough to make it crack. The glass, I mean. But that’s damn hard, and should have knocked him out. Ant-Man tries to shrink, but his regulator’s malfunctioning. He runs away from Ghost instead, who chases him by walking. Sure, walking through things, but still walking. Eventually she throws him into a wall. That’s when the lab disappears by shrinking. “Misdirection,” Ant-Man says, the first thing one learns at online magic university.
Hank is inside the quantum pod, deep in the quantum realm, where probability matrices collapse into spectral voids, causing quarks to warble along strings in seven dimensions. Most of that sentence I made up, but it’s not far from the dialogue in this movie. Meanwhile, the lab is inside the Mercedes van, which is being chased through San Francisco by Sonny and several of his goons.
Hope is at the wheel, and she delivers a getaway drive as if she’s practiced it for years. She shrinks the van to dodge a sideswipe, causing the offending SUV to collide with parked cars. She normalizes and shrinks again, this time beneath an SUV driving at the same speed. She normalizes the van, knocking the SUV into the air like a spring loaded ink pen clicking off. Much of this in tasteful slow motion.
She drives the van toward Lombard St., the world’s curviest block, which basically ends the chase. These drivers clearly don’t know San Francisco. The only danger to Hope are the bricks raining around them.
Ant-Man boards the van and drives as Hope leans out the back to fire shrink bullets at the motorcycles trailing behind. Ghost joins the fray, ghost jumping through an SUV to kick off a guy and take his wheels. Hope takes a PEZ dispenser and throws it into the road, embiggening it to knock off another bad biker.
Ghost boards the van and takes the lab. She leaps onto a neighboring flatbed truck and ejects its driver. Wasp and Ant-Man board the flatbed as the van crashes, and they battle Ghost for the lab, but it’s the trailing Sonny who gets the last laugh, by getting the lab in his white Escalade.
Ant-Man, meanwhile, becomes Giant Man again, without the ability to control it. He’s still on the flatbed, using it as a skateboard to chase Sonny, who he nearly catches after nudging the SUV aside. Sonny, carrying the lab, runs to Fisherman’s Wharf and boards a tourist ship. Ant-Man wonders how he got a ticket so fast.
Luis, back in the crashed van, finds the remote that controls the lab’s normalizing. Taking a car from the Matchbox set, he zaps to life what resembles a purple, flame-stickered Hyundai Veloster and peels out.
On the wharf waits Ant-Man for a ride on an ant, but gulls keep swooping in to eat them. Murderers. Birds care nothing about the quantum realm. Eventually he ends up in San Francisco Bay as a giant, and takes the lab from Sonny while poking him in the gut.
Giant Man passes out in the water because being big tires a man. Hope dives to save him, and does with little effort. They have time to chat, even though the movie is almost over and her parents are about to be lost forever in the quantum zone.
The lab has normalized on the street, thanks to Ghost’s efforts. She’s inside the lab and inside her lighthouse-style chamber, where’s she’s about to save her own life at the expense of Janet’s. I’ll be honest, I didn’t understand how harming Janet would help Ghost.
But she’s supposed to. Hank, down in the void, reunites with Janet, and they have a beautiful moment together. They wait for the lab to resize to return to the human level. I didn’t get that either. They could rise to a shrunken size and return to normal with the lab, right?
Inside the lab Ant-Man and Wasp find and fight Ghost, using a solid double team of shrinking and normalizing, a technique Wasp perfected. She lands many more blows against Ghost this time. Their fight is cut short when Hank’s shrink pod reappears. It nearly crushes Hope, but Ant-Man shows the first moment of fast-action enlarging-normalizing combination to snatch Hope to safety.
There’s another touching reunion with mother and daughter, but it’s interrupted by Ghost. She’s about to kill someone when Janet is like “hol’ up, lemme save you.” She touches Ghost’s head. Her fingers glow, and she cures the world’s only case of molecular disequilibrium.
And everything is fine. We expect Janet’s healing skills to show up in later films, because they are barely touched upon here.
Paul Rudd stars in Ant-Man and the Wasp, so of course it’s funny. Scott continues to name the flying ants, but he tones it down. We get Ulysses S. Gr-Ant and Ant-tonio Banderas as companions.
Scott also asks feuding scientists if they just put the word “quantum” in front of everything. There’s a valid question; the word was all over the script.
And are you tired of every villain explaining themselves in every Marvel movie to every hero? Well, it happens here, too, but in a funny way. Ghost ties up Scott, Hope, and Hank as she explains her life story and reveals that Foster’s helped her for decades.
Intimidation is important for the villains, but it’s hard to do that when Scott’s phone starts ringing. It’s his daughter calling, texting “911” to him. Now she’s trying to video chat. Foster and Ghost pause the intimidation so Scott can talk to his daughter. She needs to know where her soccer cleats are. That’s the emergency.
Scott doesn’t know and hangs up. He can’t give away that he’s not in his house under house arrest, because of the 20 years in prison thing. He hangs up, and the villains resume their dastardly explanations.
Plenty of other funny moments make Ant-Man Marvel’s second-funniest franchise, and funniest Earth-based franchise.
San Francisco serves as backdrop. I’ve seen plenty of movies in San Fran, but can’t think of another to venture to Lombard St. It’s the perfect location for Hope’s plans, to shrink her vehicle and easily navigate the twists and turns as the normal-sized cars crash into walls.
A nondescript cube building houses the Pym lab. This building is often shrunk to suitcase size and suitcase weight, complete with wheels and handle. I didn’t get why the building was so big.
The craziest settings, of course, occur at the atomic and subatomic levels. Attacking, lumbering microphages float toward Hank in his pod. Strings shake. Colors are everywhere. It looked cool.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is refreshingly light, especially on the tails of the world-destroying Avengers: Infinity War.
Another diverse cast behind a white male star in a Marvel movie. When will Marvel release a black-led movie? WHEN? Such a movie would probably make juuuuuuuust less than $700 million at the box office.
- Fish: there’s something in this movie about fish. There’s a whole to-do about the expression “landing a fish” between Scott and Luis. Later, Scott laments getting a garbage desk and uses another fish expression. We catch Sonny checking out an aquarium at the X-Con office, and later he runs to Fisherman’s Wharf. It’s almost as if Laurence FISHburne was cast for his name.
Summary (31/68): 46%
Ant-Man and the Wasp breathes like fresh air after a stuffy trip to a crowded movie theater to watch Infinity War. Despite it’s timing, the movie stands alone as a heist flick, where the heisters are being heisted. It’s a fun time to have, and I suspect the comedy will make this franchise more rewatchable than other Marvel hits.