This article contains spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp and the wider MCU.
Less than a year before the MCU’s first solely female-led superhero outing in Captain Marvel and following hot on the heels of Avengers: Infinity War comes the strange anomaly Ant-Man and the Wasp, a film with few ties to the franchise that birthed it but that could ultimately provide a lot of key pieces of the puzzle going forward.
We pick up with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) almost two years after the events of Civil War, in which he responded to Sam Wilson’s call to arms in Germany. Apparently, this wasn’t exactly sanctioned by either the US government or the creator of the Ant-Man suit, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and the fallout means that Scott is now under house arrest and Pym is on the run along with daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly).
Just as Scott’s two years are almost up, he’s dragged back into the superhero game through the search for Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) and his role in Hank’s Quantum Realm breakthrough.
The strengths of the first Ant-Man are still here in spades: Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) – and Scott’s sweet relationship with her; the fun and imagination infused in what would be by-the-numbers action sequences in another film; and of course Michael Pena’s Luis. Hope’s upgrade to superhero is also of huge benefit to the film’s action, with the Wasp costume brilliantly realized.
On the other hand, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a film without a real villain. Ava Starr/Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) is a strange antagonist, coming off more tragic than the writers probably intended, and her backstory is not dissimilar to the Winter Soldier’s – taken in by SHIELD only to be trained as a human weapon. Ava is ultimately redeemed along with her “handler,” Dr. Foster (Laurence Fishburne), and so the bad guy role falls to Walton Goggins’ black-market criminal, Burch, and his goons.
This tonal strangeness does make for some fun moments, such as the slightly farcical tone of the final chase sequence in which everyone is after the lab for different, equally self-serving, reasons. And Burch’s non-superpowered threat gives Lang’s business partners Luis, Dave (Tip “T.I.” Harris), and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) something to contribute while the rest of the characters are dealing with larger Quantum matters.
The biggest problem with the film is its placement in the wider MCU, and how inessential it feels after the world-shattering events of Infinity War. This may improve in years to come when the trees can be considered outside of the woods, but for now it suffers far more than Captain Marvel because of a) its sequel status and, b) its setting in pre-Snap present day.
Then again, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a clue to the kinds of films Marvel will likely go back to after the gargantuan Avengers: Endgame bows – small-scale, largely unconnected, fun, and full of characters we’ve come to love.
Standout scene: The car chase sequence towards the end is top notch and deploys everything in the film’s “big things getting small and small things getting big” arsenal. A set-piece like this only works if the gags are better and cleverer than the audience can think up themselves, and the whole thing goes above and beyond in that arena. It works as a standard car chase while also knocking baddies off their bikes with a giant Hello Kitty Pez dispenser.
Best quip: “Do you guys just put the word Quantum in front of anything?” is a perfectly-pitched lampshade that basically handwaves any outlandish use of the Quantum Realm for the rest of the film, but top spot has to go to Luis’ recounting of Scott’s emotional journey while on truth serum, complete with his words coming out of the mouths of most of the cast.
First appearances: The big one here is Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne (aka the original Wasp), who is not only a big get for Marvel but whose existence has the potential to unlock the solution to the Avengers’ Thanos problem. Ava Starr and Bill Foster may be the other most notable introductions, even if it’s unclear whether we’ll ever see them again. They flesh out the history of Hank Pym and SHIELD, connecting this smaller tale to the wider universe. As one of the highlights of the film, it’s much more likely that FBI Agent Jimmy Woo will make another appearance.
So long, farewell: Possibly Ava and Bill Foster, but it remains to be seen what Marvel will do with an Ant-Man 3. The mission to collect healing particles for Ava was ultimately scuppered by Thanos, so that could be a thread that’s either ignored or picked up again post-Endgame. Burch is almost certainly in jail after being injected by Luis with truth serum.
It’s all connected: Fair to say that Ant-Man and the Wasp‘s biggest MCU connection is in the development of the Quantum Realm…
• It’s all speculation at this point, but it’s widely thought that Ant-Man and the Quantum Realm will be key to defeating Thanos in Endgame. There are certainly a lot of rules and backstory for the concept established in this film, and the groundwork has been done for the final Phase Three film to stick the word “Quantum” in front of whatever it wants.
• Scott’s ability to go super-size and turn into “Giant Man” was first seen in Captain America: Civil War‘s airport battle.
• Though Agent Woo appears to be a standard member of the FBI in this film, it’s revealed in Agents of SHIELD that he worked with Melinda May before SHIELD disbanded following the events of The Winter Soldier.
• The Quantum Realm was briefly glimpsed in Doctor Strange as one of the dimensions shown to Benedict Cumberbatch’s hero by the Ancient One.
Credit check: Unsurprisingly, with wider MCU events taking place between Civil War and this film, the mid and end-credits scenes are tasked with connecting the dots. The first establishes that Scott is in the Quantum Realm at the moment of the Snap and this, along with Janet’s throwaway mention of a “time vortex,” has launched a thousand fan theories since. It also reveals that Hope, Hank, and Janet were all victims of Thanos’ victory. In the final clip, a newscast announcing the dusting of half of the population can be heard.
Are you a fan of Ant-Man And The Wasp? Are there any other aspects of it that you love, or anything that we’ve missed? Let us know in the comments below!