There has been a recurring theme in Marvel’s latest offerings in that entertainment comes from conflict so having the films central characters at each others throats makes for good drama, therefore good entertainment. I also believe this is where Marvel has been making its significant blunders as of late. Conflict needs to be earned, there has to be a reason behind it and while films like Captain America: Civil War and Avengers : Infinity War seem to want us to believe these childlike squabbles between team members are important, they really aren’t.
I make this point because Ant-Man and the Wasp starts out with its characters fighting each other for good reason. Scott Lang’s actions in Civil War have created real conflict between him and the people in his world. This battle to reclaim this connection to those around him is meaningful and makes the final act a real jewel in a series of films that has been marred by formulaic, disappointing conclusions.
The sequel to Ant-Man finds Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) under house arrest following his antics in Germany with Captain America and the gang. While he waits for his eventual release he is forced into helping old friends Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) as they attempt to return to the quantum realm Scott barely escaped to rescue Hank’s wife.
Much like its predecessor Ant-Man and the Wasp is light-hearted fare, something that surprised many as this is the follow-up to Infinity War, a film that upended the Marvel Cinematic Universe. But would you really want an Ant-Man film to ease off the comedy. For me the film shines when its characters are riffing off of each other, making light of their at times dire situations. The odd couple routine of Scott and Hope is a new dynamic that brings much to the table.
Unlike the latest marvel films, this doesn’t need to connect to its counterparts, this is a film, pure and simple. It isn’t a chapter of some epic novel, it’s a love story pure and simple. The feeling that we can choose the most important person in our lives regardless of romantic feeling isn’t something you would expect from Marvel or even a superhero movie but here we are, watching a film about a shrinking man discussing the difference between love and partnership.
It isn’t deep existential storytelling but it does force you to look inside yourself more than the average action flick. More than that it makes you look at the other heroes that populate the Marvel Universe. Scott might not be the most serious or the one you expect to have the big moment but he might just be the most human of the bunch. His struggles are compelling because of how small they are. Captain America is just expected to do the right thing, it isn’t a difficult decision for him, he isn’t consumed by indecision, he just dives right in. Scott grapples with his actions and their consequences and watching him contemplate them is captivating.
Part of the reason Civil War fell flat in my eyes is this jump right in attitude not only made Cap moronic but emotionless. Our decisions define us but most of all, they define the world around us. Films like Cloud Atlas with their grand ideas that our actions lead into others lives in unexpected ways is true and Cap doesn’t seem to grasp that his do-good antics have real world consequences. Scott does and that makes him admirable. He might fail but he learns from it.
This oddly enough brings me back to this idea of partnership. Hope and Scott are two sides of a coin, completely different but connected and Director Peyton Reed sees the value in having these two people interlinked. Hope’s rougher edges are dulled by Scott’s laissez faire attitude and Scott learns the value in taking things seriously in reverse. It might not be monumental in its character development or in its links to the MCU as a whole but it’s a complete story and an important one at that.
All that however would mean nothing if the film wasn’t good and thankfully it is. Filled with some superb physical comedy and a cast more than up for a laugh, it carries over what worked in the first film and ditches the rest. In short this is one of Marvel’s best because it doesn’t try so hard to be part of the big picture, it really just wants its characters and the audience by extension to have a little fun.