Ant-Man and The Wasp
Directed by Peyton Reed
The two (so far) Ant-Man movies are an interesting example of the inter-connectedness of the onscreen Marvel Comic Universe (MCU), in both good ways and bad (or at least limiting).
The first (reviewed briefly here) seemed like a light diversion from some of the heavier, more integrated films. Sure, it was connected and we were told that the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), worked with Howard Stark (Tony Stark/Iron Man’s father), but it mostly stood on its own. You could watch it, like light beach reading, without needing to know or remember all that had happened in the other MCU films.
The second has a somewhat similar tone, at least for much of its running length. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is approaching the end of a period of house arrest following his involvement in the events depicted in “Captain America: Civil War,” but nothing is really dependent on knowing or understanding what happened in that film, or the others that preceded it. It’s enough to know he’s in trouble with the law, confined, and being routinely monitored – and that these things make his attempts at being a good Dad even harder. This changes suddenly and significantly, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.
Whether or not you enjoy “Ant-Man and The Wasp” may depend on what you liked about “Ant-Man,” assuming that you did like it. And if you didn’t enjoy “Ant-Man” and intended to skip this one, but you’re invested in the rest of the MCU, too bad – because of that pesky inter-connectedness.
“Ant-Man” had multiple elements. At its core, there was the basic tiny superhero premise and all the gags and macro photography that went with it. Hank Pym, we were told, figured out how to change the distance between atoms and molecules, thus making things smaller (or bigger). The issue of preservation of mass was sidestepped a little, but worrying about mass in such lightweight (!) fare seemed churlish. There was also the seemingly thematically connected but really unrelated issue of ant-whispering, which was silly but amusing. And the separate problem of entering the “quantum world” by going even smaller, and sliding between molecules. This last part seemed less well reasoned, or at least less well explained other than “It’s dangerous and you might never come back!”
The problem, for me at least, with the second film is that it spends most of its time dealing with an expansion of that last element – the part I liked least about the first film. If you enjoyed that aspect of “Ant-Man,” then you’ll probably dig this – but I could have happily gone without another extended sequence of characters floating past microscopic particles, or in this case microscopic critters (tardigrades).
But this isn’t a stand-alone film. And that’s where we get back to the inter-connectedness of it all. Apparently, extended periods spent that tiny have an effect on one’s abilities – in ways that aren’t really known or explored yet. And we know, from “Avengers: Infinity War” that, at some point, somebody is going to need to challenge Thanos and his seemingly all-powerful Infinity Stones.
Which brings me back to the ending of “Ant-Man and The Wasp” – which suddenly requires knowledge of “Avengers: Infinity War,” to the likely point of head scratching confusion if you haven’t seen it. This is no longer the jaunty little side-trip of “Ant-Man,” this is now a link in a chain, pulling on what’s behind it, but also connected to what comes next – perhaps even more so than anything else we’ve seen so far. Not only is “Ant-Man and The Wasp” dependent on “Infinity War,” but the next, untitled Avengers outing is likely to be dependent on “Ant-Man and The Wasp.”
I was bothered by a few other things in “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” some at least somewhat inconsistent with the first. While the preservation of mass issue didn’t really matter all that much before (and needed to be set aside if a shrunken grown man was going to ride a flying ant), it matters more when people are shrinking and carrying a large building like carry-on luggage. And while we were told in the first film that a key part of shrinking a person safely is the helmet, in the second they’re shrinking and expanding without them. Similarly, whatever stopped Hank Pym from shrinking in the first film doesn’t stop him in the second.
By the end of the film, however – or maybe a few days later – I surprised myself by appreciating it more. Too much immersion in the quantum realm bothered me while it was happening, as did the other issues mentioned. But, as a small piece of the larger puzzle, and one which seems destined to be less insignificant than it once seemed, it’s growing on me. Keeping all of these pieces parallel and coherent is fascinating. But if they don’t put it to good use later, I may reverse myself, again.