The latest entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a fun romp that balances out the grim Avengers: Infinity War, delivers fun in spades. But it also contains some interesting, if passing, ruminations on pride and its impact on relationships.
Like all good sequels, Ant-Man and the Wasp builds upon its foundation, rather than finding a way to recreate it (I’m looking at you, National Treasure). With the relationship of Scott and Hope firmly established through the first film, the sequel combines Scott’s existing relationships with consequences from his involvement in Captain America: Civil War, and the resulting rift between him and his superhero-ish friends. They begin the film estranged (even though we know they won’t stay that way), while Scott’s relationship with his daughter is never threatened, and never does he consider going back to a life of crime.
Instead of those personal elements that form Scott’s arc in the original Ant-Man, the film moves on largely to the tension between Hank Pym’s pride and virtue. While few would dispute the good he’s done both as the original Ant-Man and as Scott’s mentor(-ish), more demons from his past crop up, and directly contribute to the development of the film’s villain, Ghost. While we’re all in for Hank’s search for his wife (and implicitly Scott’s journey to win back Hope’s trust), it’s hard not to feel empathy for Ghost, whose superpower is more a disability. She phases between different dimensions, allowing her to walk through walls and do other crazy physics-ish stuff, but the state of her body is killing her. We end up finding out that this was part of a lab accident on the part of her desperate father, who may or may not have deserved getting canned by Hank. The film reserves her more gray moral decisions for the end of the film, and she remains a sympathetic character – even if a villain – until the film’s end.
The price of pride – which is never quite brought to its full potential, but remains an interesting theme – is easily the strongest part of the film. What the film doesn’t provide through thematic development, however, it delivers with sheer fun. While not quite as funny as its predecessor, Michael Pena continues to deliver more than his fair share of laughs, as does the police officer following Scott, in a great-if-small supporting performance by Randall Park. The film also uses its size-changing technology to great effect, especially in the film’s car chase scenes, which may contain some of my favorite action sequences in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. This is, for both better and worse, the part of the film that will stick out the most.
There is a small element of disappointment here for me, because I think the concept of pride and its impact on relationships could have been expanded to play a greater role in the film. But the film being what it is – an action/comedy with a tun of fun and moderate character development – has excellent execution. It’s hard to deny the film’s entertainment value, and it continues a very strong showing for Marvel in 2018.