Ant-Man and the Wasp: Epic Takes A Backseat, Family Shines
In time, you will know what it’s like to lose. To feel so desperate that you’re right. Yet to fail all the same. Dread it. Run from it. Destiny still arrives. Wait, is this not from Ant-Man and the Wasp?
Fans shocked at the conclusion of the recent Avengers film might find Ant-Man and the Wasp to be quite a departure from the currently-grim atmosphere of the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Director Edgar Wright – and eventually Peyton Reed – turned the film on its heel to create perhaps one of the most entertaining sequels to ever grace cinemas. The film also puts itself up to par as one of the funniest MCU films yet – but how does it compare with the first film?
Of course, whether or not fans will be satisfied as to just where Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) were throughout the entire “preventing-the-destruction-of-the-universe” debacle is not something that can be easily answered. The answer to that very question, however, proves that not all superheroes should always have the luxury of having a world that needs saving. Sometimes, superheroes still just have to make ends meet.
Here’s Rhenn from What’s A Geek! and his take on Marvel’s part-dad, part-ant, part-superhero Avenger.
Ant-Man And The Wasp: That Question…
When the Mad Titan did the iconic #ThanosSnap, fans did one of two things. The first most likely involved staring at their Infinity War Bingo Sheet and count which hero or villain have yet to meet their fate (and cry). The second will most likely be recalling that a certain little hero never made an appearance throughout Avengers: Infinity War. No, not Arrows McGee. Rather, where in the universe was Ant-Man?
Fans who needed answers will get them from Ant-Man and the Wasp. However, along with it comes a tale of saving not the universe, but rather a mother who made an ultimate sacrifice.
The Ant-Man sequel opens in what appears to be an MCU tradition. Imagine a big-budget film in the ‘80s that never came to be, featuring younger versions of the Ant-Man sequel’s senior cast. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) had quite the happy marriage – except when Van Dyne had to make the ultimate sacrifice during a mission and get trapped in the quantum realm forever. This backstory made itself known to fans as early as the first Ant-Man film. However, much to Hank and his daughter Hope’s surprise, Lang travels to – and back from – the quantum realm to save the day in the first film.
Power of love in Ant-Man aside, Hank theorized there might just be a way to get Janet back from the quantum realm. While Hank will Do Science to save his wife, it’s up to Ant-Man and the Wasp to make sure something quantum happens and the quantum rainbow should align with the stars in order for a quantum portal appear and save Janet from impending quantum doom. We promise there’s much Science in the premise – there’s just too much “quantum.”
Point is, there’s finally a plot.
(Quantum) Entangled, Sizable Problems
The Ant-Man sequel takes place two (2) years after Captain America: Civil War. Our Scott Lang will just have to wait three (3) more days before finally completing his house arrest sentence – the condition attached to the plea deal he’s signed after breaking the Sokovia Accords. You know, that incident where Captain America and friends have to fight Captain America’s other friends.
Unfortunately, Doing Science can’t wait as Lang, for the purpose of plot, serves as the final piece of the “puzzle” Hank and Hope need to save Janet from the quantum realm. The entire mission needs to be completed soon or else quantum schquantum will happen and trap Janet in the quantum realm forever. And the timetable for mission completion is of course three days.
More entanglements await Lang in the form of the unfortunate FBI (?) agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) assigned to keep tabs on Scott and his friends. And on their path is Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), an enigmatic figure, and Walton Goggins’ Sonny Burch, a businessman – both with their own individual agendas. Did we mention that Scott has a new security company with Luis (Michael Peña) and Lang’s other ex-con friends? And that company’s name is, you guessed it, X-CON?
On top of all this is Scott having to co-parent Cassie with Maggie (Judy Greer), his ex-wife.
Despite the rather… unusual nature of these “problems” in a superhero film, this encapsulates just what Lang thinks of himself throughout the entire experience. He’s sans super and sans hero – he’s just a father, and perhaps that’s what matters.
Epic Takes A Backseat, Awesome Takes The Wheel
Epic takes a backseat in Ant-Man and the Wasp. Fans who expected a robust and complex plot definitely did not see the first Ant-Man film. There’s no world-ending conflict because of a stray cosmic entity. There’s no planet-crashing, either, and certainly no universe-destroying villain. The Mad Titan himself didn’t seem to bother make his presence known throughout much of the film’s plot. One must wonder why they watched Ant-Man and the Wasp in the first place, if not for some form of a clue about the fate of the Avengers.
But that’s the point.
Reed uses the rather “questionable” status of Lang and Pym and the gang to propel Ant-Man and the Wasp to crazy proportions. Gone are complex narratives and surprising twists. Back are the antics, the hilarious quips, and stunning Pym Particle visuals, as expected from an Ant-Man film. In fact, Reed takes full advantage of the film’s rather benign and grounded nature to Science entire segments of Ant-Man and the Wasp. The results were a mix of Twilight Zone with a dash of crazy – just the way we like it.
Action sequences now found themselves in the realm of relevance. They’re no longer squeezed in for the sake of “getting one” out there. When fights happen, they happen to finally get the plot moving – quite literally, too.
Ant-Man still struggled to control his suit’s features, but the Wasp showcases her training in the remarkable use of her tech’s potential. Scenes with the Wasp in full combat were just nothing short of stunning. Even reveals on Ghost’s true nature, and Bill Foster’s (Laurence Fishburne) relationship with Hank, helped solidify characters beyond the expected “villain of the film” trope.
If anything, the stakes were high – and high stakes demanded kickass scenes and hard decisions, which the sequel delivered.
The Scott-Van Dyne Dynamic
Hope Van Dyne certainly got the spotlight in the second Ant-Man entry, though much to the mixed reception of fans. Hope got to be the heroine of the story, with Lang more of her sidekick she had to “drag” along. Whereas Lang remained well-intentioned and charming to a fault, Hope had a knack for the theatrics. Viewers could easily describe her as methodical but versatile, and certainly a thrill to watch.
This Scott-Hope dynamic drove the film to interesting heights. On the one hand, critics argued Hope’s hyper-competence and Lang’s, well, “lack” thereof, put the duo on a tight spot. After all, a trope such as the goofy male protagonist with a badass female trainer didn’t seem to be Marvel’s style. MCU fans got used to interesting twists and take on tropes, something the second Ant-Man film instead just showcased. One fatal flaw of the trope seems to be the tendency for hyper-competent protagonists to be too “badass” to be relatable. Hope certainly treaded the line but thankfully never crossed it.
On the other hand, the trope did seem to be one of the film’s greatest strengths. Protagonists don’t have to be involved in larger-than-life stories to have a challenge worth overcoming. There’s no overarching plot, no “dreaded final boss” to defeat, and certainly no universe to save. Ant-Man and the Wasp turned out to be the other superhero family action drama viewers didn’t know they wanted.
Unintentionally A Father’s Day Film
Eagle-eyed fans have perhaps noticed even before Guardians of the Galaxy 2 that the MCU had a rather… unique take on fatherhood. Interestingly, despite the July 4 release date, the Ant-Man sequel appears to be a perfect Father’s Day film. In fact, fathers and father figures took center stage more than ever in this Marvel flick.
For the past years, Marvel highlighted quite a ton of “bad dad decisions” – including Odin’s choice of hiding Hela’s existence to Loki and Thor (risking the universe), or even Thanos’ love-abuse dynamic with daughters Nebula and Gamora. Marvel did highlight its own set of father “figures” – Tony Stark’s yearning to be a father that he’s projected onto Peter Parker, or how Yondu and Rocket had interesting relationships with Star-Lord and Groot, respectively.
This time, Ant-Man and the Wasp takes viewers on the perspective of two fathers: Hank Pym and his relationship with Hope, and Scott’s relationship with Cassie. Unfortunately, not much can be highlighted given how intensely-paced the film was. However, looking at the subtleties in their interactions do put fathers in an interesting light.
Even throughout the first film, Hope had been quite the distant daughter to Hank because of Janet’s supposed death. It was only when Hank explained the, ah, quantum situation, that father and daughter started to rekindle their relationship. Despite their tension, Hope’s shrill display of both no-nonsense and playful arrogance towards her challenges reflected her own sentiments. It’s not uncommon for children to be the object of their parents’ frustrations. Whereas these normally end up with children resenting their parents, Hope and Hank seemed to have a bond much stronger than the first film. Family holds everything together – and Hank and Hope’s wishes to bring Janet back remains a pull that anchors audiences into the film.
Because there’s no one “perfect” way to be a parent.
Scott Lang: An Interesting Case Of Development
It didn’t seem as though growing Lang into a “super” “hero” was part of the film. The five credited screenwriters (which included Rudd himself, and Spider-Man: Homecoming and Lego Batman Movie duo Erik Sommers and Chris McKenna) kept to the “spirit” of the more “human” approach of the first Ant-Man entry.
Scott Lang didn’t seem to have this “spark” of “super” heroism with him – but this doesn’t mean he’s no hero. He’s by no means any anti-hero (oh gosh no), but he ain’t no “super” either. He’s a father who tries to get by – and even he struggles in this department. Lang didn’t have any bit of “Chosen One” in him that had to be “unlocked” throughout the course of the film.
One might say Scott’s vision of “fatherhood” is the opposite of Pym’s. Whereas Hank encouraged Hope to embrace her potential as a superheroine (through giving her an active role in helping with her mom’s rescue), Scott appeared to care more about giving Cassie the thrill of a normal childhood – despite knowing he’s Ant-Man. It’s one thing to say “my father’s a superhero,” but a completely different matter to have a father who’s actually one.
This might not be specifically mentioned in the film as a whole, but it’s interesting to note that Scott’s exposure to the Hank-Hope dynamic may have some impact to his relationship with Cassie, at least in terms of heroism. Would you, a father who knows the struggles of being “super,” really allow a daughter to follow in your footsteps? Would you, a father at risk of staying in prison, risk not seeing your daughter again to help others?
“If I allowed you to be my partner, I’d be a terrible father,” was his response, when Cassie asked him if she could be his Number One.
Different fathers, different philosophies.
Verdict: A Breath Of Fresh Air After #ThanosSnap
Ant-Man and the Wasp certainly didn’t become the “bridge” to connect the dots before Avengers 4. It appears Brie Larson may be having this responsibility in Captain Marvel, which fans will only get to see in 2019.
Still, Ant-Man and the Wasp undeniably put its foot down as perhaps the wildest of all MCU films to date – scientifically-speaking. This can be compared to the likes of Thor: Ragnarok, which led fans into a mesmerizing translation of Jack Kirby’s works into the big screen. Interesting comparisons could also be Guardians of the Galaxy, which first introduced fans into the cosmic side of the MCU. And who would forget Doctor Strange and its own tantalizing take on the strangeness of Marvel’s magical side?
Regardless of the rather… “grounded” nature of the film, the Ant-Man sequel is no pushover. If anything, Scott Lang was the film’s only noticeable pushover. Kidding aside, Ant-Man and the Wasp pushes concepts from the first time and propels them to their true potential. Gone are the senseless comedic fights and the rather up-and-down narrative in the first film. Hope takes the spotlight front and center, with Lang proving heroes don’t always need to take the wheel to make a change in someone’s life. Thrills and excitement aside, Ant-Man and the Wasp becomes quite the unexpected ride with its own unique take on “super” heroism, family, and fatherhood.