For perhaps the first time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, a supporting character and its subplot is more interesting than the title hero(es). Yes, Ant-Man and the Wasp, which features both Ant-Man and the Wasp, is much more engaging as a movie when it cuts away from its insect-based heroes and focuses on a supporting character whose quest to not die is filled with constant pain and difficult moral decisions … and is treated by the movie more as a throwaway villain than anything else. It also, tonally, doesn’t fit the rest of the film’s light nature.
But we’ll get there. The movie isn’t about her, after all. It’s about Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), and former thief Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) trying to rescue Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum realm. She’s been trapped there for three decades, but since Scott, as Ant-Man, was able to get there and back in the last movie, something previously unthinkable, Dr. Pym decides it’s time to try to rescue her.
That’s the main story we’re telling, anyway. Ant-Man and the Wasp has several subplots, like how Scott is still under house arrest and a silly FBI agent (Randall Park) keeps trying to catch him breaking that agreement. Or how Scott and Luis (Michael Peña) have started a security company and are trying to land a big client. Or the reappearance of one of Pym’s former colleagues (Laurence Fisburne). There’s a half-baked “contentious” relationship in this one between Lang and Hank/Hope. And, like I mentioned earlier, there’s the story of a woman (Hannah John-Kamen) who is in constant pain and is willing to do anything to find a cure—and she also has superpowers, by the way.
I don’t know about you guys, but the last one of those feels like the most important, intellectually and morally engaging, and simply entertaining. The side effect of her condition allows her to phase through matter, which functions as both a fun super power and a neat visual trick. The main story is fine—it lacks the character depth required to be much of an emotional experience, though, since the various subplots take away that time and focus—but I almost wish this subplot got an entire movie to itself.
What results is a movie that’s perfectly fine, a decent bit of fun, moderately funny, but unfocused and unable to live up to its potential. There are enough elements here to make something great—the attempt to reunite a husband/wife and daughter/mother is more than enough of a foundation on which to build a successful movie—but the final result is too cluttered to fully realize it. The characters are too bland to generate the emotion required for it to be effective.
Is Ant-Man and the Wasp a bad movie? No, it’s not. It’s a decently entertaining and moderately funny distraction. As a summer blockbuster, that’s usually enough. But it had the potential to be a lot more. It’s too unfocused and has too many subplots which take away from the story it’s trying to tell and the characters involved in it. It also has a much more interesting subplot that’s relegated to little more than a distraction for its protagonists—one that could lead its own movie and one that tonally doesn’t fit terribly well in this film. It’s not unenjoyable, but it lacks staying power and could have been so much better with more focus.
Conclusion: Ant-Man and the Wasp is a fun but disposable movie.
Recommendation: If you like the Marvel movies, you should see Ant-Man and the Wasp as an obligatory viewing at this point.