The Reelist is a column featuring Kristen Page-Kirby’s musings on movies. To read Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday’s review of “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” click here.
It’s been a tough year in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. The hero won in “Black Panther,” but that’s only if you believe that T’Challa was the hero and Killmonger was the villain. Then came “Avengers: Infinity War,” and that ending was, you know, not exactly a happy one. So the barrage of bad news that is 2018 has followed us into the MCU.
Here comes “Ant-Man and The Wasp,” the title of which lists the superheroes in alphabetical order, we have to presume, since she does more than he does to save the day. It’s a comfortable, comforting movie, and that starts with the plot. Our incredible shrinking/expanding hero, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), is under house arrest for appearing as an alternately teeny and huge member of Team Cap in “Captain America: Civil War.” The other half of the titular duo, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), has gone underground with her dad, an inventor and the original Ant-Man, to continue their itsy-bitsy research. Days before Lang’s punishment is over, a new villain who can go through walls, people and dimensions shows up. It does not speak well of the script that it took me more than a few seconds just now to remember the name of said villain (it’s Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen). Still, stay with me as I argue that this is the movie we need right now.
“Ant-Man and The Wasp” has many of the things — if not all of the things — that made 2015’s “Ant-Man” so enjoyable. There’s a lighthearted sensibility about it, particularly when it comes to Paul Rudd’s likability. The visuals are still there, too. Car chases are so fun when one or more of the vehicles involved can shrink and embiggen; returning director Peyton Reed knows this and plays it not only for humor, but for genuine excitement. It’s a formulaic superhero movie, although done very well.
The best thing that the Marvel-Disney behemoth has done is to allow the writers and directors of the more recent MCU films — let’s say from “Captain America: The Winter Soldier” on — to write and direct in styles that they are good at, that they are comfortable with and that fit the sensibilities of their star characters.
We probably have more tough times ahead — next spring brings the fourth Avengers movie. While no one knows exactly what will happen — even the cast members were given fake script pages and shot scenes that will never make it into the film to keep them from being able to spoil anything — it’s safe to assume that our heroes will pay a high price for any win they get.
Right now, we just need a break. That’s why boxing matches pause between rounds and aren’t just continuous pounding. So “Ant-Man and The Wasp” isn’t as serious and isn’t as good as “Black Panther.” That’s OK. It’s draining to repeatedly pick yourself up off the mat in the face of an evil that just won’t back down, and “Ant-Man and The Wasp” is a space where moviegoers can rest.
Sitting back, getting some water, taking a few deep breaths doesn’t mean the fight is over — it’s the only way to keep it going.
More Reelists from Kristen Page-Kirby