While the film, Solo: A Star Wars Story has been received well overall, the criticism by those who have not liked it has been that it is a lightweight in comparison to the other more recent Star Wars films. “It does little to justify its reason for existence” one person described. If you have read my review of Solo you will know I rather enjoyed it. It was never meant to be a heavy film. It is basically a heist picture that is also an origins story for Solo and Chewy long before the Galactic Empire, Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker. That is all Solo was ever going to be. I make this comparison to Ant-Man and the Wasp. If ever there was a film that is a “lightweight” or “does little to justify is existence” in the Marvel films it is Ant-Man and the Wasp. That is not to say Ant-Man and the Wasp is a bad film. It is not. There is enough good stuff in this film for it to work but it is not nearly as entertaining as the first film.
As this latest film opens, Scott (Paul Rudd) has been sentenced to house arrest for his exploits on the runway in Germany in Captain America: Civil War hit the press. Only three days until his ankle bracelet comes off, Scott has gone to great lengths to entertain himself. One of the good things about this film is that there is still a strong relationship between Scott and his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) and the film wisely gives them both some very cute scenes together and it works. Both Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly) are mad at Scott for using the suit in Germany and don’t really want to talk to Scott. That all changes when Scott starts having dreams about Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) who is still stuck in the Quantum Realm which we heard about in the first Ant-Man film.
Janet, Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, still searching for a way back from the Quantum Realm but now has an instrument in Scott which sets up our sequel. Throw in a standard bad guy, Sonny Burch (Walton Coggins, largely wasted again in a thankless role) and a character named Ava or Ghost as she as her own suit like Ant-Man and the Wasp. Ghost has her own reasons for battling it out with Ant-Man and the Wasp, but as the film progresses I found her plight to be completely understandable which takes the element of something being at stake out of the picture. This was part of my problem with Ant-Man and the Wasp.
As in the first film, there was something at stake; a madman trying to sell this technology to the highest bidder and start a world war, eventually. Here, the plot seems to want to play it safe and Ant-Man and the Wasp comes across as an episode to a weekly TV series rather than a film. It still works for the most part although there are some very corny elements you will have to sit through, most notably with the actual ants. You will have see and judge for yourself if they work or not. They are clearly added for comic fodder but they didn’t work for me and came across as forced and a bit silly.
Also, as was the case in the first film, Luis (Michael Pena), Dave (Tip “T.I.” Harris) and Kurt (Dave Dastmalchian) return but are not given much to do except provide some attempts at humor, some of which doesn’t work. Only Michael Pena is given the meat of the comedy which he does well but these three characters and their screen time have been severely underwritten for this film, which is disappointing. In the first Ant-Man, they were an integral part of the plot and enhanced the film, here they seem to be an afterthought, almost. Laurence Fishburne as Bill, a former colleague of Hank’s, and Bill’s project with Ava or Ghost (both played by Hannah John-Kamen) is the main plot but once their plans are revealed the film loses its sense of mystery. So what little we see of the only real bad guy, Sonny Burch, he doesn’t appear to be that much of a threat.
The bulk of the rest of the film is filled with techno-babble about the Quantum Realm, the parts that Hank and Hope need to get someone back into the Quantum Realm and all of the exposition to describe it takes the wind out of the film. That is not to say I didn’t like Ant-Man and the Wasp. I still did. Paul Rudd is charming as always and his character of Scott is just a really good guy and a pleasure to watch. Evangeline Lilly is great as Hope and even more impressive as the Wasp. She could get her own film and it would sell very well. Michael Douglas seems ageless and brings the film some gravitas even when they are talking about the most ridiculous technical jargon. The action sequences and visuals of this film are all first rate.
Overall, I did enjoy Ant-Man and the Wasp despite the hiccups. This is a very light, frothy but still enjoyable film. Most people will have fun and I did have fun up to a point. Director Peyton Reed (who directed the first Ant-Man, as well) knows what audiences will be wanting and for the most part, delivers the goods. The script which was penned in part by Paul Rudd, himself as well as Erik Sommers, Chris McKenna, Andrew Barrer and Gabriel Ferrari seems to rely a little too much on goofy, cornball elements but still accomplishes what it needs to do; entertain. So the next time someone asks me how I would compare Solo and its relationship to the rest of the Star Wars films, I would say it does more than Ant-Man and the Wasp does. Ant-Man and the Wasp is fun, disposable and forgettable entertainment.
SPECIAL NOTE: There are two post credit scenes at the end credits of this film. The first one is very important and most people will want to stay for that one during the credits. The second one is after all of the credits and you can judge if it was worth the wait.
Ant-Man and the Wasp – *** out of 5
Ant-Man and the Wasp – Rated PG-13 for language comic book violence
Ant-Man and the Wasp – Run time is 120 minutes.