It’s somewhat fitting the entertaining but sometimes overly utilitarian Marvel Studios' Ant-Man and the Wasp is closing out the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s first 10 years.
It’s been a decade of “What if I told in 2007…” for Hollywood’s most reliable hit factory, arguably now the surest thing in modern film history.
Here’s one: What if I told you that a movie co-starring Scott Lang and character named HOPE Van Dyne will very likely out-gross a major Warner Bros. tentpole release starring Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, and the Flash worldwide, and maybe even domestically within the same 12 months?
That’s the Marvel world we’re now living in, and it should come as no surprise that even with a film that noticeably serves several masters, director Peyton Reed and Marvel Studios president Kevin Feige have been able to cull together a perfectly amiable and watchable entry into their catalog and keep this unprecedented winning streak alive.
Marvel’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, otherwise known to MCU fans as “Okay, So How Does Fit Into Avengers 4?” manages keep things moving light and fast enough like a ping pong ball so as not to call too much attention to the fact most of the film serves to set up the 2019 Avengers finale (?). This despite the fact that the said expected connection takes place (slight spoiler warning) after the initial credits role.
Yes, that’s right. It’s the first Marvel film that’s mostly a prequel to its own credit teaser. And better yet, that’s not really a bad thing.
It does feel like its pulling threads on different ends sometimes. It’s certainly intentionally a tonal respite from ending/cliffhanger of Avengers: Infinity War. It’s funny and goofy and the stakes aren’t too high and the villain isn’t a would-be reality conqueror. Paul Rudd anchors the mirth in his self-aware but easygoing way that makes him somewhat the sarcastic polar opposite of Robert Downey Jr. If Avengers 4 puts the two of them on screen together, you could easily see Scott Land wryly commenting on how hard the hyper-verbal Tony Stark works to be the cleverest guy in the Quinjet.
Its second function – a sequel to Captain America: Civil War – works a little less organically. You can sort of see the screenplay “notes” happen on the screen. Because they had to address Scott being a fugitive from the FBI, one plot device gets repeated three separate times, as FBI agent Jimmy Woo (the amusing Randall Park) races to Scott’s house to try to catch him violating his house arrest.
You might also lose count of the number of expository flashback sequences at no less than three, though when one is lensed through the hilariously unique (and unfiltered) POV of Michael Pena’s Luis, you can’t hold a grudge.
It’s third function, of course, is setting up plot elements to the next battle with Thanos, wrapped in the veneer of trying to rescue Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Realm, which gets a little too ‘Star Trek: TNG/we’re solve this problem through science jargon’ at times. It’ll be interesting someday to learn how much Marvel mapped this all out years ahead of time, though again Ant-Man and the Wasp does strain against its conjoining role at times.
Yet another function of the film is the elevation of a female hero to full-fledged in-title co-star. Reed and his screenwriters sagely allow Evangeline Lilly's the Wasp exude competence and confidence. If Marvel’s true plan is to soon achieve a 50/50 ratio of female to male stars … well … Newsarama says "Hear hear!" Or in a more ironically contemporary vernacular, "Dilly dilly!"
While April’s Infinity War served as a crowd confounder, Ant-Man and the Wasp is perhaps the MCU’s most naked summer crowd-pleaser, splicing Mrs. Doubtfire, What’s Up, Doc?, and Avengers 3.5 in a just good enough mish-mash further elevated by its inclusion in the MCU.
Which … and pardon the pun … is no small thing.