Ant-Man and the Wasp Is The Perfect Follow-Up To Infinity War
To that end, Ant-Man and The Wasp follows up Avengers: Infinity War's fate-of-the-galaxy storyline (or, rather, runs alongside it - the obligatory post-credits bonus scene establishes that this film's day-long adventure has taken place either during or just prior to the big Avengers showdown) with a story that's even more personal-scale than its own predecessor. Sure, the original Ant-Man ended with Scott wrestling with Yellow-Jacket in his daughter's bedroom, but there was the fig-leaf of the conventional "bigger threat" that he was going to sell his cloned Pym Particle technology to HYDRA and threaten the world. The sequel makes no such attempt at suggesting a bigger, broader struggle at hand/ Scott, Hope and Hank are trying to rescue Janet - one person - from The Quantum Realm, and the device Ghost wants to activate in order to cure her dimensional-displacement injuries would render them unable to do this and might also cause Janet harm. Also, if Scott gets caught breaking his parole, he doesn't get to go free and spend more time with his family.
That's it - that's the entirety of the "stakes" in Ant-Man and The Wasp. Granted, because of the players involved the moment-to-moment stakes get blown-up for brief interludes because various characters are setting off explosions, shooting guns or staging car chases that endanger lives or cause citywide damage, but the fate of the planet is never resting on anyone's actions (or, if it is, it's only because the events of Avengers: Infinity War are playing out several countries and/or planets away.) As such, there's little need for soaring orchestral dirges, tumbling debris or sweeping pans of awestruck armies awaiting their doom to stir the audience emotion - instead, it's a more intimate affair, with the heavy lifting in the hands of the actors moreso than any quasi-operatic staging.
What Hank Pym Adds To The MCU
Surprisingly, it's Michael Douglas' Hank Pym who's ultimately tasked with pushing the hardest emotional buttons. The Ant-Man movies are comedies, first and foremost, and Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lily's co-lead roles are thus chiefly dedicated to joke-laden back-and-forth banter contrasting his cocky-goofball act with her all-business genuine action-heroine chops (as good as Rudd is at the material, it's endlessly refreshing to see Lily consistently "dress-down" the by now overly-familiar "Marvel bro" model of superhero). And while Douglas gets his zingers in as well - few actors of his generation are better at communicating disgust and disbelief at what they're putting up within a given situation - he's very much left to serve as the weathered, regret-filled soul of the production... and in some ways that makes his performance as fitting an echo to Avengers: Infinity War as the rest of the film's comedy is sorbet.
For all the talk of legacy and continuity in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Hank Pym is (thus far) the mega-franchise's only known "old" superhero; not counting Steve Rogers, who is technically in his 90s but physically still in his 20s, or Nick Fury, who isn't technically a superhero and whose actual age is unclear (Samuel L. Jackson is only four years younger than Michael Douglas). It's a stature that gives him a unique and so far fairly downbeat perspective on the genre, consumed with regret at having lived through the slow decline of S.H.I.E.L.D., the loss of post-WWII idealism, the death (he thought) of his wife and the subsequent breakdown of his family and business. Avengers: Infinity War ends with figures like Tony Stark sitting dumbstruck in the first moments of the first full-scale defeat of their superhero careers; Hank Pym is one version of where someone like Stark ends up after a lifetime of the same.
At their best, the MCU films have become the most successful and beloved superhero saga of their era - maybe of all time, at this point - because they've consistently connected the hugeness of their spectacle to the humanity of their characters: We come for the beautiful movie stars in colorful costumes leaping acrobatically in front of brightly-blazing explosions, but it's the way they feel like friends we care about, enemies we loathe, worlds we want to see saved and stories we care about the end to that keep us thinking about them long after we've forgotten the incidental details of other Summer blockbusters.
Ant-Man and The Wasp, obviously, offers a break from the apocalyptic bleakness of Avengers: Infinity War by giving Marvel fans a solid serving of jokes and size-changing stunts before it's time to leap back into whatever outer-space thrills await in Captain Marvel and eventually discover what happens after the instantaneous murder of half the universe in the yet-untitled Avengers 4. But by trimming the narrative itself down to a movie only about characters and relationships, the film ends up doing more than giving viewers room to catch their breath: it reminds us what these characters are supposed to be fighting for in the first place.
- Captain Marvel (2019) release date: Mar 08, 2019
- The Avengers 4 / Avengers: Endgame (2019) release date: Apr 26, 2019
- Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019) release date: Jul 05, 2019