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Ant-man stands, victorious, with the Wasp by his side. He is dressed in a red power suit.

Competing with the seismic shock of Avengers: Infinity War or the indomitable triumph of Black Panther would put just about any movie at an unfair disadvantage, including the perfectly enjoyable Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is an airy, nimble piece of filmmaking:

Reed's confidence to unapologetically embrace weirdness gives the
franchise its distinctly playful spirit. His stars, Paul Rudd and Evangeline
Lilly, reprise their roles and further energize Marvel's most lovable
romance. And the action sequences, with their constant, dynamic
manipulation of size and scope, are as creative as they are thrilling.
Perhaps the single biggest criticism about 2015 's Ant-Man was
that it fell into the shopworn trope of pairing a semi-competent and
flawed male protagonist with a more talented and capable woman
sidekick. The sequel seems to have read the room, accepted the feedback,
and is determined to show us that all we need is Hope - which also
means showing us how vulnerable Lang is.
Ant-Man and the Wasp picks up after the events of Captain
America: Civil War. Lang, after teaming up with Cap's squad, finds
himself under house arrest following a knockout fight between Avengers
in Berlin that leaves everyone either on the run or at the mercy of the
government. As we learned (briefly) in Infinity War, he and Hawkeye
took house-arrest deals because they have families.
Meanwhile, Hope and her father Hank Pym are focusing on the
smallest of things: shrinking themselves to the Quantum Realm, the point
where objects become subatomic, in hopes of finding Hope's
mother/Hank's wife, Janet Van Dyne, who disappeared in the Quantum
Realm years earlier.
Free from her no-nonsense, blunt bob and the constraints of the
first movie's character dynamic, Hope does all the heavy lifting to find
her mother. She has to find the components to assemble the appropriate
Quantum Realm apparatus. She applies science behind the Quantum
Realm. She fights the mysterious villain who also has their eye on Janet

and the Quantum Realm. All the while, she's babysitting her still very
irritable father and Scott Lang.
The drawback is that the story, co-written by Chris McKenna,
Erik Sommers, Rudd, Andrew Barrer, and Gabriel Ferrari, is sometimes
more about purpose than it is about the people ... Hope is still a character
largely defined by her excellence, rather than a fully realized person who
happens to be excellent.
The film's gender dynamics aren't the only evolution Ant-Man
and the Wasp suggests for the MCU. It also suggests some fascinating
things about the future of superhero families.
Over the last few years, Marvel has become a bad dad factory.
These movies are just as much about overcoming these bad relationships
- abuse, even - as they are about saving the world; perhaps to some of
these heroes, they're one and the same. The aforementioned fathers have
all groomed their kids to be better versions of themselves, to be the
heroes they couldn't, in an effort to accomplish something they couldn't
do on their own.
Scott Lang doesn't do that with his daughter, Cassie (Abby
Ryder Fortson). He explains why in the movie, plainly stating to Hope
that leading Cassie into a life of heroism would make him a bad father.
Meanwhile, staring Scott right in the face is Hank, a father who
seems to have stepped right offMarvel's bad dad assembly line,
effectively turning his daughter into the solution and absolution he seeks
for his wife's disappearance. Hank is the dad that Scott never wants to
be, and that dynamic unlocks a deeper, messier emotional layer that
undercuts the zip and pop of the film.
The film doesn't tug on that thread too hard, though.
Yet that prickly view of fatherhood is what I kept coming back
to as the fizz of the movie faded away. And if (more like when) Ant-Man
and the Wasp return for another movie, I hope they're allowed out of
Marvel's holding pattern and get to explore what parenthood really
means in a superhero universe.
-Alex Abad-Santos, Vox 


December 2018
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