Why ‘Ant-Man and the Wasp’ Is an Even Better Film Than the Original

Ant-Man and the Wasp | Marvel Studios

Ant-Man and the Wasp is the clearest example in recent memory of a director taking criticism of his movie to heart when constructing its sequel. While 2015’s Ant-Man was highly entertaining, perhaps unexpectedly so, it was still a bit weighed down by a few issues that prevented it from reaching the heights of something like Guardians of the Galaxy. Ant-Man and the Wasp corrects a lot of those problems to deliver what is ultimately a much more satisfying experience and another big win in Marvel’s unbelievably consistent third phase.

After the jaw-dropping cliffhanger of Avengers: Infinity War, Marvel takes a step back and offers something completely different with their latest, Ant-Man and the Wasp, which actually takes place before Thanos unleashed his destruction upon the worldAfter violating the Sokovia Accords by participating in that whole civil war the Avengers had in 2016, Scott Pym is now under house arrest, and Hank and Hope Pym are on the run. Because Scott used their technology in Civil War, they technically violated the accords, too. But Hank has a new mission. Seeing as Scott proved that returning from the Quantum Realm is possible in the last movie, Hank hopes to journey there and rescue his wife, who disappeared when she went subatomic 30 years ago.

The biggest weakness of the original Ant-Man was definitely the film’s villain, Darren Cross. This was back when Marvel’s antagonists tended to be forgettable and one-dimensional in just about every movie, and that was undeniably true of Cross, a character who was so over the top and cartoonish that the film had to explain away his actions by saying that messing with the shrinking technology turned him crazy. In Phase 3, though, Marvel has clearly gone out of its way to correct this, giving us a string of antagonists who are not only more memorable but who have much more reasonable motivations that we can at times sympathize with, from Ego and The Vulture to Killmonger and even Thanos.

With Ant-Man and the Wasp, that string of superior villains continues. Without getting into spoilers, we don’t have another Darren Cross situation on our hands here. The villain in this second movie, Ghost, is compelling and unique with a fully developed backstory, and she’s played convincingly by Hannah John-Kamen. Near the end, some of her motivations get a bit muddled, and we can’t help but feel that Reed was just a few scenes away from making this character as strong as someone like Killmonger. Still, this is definitely a massive step up from the first film. Unfortunately, though, Walton Goggins is wasted as Sonny Burch, an antagonist with less screen time who never really amounts to anything worthwhile.

Ant-Man and the Wasp | Marvel Studios

One other issue with the original Ant-Man was how much the movie felt the need to shoehorn in connections to the broader Marvel Cinematic Universe. A detour to fight Sam Wilson in the middle ultimately feels a bit pointless, and these MCU tie-ins were reportedly part of the reason director Edgar Wright dropped out of the project. But Ant-Man and the Wasp is far more self-contained, closer in line to the movie Wright was probably hoping to make. There are naturally references made to the events of Civil War, seeing as those dramatically alter Scott’s life. But other than that, the rest of the MCU is not really a part of this film. The story has room to breathe on its own, and the movie is better for it.

Although the original Ant-Man was a lot of fun, it also did at times lean into genre trappings that we would hope a movie with such a wacky premise would break free of; the visuals and character moments are great, but the plot is just another origin story where a mustache-twirling villain wants to build the ultimate weapon because he’s evil. But Ant-Man and the Wasp is bursting at the seams with creativity, and the central plot is ultimately something we relate to emotionally way more than we did to the plot of the first film.

Speaking of creativity, as shown off in the trailers, Reed makes great use of the shrinking and growing technology all throughout, packing the movie with creative ideas that could not exist anywhere else. Barely five minutes will go by without Reed throwing out some new and imaginative concept, some big and some small. Whereas the first movie sometimes felt a bit restrained, Reed isn’t afraid to get wacky here, and it really works. This one also has tons more fun with the humor of shrinking and growing rather than just shrinking, and there’s one particular sequence that involves Scott being stuck at a comical size that brings the house down.

Finally, with the first Ant-Man, it was frustrating that Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Pym couldn’t get in on the action herself, although this was explained within the plot. This time, it’s so very gratifying to see her step up to the plate as Hope, although unfortunately, she never gets as an action scene as magnificent as her very first one, which takes place in a kitchen. Still, Lilly pulls off both the movie’s comedic and dramatic moments flawlessly, and this is undoubtedly a character who needs to be a part of the Avengers as the MCU continues on.

Ant-Man and the Wasp address the first film’s issues while at the same time doubling down on everything that we loved about it. In particular, the movie centers largely on Scott Pym’s relationship with his daughter, which worked the first time and is an even bigger hit here; these scenes are consistently adorable and help remind us what the stakes are for Scott amid all of this madness. But once again, Michael Peña steals the show and gets the movie’s best scene.

Ant-Man and the Wasp | Marvel Studios

The film isn’t perfect, though. In addition to Walton Goggins’ character being a bust, the final 20 minutes or so are a bit rushed. Certain developments just sort of happen near the end, and they don’t always feel earned or like they were given the time they deserved to resonate. In fact, the whole movie is maybe a bit too fast-paced for its own good. For a film that’s already a few minutes longer than the original, it really could have used even more time to allow certain moments to land much harder than they do.

Overall, though, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a delightful sequel from start to finish, one that boasts energetic action sequences, hilarious gags, and an emotional core that is a lot more moving than you might expect. By providing a more interesting villain, shedding most of its connections to the larger MCU, allowing itself to get a bit wilder and less constrained by genre trappings, and giving Evangeline Lilly more to do, the movie is ultimately superior to the original, and it’s difficult to imagine not leaving the theater with a smile on your face.

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