The Ant Man movies are arguably the lightest and least consequential of the Marvel movies. My cards on the table: that’s why I like them.
In Ant Man and the Wasp, the stakes are: if the goodies lose, it might result in the death of a character who thus far has only been seen in flashback.* And that’s it. Sure, it would be sad if she died, but Gotham City won’t burn, Wakanda won’t fall into chaos and Alderan won’t be destroyed.
The thing is, it’s enough. I get that superhero stories are often about huge, high-stakes conflicts with the fate of millions in the balance, but they don’t have to be. I remember comic stories in which if the villain wins, Batman will look kind of stupid, or Superman’s identity will be discovered by the person who’s least likely to tell, or Aunt flippin’ May will be somewhat inconvenienced. The Ant Man movies work in that sort of vein. And they work better for it. We aren’t supposed to want the heroes to win because of some dire, imaginary consequence for the heroes failing. We want the heroes to win because we like them.
So in a way, the stars of the movie aren’t the CG effects of the action scenes. The stars of the movie are the actual stars of the movie. Paul Rudd is not a great actor, but he’s pure charm. Evangaline Lily is a substantially better actor, and treads the line in making her Wasp both prickly and likeable. Michael Douglas makes a wonderful loveable curmudgeon, and the casting of Michelle Pfeiffer as the original Janet van Dyne is inspired. If anyone was wondering, “why should we even care what happened to this background character?” the answer is “because she’s played by Michelle Pfeiffer, dumbass.” And it is a perfect answer.
And then there’s the brilliant Michael Peña, who plays Luis — quite simply the best supporting character in any Marvel. Optimistic and talkative, he’s comedy relief but also a character prepared to go running headlong into a preposterously dangerous situation to help his friends. If any Marvel writer even thinks of harming Luis, I will personally assemble the Infinity Gauntlet and track you down.
Beyond the absurd likeability of the cast, there’s some very interesting decisions made about antagonists. There are so many of them – FBI agents, former SHIELD agents and regular gangsters, and it’s only the gangsters who are really ‘villains’. The main ‘big bad’ is actually just looking to survive and most of the other antagonists are just doing their best. There’s no over the top chest-thumping or big supervillain speeches, and that just adds
I can’t say that Ant Man and the Wasp is deep or insightful, but it’s fun. A fun movie with likeable stars and enjoyable set pieces. You could do a lot worse.