Can Marvel Studios make it a hat-trick? Reviews for next month’s Ant-Man and The Wasp have started to appear, and it’s good news for Paul Rudd’s diminutive super-hero: The second outing in his own mini-franchise is apparently better than the first, with critics praising the addition of Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp to proceedings, and the lightness of touch from director Peyton Reed. Enough
Calling the movie “probably the most amusing film the company has made since the Kevin Feige reign began a decade ago,” The Hollywood Reporter’s Todd McCarthy praises director Peyton Reed along with the movie’s cast and special effects, and writes, “By Marvel standards, the film is reductionist in every way, and what’s at stake couldn’t be further from what lies in the balance at the conclusion of the studio’s recent mega-blockbuster Avengers: Infinity War. But therein lies most of its modest charm. Almost by necessity, it takes the low road, but its underdog status is embraced, even exulted in.”
That’s something that others noticed, too; as Empire’s Dan Jolin puts it, “There’s no getting away from the fact that Ant-Man And The Wasp, as fun as it is, lacks the sheer, mind-blowing heft of Infinity War. Or, for that matter, the scope and thematic muscle of Black Panther. Or the all-the-way-out-there, inventive deliriousness of Thor: Ragnarok. In this new era of Marvel over-achievement, it really does feel like a lesser work.”
But a fun lesser work, as the A/V Club’s Ignatiy Vishnevetsky argues. “While the aforementioned Thor: Ragnarok may be kookier, funnier, and more irreverent, Ant-Man And The Wasp is arguably even more of a straightforward comedy, to the point that it doesn’t even have a primary villain—only a secondary one, in the form of the gentleman sci-fi-tech black-marketeer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins),” he writes. “For better and worse, Ant-Man And The Wasp knows it’s small potatoes.”
That’s not necessarily a bad thing, however. In fact, it might even be the point, viewed from a certain angle. “No matter its uneven variables, Ant-Man and the Wasp remains satisfying in that slick, crowdpleasing sort of way that became Marvel’s hallmark, at least until the shocking finale of Infinity War,” argues IndieWire’s Eric Kohn. “That movie upended years of formula with a grim cliffhanger that left audiences reeling. Released just a few weeks later, Ant-Man and the Wasp practically feels like a mea culpa, or at least the opportunity to take a breath. At this point, no studio does a better job of giving the people what they want.”
Even as a lesser work, Ant-Man and The Wasp has its selling points, of course. Just listen to Richard Lawson from Vanity Fair. “The fun — and surprisingly not frustrating — thing is that the movie doesn’t much care that nothing in it makes sense, and is hip to the fact that a lot of people in the audience won’t care either. So it just zips and bounces along, merrily tossing this concept and that explanation into the mix, as it builds toward a climactic madcap dash through downtown San Francisco. Reed is more playful with the mechanics of his world this time around, more fluidly shrinking and enlarging his heroes to both comic and cool effect. If these people can shrink things, just let ’em shrink things, seems to be the thinking. And if they can make them bigger? Let ’em do that, too!”
At Refinery 29, Anne Cohen is thinking the same thing. “Director Peyton Reed deserves major credit for taking what could have been an absolute bonkers film (there are large ants performing engineering tasks — Spider-Man, do NOT get any ideas please, for my own personal sanity) and molding it into a fun, fast-paced and truly delightful caper.”
“The thrill of the film is watching Ant-Man and the Wasp team up and raise hell together. Rudd is a winning combination of sass and sincerity. And it’s a kick to watch Lilly break out and let her star shine. She hasn’t had a part this juicy since she played Kate Austen on Lost; her smarts and screen presence lift the movie over its rough spots,” raves Rolling Stone’s Peter Travers. “The secret of Ant-Man and The Wasp is that it works best when it doesn’t try so hard, when it lets charm trump excess and proves that less can be more even in the Marvel universe.”
The general consensus of the Ant-Man and The Wasp reviews en masse is that the movie is better than the first Ant-Man, is considerably lighter and more throwaway than recent Marvel fare — but that isn’t necessarily a bad thing — and that the special effects and comedy make it worth checking out. Not that everyone agrees, of course.
“One of the first Ant-Man’s strengths was its refusal to play the annoying stakes-raising game of most modern superhero films. Ant-Man and The Wasp tries to have it both ways. It keeps the conflicts relatively inconsequential, but piles them indifferently atop one another as if to reach a prescribed level of momentousness,” complains Bilge Ebiri of the Village Voice. “It’s disjointed, and cluttered, but it’s also entertaining in spurts. Is that enough? Just about, and not quite.”
Ant-Man and The Wasp opens July 6.