‘Ant-Man and The Wasp’ Makes You Their Mission

Hank Pym and Scott Lang are a couple of fathers desperate to live up to their daughters’ heroism.
Ant Man
Marvel Studios
By  · Published on April 23rd, 2019

Only the Marvel Cinematic Universe would have the brass to drop two prequel movies after the devastating cliffhanger atrocity that was Avengers: Infinity War. Who the hell do they think they are? Lost? Thanos wins, please enjoy a flashback to a happier time when our heroes couldn’t be contained in a Ziploc bag.

Peyton Reed is the director Kevin Feige calls upon when the franchise needs a boost of enthusiasm. The original Ant-Man cleansed our palate post-Age of Ultron, and we were looking for a repeat. We require frequent reminders/reasons to continue with these neverending Disney phases beyond our instinctual need to know what comes next. The fate of the universe makes for a grand splash page of action, but if we don’t care about the people who populate it, then there is no point.

Ant-Man and the Wasp puts faces to the faceless. The citizens dodging debris as The Avengers clash with the Chitauri are Maggie (Judy Greer), Paxton (Bobby Cannavale), Luis (Michael Peña) and Dave (TipT.I.” Harris). They’re schmoes attempting to raise a family or get their business off the ground while psychotic robots transform cities into meteorites. We don’t have time for them in already overstuffed three-hour superhero epics, but it is essential that we make space for them during the cataclysm recess. Here is our Seinfeld with capes, and it’s about as close to an ants-eye view of the MCU as we’re going to get. Your comic book counterpart is not Black Widow or even Ant-Man, it’s Kurt (David Dastmalchian).

Captain America knows we’re out there bumbling about in our daily routine, but the mug he’s saving does not belong to you but the Winter Soldier next to him. Ant-Man and the Wasp have family; that’s their mission. Hawkeye gets it.

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The film opens with a father explaining his greatest failing. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) confesses, “I still think about the night your mother and I had to leave you.” He enjoyed playing hero for S.H.I.E.L.D. Better yet, he enjoyed playing hero with his wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer). Together they thwarted diabolical dictators and various madmen hellbent on global domination. When a sacrifice was required, and Janet beat Hank to the punch, he was left with a terrible responsibility. His genius birthed his child’s misery. He extended that sin by shielding her from his crime and disappearing into his work.

Along comes Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), a father with his own misguided behavior, to expose such overzealous protection as mistrust and free Hank of his poisonous relationship with his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly). Scott is a buffoon and probably had no business donning the Ant-Man suit in the first place, but as far as patsies went, he turned out to be a pleasant surprise. The first Ant-Man healed the division between Hank and Hope, but now the sequel has to clarify why they still need Scott around when The Wasp is so much better at kicking ass.

The central thrust of the narrative is the betrayal Scott committed in Captain America: Civil War when he flew off to Germany to punch it out with The Avengers. His previous encounter with The Falcon positioned Scott in the eyes of the superhero community as a more important figure than he actually is. Guys, he’s just a dude with access to a cool suit. While he was getting chummy with Cap, Hank and Hope received targets on their back as well. Scott cuts a deal with the government, accepting two years of house arrest, but Hank and Hope must go on the run if they’re ever going to break back into the Quantum Realm and retrieve Janet from her Microverse prison.

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Scott remains necessary to the overall MCU mythology because of his connection to the Quantum Realm. In his battle with Yellow Jacket, he pulled a Janet and went subatomic. He succeeded where she failed to free herself. Scott jammed one of Hank’s Pym Particle Discs into his suit’s regulator which gave him extra oompf to re-enlarge into our world. His time below created a psychic link with Janet. Hank and Hope exploit that link to fish Janet out from the Quantum Realm, and that means busting Scott free from his house arrest just a few days before it expires.

Yes, there are bad guys to circumvent. Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) is a black market technology dealer who fancies himself a bit of a gangster. He’s happy to sell to Hope until he learns her identity and then figures Hank’s quantum research is more valuable than anything else. There is also the appearance of the Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who suffers from Molecular Disequilibrium which allows her to phase through walls but also causes chronic, agonizing pain. She believes that she can unburden herself by lethally stripping Janet of quantum energy. Both antagonists are just speedbumps compared to the genuine threat to the Lang and Pym families.

Hank and Hope risk everything to rescue Janet. Scott wants to help in that effort, but in doing so, he threatens his relationship with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). In a superhero movie where the tensest bits usually hang on the battles between the black and white good and bad, Ant-Man and The Wasp finds the height of its narrative anxiety when the FBI are closest to discovering Scott’s deception. In Peyton Reed’s tiny corner of the MCU, fathers failing daughters is the greatest felony that can be committed. You ask for genuine stakes in the Marvel Universe; here you go. Thanos snaps are devastating, but disappointing the one person in this world that idolizes you is an altogether different kind of crushing defeat.

The responsibility of Ant-Man and the Wasp is to remind audiences of the joy comic book adventures should contain and that Marvel heroes are ultimately fighting for the defenseless little guy. The MCU survives because it knows when to pull back from the apocalyptic brink. If all they had in their deck were traumatic brawls like Avengers: Infinity War and Avengers: Endgame, then they’d drown in miserable muck a la the first stage of the DC Extended Universe. Scott Lang’s greatest superpower is Cassie. He knows he’s the weakest link in the chain, but he’ll be damned if he breaks and permits any harm to befall her.

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What Ant-Man and The Wasp Contribute to the MCU:

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What Ant-Man and The Wasp Withholds from the MCU:

Further Reading:

The Irredeemable Ant-Man by Robert Kirkman and Phil Hester – From the co-creator of The Walking Dead! If Hank Pym thought Scott Lang was a troublesome Ant-Man, then Eric O’Grady would cause his blood to boil. When this low-level S.H.I.E.L.D. agent steals the Ant-Man suit, Eric uses its abilities for personal gain. The character is as hilarious as he is despicable, and Kirkman enjoys injecting Eric’s tiny influence into a few key Marvel events including the formation of The Mighty Avengers as well as World War Hulk. Eric is a scumbag and your enjoyment of the tale will only go as far as how much you tolerate his antics, but if you jive with his wavelength, then you’ll have plenty of sophomoric fun.

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Brad Gullickson is a Weekly Columnist for Film School Rejects and Senior Curator for One Perfect Shot. When not rambling about movies here, he's rambling about comics as the co-host of Comic Book Couples Counseling. Hunt him down on Twitter: @MouthDork. (He/Him)