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While the condition has yet to be fully adopted within media academic spheres, rest assured that sequelitis is a legitimate concern. The condition is used to describe film sequels that attempt to one-up their predecessor by escalating the things that made the originals so great but ultimately failing to capture the heart of the previous instalment. Victims of this condition include films like Men in Black 2, Ghostbusters 2, Kick-Ass 2 and Spiderman 3. They all fell into the common trap of studios (mainly executives) believing that bigger means better, which is certainly not always the case. I’ll be honest, when I saw the trailer for Ant-Man and the Wasp I was a little nervous about the film suffering this condition.
I enjoyed the first film for what it was: a visually fun, heist comedy with comic book elements thrown into the mix. So to see the trailer have two leads, way more size bending visuals and a noticeably higher amount of action scenes filled me both equal part excitement and dread. Bottom line, I really hoped that director Peyton Reed wasn’t escalating for the sake of escalation. That being said, it is with great joy and relief that I pronounce that for this film bigger (and sometimes smaller) does mean better! This film builds on what fans loved about the first film in the series and takes it new heights and depths. In fact, I found the sequel to surpass the original for a number of reasons. So without further ado and restraint on spoilers, here’s why Ant-Man and the Wasp is better than Ant-Man.
Stronger Emotional Core
Much like the first film, Ant-Man and the Wasp is ultimately a film about family and reconciliation. The last film left off with Hank Pym and his daughter in a better place in terms of trust and Scott had finally earned the right to be part of his daughter’s life, Cassie. But there were still some loose ends that the film had yet to tie up, namely Hank’s wife and the original Wasp, Janet Van Dyne. Her disappearance into the quantum realm had left Hank a wreck of a man and Hope an unfulfilled adult. So when the two hear about Scott having visions of seeing Hope when he entered into the subatomic universe, they finally see an opportunity to rescue her and mend their broken family. Right from the get-go, it’s clear to see that Ant-Man and the Wasp isn’t too concerned about trying to set up stakes for the greater MCU like the first one with the villain selling a potential micro-superpower to HYDRA. This film takes a far more personal and intimate approach when it comes to the plot and the characters’ motivations are clear and relatable. They just want to be whole again.
A good chunk of the film is dedicated to fleshing out the characters’ familial history and backstory. Yes, even the villain here. Reed does not trade heart for spectacle here but rather intelligently weaves the theme throughout the film. When Scott and Hope are fighting the villain Ghost it’s because Hope is trying to remove any obstacle from seeing her mother again. Or when federal agents are alerted to Hank’s secret lab location, it’s due to Scott carelessly informing his best friend and business partner of its location so he can help Luis out with his business proposal. Pym’s former associate, Bill Fosters helps Ghost aka Ava steal Hank’s quantum tunnel to save his adoptive daughter’s life. Behind every one of the characters’ decisions and actions is a strong and very human emotional core. Nobody’s trying to save the world or stop Thanos, they’re just trying to do right by the people they love. And honestly, it lends a lot more emotional weight to the film that the first one because of its focus on family and relationships.
Better Chemistry Between Leads
Hands down the best part of the film were Evangeline Lilly as Hope and Paul Rudd as Scott Lang, or should I say the Ant-Man and the Wasp. I have to admit that whenever they on-screen fighting baddies while bantering and cracking jokes about each other, I did crack a smile or two. The chemistry between the two here is excellent. Understandably, Ant-Man didn’t have so much time or leeway to develop their relationship because it was busy introducing the audience to the rules and concepts of it diegesis. Here, however, the film forgoes much of the expository moments of the first film to build solid character dynamics. The conversations that they have with each other always has this hidden layer of romantic tension between the two. But like most relationships, this one is complicated. Hope wants to be with Scott but she feels like she can’t trust him after he stole her father’s suit to help Captain America in Civil War. And Scott loves her but is reluctant to enter back into her world of high flying science adventure because he’s under probation and doesn’t want to jeopardize his relationship with Cassie.
In the beginning, they both seem like they’re trying to keep at arm’s length from one another while at the same time they’re entertaining the prospect of being together. In a sense, both of them are learning to fall in love with each other all over again, all the while getting themselves into crazy antics and wild situations together. It makes for some pretty heartwarming and entertaining moments between the two. Personally, my favourite scene of the two was then both of them infiltrated into Cassie’s school to retrieve Scott’s suit. The witty remarks and retorts between the two made them both feel like an old married couple. But this dynamic isn’t just reflected in the way they talk to another. There was an impressive amount of coordination between the two when both of them took on Ghost after a black market deal gone bad. Credit to Lilly and Rudd for being able to bring such a likeable and kickass couple to life through their performances!
If you were worried that a more introspective and emotionally developed plot would halt the laughs here, don’t. The signature sense of humour that you’ve come to expect from Ant-Man is back and is just as funny as it’s ever been. What elevated the previous instalment from being another standard generic comedy or comic book film was the film’s many colourful characters and creative prop bits that will keep your belly aching from laughter. The film doesn’t settle for merely rehashing the same comedic beats of the first film. It utilizes the jokes of the previous film and gives it an extra twist that makes it feel inventive and new. For example, remember Michael Pena’s Luis and his long-winded and somewhat unreliable recap of events that include unnecessary details? It’s back but it’s amped up a degree when he’s forced injected with a dose of truth serum that makes him spill all sort of beans except the ones that the secondary villain Sonny needs. This situation becomes so frustrating even the Ghost has had it and she breaks out of the shadow to sternly extract the information from Luis.
Some of the most memorable moments from Ant-Man and the Wasp are the ones that play with the idea of size as a recurring bit throughout the film. Smart writing and great delivery from the supporting casts help prevent these long-running jokes from feeling stale or overplayed. Whether it’s Laurence Fishburne’s Bill Foster and Scott Lang’s double entendre discussion of “size comparison” or a giant ass ant pretending to be Scott on probation to fool the FBI, the film constantly switches up its methods of poking fun at the science of its universe. Everyone here looks like they’re having a ball which we clearly see in their performance. All the supporting cast members at least have one moment to strut their stuff and give us one laugh out loud scene. Unlike Deadpool 2, this fun that the whole family can enjoy.
Greater Visual Effects
You can’t see right now but I’m the VFX team a round of applause. They have definitely outdone themselves here, going above and beyond the entertaining sequences of Ant-Man. First off, the use of size manipulating technology in fight scenes here displays a level of fluidity and ingenuity that few films in the MCU have yet to reach, yes even you Doctor Strange. No one sequence is ever same, from Wasp enlarging a salt shaker to knock out a fleeing assailant to a rapid-fire brawl between Scott and Ghost inside of an abandoned building. The speed of these scenes and the seamless transition between minuscule and gargantuan is worthy of some props here people! I am now greatly interested in taking a look at the behind the scene footage of how they manage to bring the larger than life scenes in the film to life. Do they actually have a giant Pez dispenser just lying around in their prop set?
The true accomplishment of the VFX department is how they neatly and seamlessly integrate the size reappropriating technology with the everyday world around the characters. The novelty of how Hank treats his lab like a suitcase and keeps spare vehicles like a Hot Wheels collection never quite loses its charm. Beyond the more mundane setting of a giant ant infested suburban neighbourhood is the more trippier and shinier looking quantum universe. We’ve only gotten glimpses of it in the previous film but here, we get to see it in all of its glory. We get a tour of this new cosmic, subatomic part of the MCU via Hank Pym’s rescue voyage through the microverse. Gotta say man, I was tripping major donkey balls in those scenes. It never quite reaches the psychedelic heights of Doctor Strange or the grandeur of Asgard but rest assured, none of those places have giant water bears floating about in loose space.
A Better Villain
If you haven’t noticed by now, Hank Pym isn’t exactly the friendliest guy in the MCU. His arrogant and dismissive demeanour has in the past created enemies out of once close colleagues and friends. This time around is no different, the victim and villain here being Ava, a woman who blames Hank Pym for her father’s death. After being fired and discredited Pym, her father Elihas Starr tries to replicate Hank’s quantum technology only to have it blow up back in his face. All but her perished in the accident but she survived with an affliction that allows her to phase in and out of existence. A former coworker of Pym adopts her as his daughter and has helped her to control her abilities before SHIELD took her in and made her a weapon. But with the organization gone, she is dying and running out of options. So with the help of Foster, she aims to find a way to keep herself alive, by any means necessary
She is a far cry from the money hungry weapons dealer of the previous film. Keeping in tune with a more relatable approach of the film, her motivations throughout the film are fairly reasonable. All she’s ever wanted was to be a normal human being, free from her state of quantum instability. Though she acts like a ruthless assassin, at the heart of it all is just a scared girl trying to be normal again. I always believe that a good antagonist has the ability to make meaningful changes in the narrative. And in a rather heartwarming turn of events, Ava finds redemption and healing by way of Janet. Upon returning from the quantum realm, Janet temporarily cures Ava of her phasing before she flees the scene. Bill catches up with Ava, trying to let him help her. At first, she is hesitant but when Foster makes it clear that he refuses to give up her, she relents and agrees to follow him. In her redemption, Hank also finds a way to make up for the sins of his past by helping her find a permanent cure. This was a welcome breath of fresh air from gloom and doom of Infinity War. Ava finds hope to carry on and Hank becomes a better person. A happy ending for all…until it happens. Yea, that was a stinker.
If you’re looking for a fun, feel-good film this July, I recommend going out to theatres to check out Ant-Man and The Wasp. Peyton Reed has shown that he is no one trick pony and if he continues to helm the Marvel’s Ant-Man property, he counts on my support. I guess the old saying and that really cheesy 2009 pop rock song is right, after all, two is better than one!