This will be a thematic review of the Marvel Studio’s film Ant-Man And The Wasp. First I am going to make some general comments, but everything below the “read more” link will contain spoilers. Although I usually try to make reviews spoiler-free, in this case some of the themes I will be discussing directly relate to significant plot events.
Got it? You have been warned and “When you are warned, you must listen”. (No one ever catches that reference…)
Okay, general notes. The film is fun, face-paced, stylish, and exciting. It is a good popcorn movie, full of humor (stuff that made me laugh, and I’m a total grump at comedies) a few edge-of-your-seat sequences, and some heartwarming stuff.
This film has all of what I like best about the Marvel product–eye-popping visuals, snappy dialogue, fast action, great visual design. Highly recommended.
Now for the thematic part–spoilers beyond this cut:
This is a film that explores the special relationship between fathers and daughters. There are three such pairs in the cast; Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) and his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson, who turns in a wonderful performance), Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), and Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) and his daughter (adopted, but the relationship is still the same) Ava (Hannah John-Kamen).
As the film opens Scott is playing with his daughter in an elaborate cardboard maze he has constructed in his house, built, we learn, to compensate for the fact that he is on house arrest due to the events of Captain America: Civil War.
It’s a cute scene, but it sets up a powerful message–Scott takes his obligations to his daughter very seriously, even if it’s as simple as finding a way to entertain her without being able to leave his house. He’s managing his struggling small business the same way, having his employees visit him at home and take his designs to their clients.
Scott has also given up being Ant-Man because he won’t risk being arrested again and seperated from her. Cassie lives with Scott’s ex-wife and her new husband (and, as an aside, the relationship between the exes, while occasionally awkward, is refreshingly non-pathological.)
Then we are introduced to Hank and Hope, and the theme is repeated. Those two are on the run from the law and in hiding. Hank follows the standard Marvel Genius Scientist template–arrogant and sarcastic, unable to work well in a team. (Douglas brings a snippiness to the role that is delightful to watch–I do hope he gets a chance to work with Downey’s Tony Stark in an upcoming film–they would be great together.)
Hope, being an adult, has a different relationship with her father than Cassie does. Hank treats her as an adult, and almost a scientific peer. He accepts her taking necessary risks, although he does all he can to keep her safe. Hank’s little girl is the Wasp, a superhero, and he respects her on that basis. He also is willing to respect her relationship with Scott as her choice, although he clearly thinks Scott is a bit of an idiot. (To be fair, Scott is a bit of an idiot, although a loveable one.)
The relationship between Bill Foster and his adopted daughter Ava is a more troubled one, due to Ava having a medical condition that causes her chronic pain and is potentially fatal. Fishburne is an actor with serious dramatic chops, and he plays Bill with understated intensity. You can see his anger and frustration at being unable to cure Ava. At the same time he is as concerned with her moral instruction as her physical health, telling her at one point that he will not help her further if she kidnaps Scott’s daughter Cassie.
The three father/daughter relationships make this film work. They are different because of the different stages of life involve–Cassie is a child, Hope is an adult, Ava is an adult, but also in need of special care. The fathers are all strong characters, taking responsibility for their children and doing what is needed to protect and care for them.
In an era where fathers are nearly always seen as abusive, incompetent, neglectful, or all three, this movie is a refreshing change. It is a real feelgood film.