This article previously appeared on Crossfader
ANT-MAN AND THE WASP is like most Marvel movies these days. If you saw and liked the last one, you’ll probably see and like this one well. It’s entertaining, and you likely won’t regret watching it. Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang has been under house arrest for the past two years since CAPTAIN AMERICA: CIVIL WAR, and is now returning to work with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) to find Hope’s long-lost mother (Michelle Pfeiffer). It’s particularly refreshing as the story takes place before the events of AVENGERS: INFINITY WAR, therefore backtracking to a simpler time in the Marvel Cinematic Universe where we can focus on smaller problems than the impending destruction of the entire universe. As with every Marvel movie, it does almost everything right, but have we reached a plateau as a result?
There’s not much use in complaining that Marvel movies are becoming tired and repetitive. The act of complaining about Marvel tropes is becoming a trope in and of itself. This seems to be the result of Marvel essentially becoming its own genre. Of course the superhero genre has already been a thing for decades, but Marvel on its own has developed such a distinct style that it can be deconstructed to base elements comparable to the western. A big argument about formulaic entertainment such as pop music and romantic comedies are that they are too predictable and polished. But whether or not an individual viewer enjoys that predictability is often beside the point. The structure is rooted in the genre and these forms of entertainment exist for people who value that repeated structure. The same goes for Marvel. You go see ANT-MAN AND THE WASP and you know Scott Lang is going to play the fool a whole lot of times but ultimately step up to every challenge. You know his squad of ex-cons (played by Michael Peña, T.I., and David Dastmalchian) are going to have some funny quips and bits. You know there’ll be romantic tension. You know there’ll be a big showdown.
If you came for thinly veiled jokes about male size, you will not be disappointed
But even the most seasoned superhero aficionado can’t know every move Marvel is going to make. It’s plain to see that they’ve mixed it up quite a bit. Because just when things get a little too same-y, Marvel does something to spice it up a bit—they give the people what they want. Since childhood I have oft heard complaints (and sometimes made some myself) about how tropey and repetitive superhero movies can be. There aren’t enough complex female leads. There aren’t enough people of color. The villains are too one-dimensional: too predictable, too intense and serious. The stakes are too high. The list goes on and on.
In the past few years, Marvel (and Disney in general) have attempted to right the wrongs. To put a new spin on things and address our concerns. And in many ways, it’s been a success. You want strong women and people of color? Here’s BLACK PANTHER! You want complex villains? Here’s Loki and Killmonger! You want funny? Guardians of the Galaxy! You want lower stakes and a more intimate story? Heeeeeere’s ANT-MAN AND THE WASP! DC has attempted to copy this pattern recently, with admittedly less success overall. But from WONDER WOMAN to THE LAST JEDI, the pattern of reclaiming stories of yore is front and center in contemporary Hollywood.
It’s like Marvel has bugs that crawl into my brain to harvest my complaints just so they can address them to make more perfect movies (alas, I now wish there was a movie out there about bugs that harvest thoughts). But despite the effort to make me laugh and cry, some slight giggles and a half-hearted “awww” is all ANT-MAN AND THE WASP seems to get out of me. As always, Marvel has succeeded in entertaining and introducing new ideas, but doesn’t take enough stylistic risks to push the viewers’ emotions to the edge. And this is not necessarily a bad thing, but if you’ve seen most or all Marvel movies, the formula might not be enough for you anymore.
90% of this movie is just visual gags about size, but then again, if this doesn’t make you smile you’re lying
As Marvel continues to keep it fresh by addressing these concerns, they are simultaneously perfecting their formula. And the formula is as clean as a new pair of Jordans at this point. We’re becoming spoiled children—we’ve had cupcakes for dinner one too many times and our tummies are starting to hurt. And we complain because we’re being pandered to and it drives an itch to rebel against it all (just as a spoiled child might do in their teen years). I have always enjoyed Marvel movies. Even with the growing superhero fatigue, for the most part I still very much enjoy the experience of going to see most of these movies upon release. But I wonder if ANT-MAN AND THE WASP signifies a breaking point. It was so well done and just so Marvel. To point out any issues I have feels redundant by now.
I will admit there are a lot of delightful moments in ANT-MAN AND THE WASP. It’s awesome to see seasoned actors like Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, and Laurence Fishburne having fun in a movie like this. Notably, Michael Peña shines in every scene he’s in, providing pretty much every moment that is most likely to get an audible laugh out of you. You get a tragic villain that you can sympathize with, Ghost, and the always anticipated mid-credits scene is certainly worth waiting for this time.
The movie is good, not great. I’m reaching the adolescent years of Marvel movie watching—the magic is fading and it’s getting a little harder to get excited about things. ANT-MAN AND THE WASP doesn’t do much to change my mind, and though it’s entertaining, it serves as a reminder of my ever-growing lukewarm feelings towards the MCU.