Film review: Ant Man and the Wasp

NICK EICHER, HOST: Today is Friday, the 6th of July. Thank you for turning to WORLD Radio to help start your day.

Good morning. I’m Nick Eicher.

MARY REICHARD, HOST: And I’m Mary Reichard.  Another superhero film releases nationwide in theaters today. WORLD movie reviewer Megan Basham says Ant-Man and the Wasp is a great feel-good flick for the summer.

MEGAN BASHAM, ENTERTAINMENT EDITOR: We’re now 19 blockbusters into the Marvel movies. And part of what makes them so dominant in today’s film culture is they mostly offer individual tones and character traits—despite their many superheroes co-mingling in the same universe.

If earnest Captain America and Black Panther explore serious political debates, and bad-boy Thor can rock out with loopy, roguish humor then Ant-Man stands out for his small-scale, every-dad values. He’s actually the only headlining Marvel hero who is also a parent. Think of him as the George Bailey of the Avengers.

His first movie buzzed with a light, low-stakes wittiness bolstered by a worthwhile—if somewhat shallow—theme. The second follows the same pattern, and if it weren’t for a smattering of rare but noticeable bad language, Ant-Man and the Wasp would be the perfect superheroes to save the whole family from the summer heat for a couple of hours.

Scott Lang, played by the supremely likeable Paul Rudd, was always a good guy at heart. But in the first film, whenever difficulty arose, he tried to take the easy path out of financial and fatherly troubles.

AUDIO: The moment things get hard, you turn right back to crime. So what do you want from me? Scott I believe that everyone deserves a shot at redemption. Do you? I do. If you can help me I promise I can help you be with your daughter again. Now are you ready to redeem yourself? Absolutely.

Having conquered his criminal impulses by becoming the Ant-Man, we find now in his second outing that Scott still possesses a certain resistance to big government.  

AUDIO: I do some dumb things, and the people I love the most pay the price.

We catch up with him two years after Captain America: Civil War, where his decision to side with Cap against international regulation of the Avengers has cost him. He’s now determined to finish the sentence he received for violating the Sokovia accords, no matter what it costs him. It’s when he finds out how much it’s costing others that his resolve waivers.

AUDIO: Thanks to you we had to run. We’re still running. Let’s go.

It seems Dr. Hank Pym—played by Michael Douglas—and his daughter Hope are also on the run as a result of Scott’s actions. Now they have to buy their research tech from shady arms dealers rather than legit sources.

As rogue agents, Scott is the only person they can turn to for help rescuing Pym’s wife and Hope’s mother from the quantum zone where she disappeared.  

Further complicating matters is a mysterious figure known as “the ghost” who’s after Pym’s quantum invention for her own unexplained reasons.

AUDIO: Dr. Pym I actually heard what happened to you. You opened up the quantum realm. That’s when this crazy creep ghost who like walks through walls and stuff stole your tech.

If all this seems a little convoluted, don’t worry. The plot is just a rack for director Peyton Reed to spin all his colorful, crazy plates on. As Ant-Man himself quips, “Are you guys just putting the word quantum in front of everything?”

The real fun is watching the amazing shrinking set pieces and the romance building between Rudd and Evangeline Lilly as Hope—aka The Wasp—in a way that’s the more delightful because it’s limited to a couple kisses. In between, Scott’s crew of barely-reformed buddies keep the laughs rolling.

AUDIO: Who would have believed in your hour of need you would have turned to us? Because we robbed you. Remember? That’s us.

Perhaps it’s because Rudd himself co-wrote both films that the stories capitalize so well on the uniquely shlubby appeal of Ant-Man. He’s a guy who wants to drop an arrogant one-liner like Tony Stark but knows he won’t be able to pull it off. And we love him all the more for it.

AUDIO: I wish I could fight bad guys like you. I seem to mess it up almost every time.

What else we love: while there may be a lot of action, almost none of it is marred by dark imagery. Even the lone torture scene is hilarious.

AUDIO: What’s up with the fancy pastry? We’ve got to keep the food budget down…Guys, guys, we’ve got bigger fish to fry.

Without revealing any spoilers, Ant-Man and the Wasp takes a refreshing tack with its villain as well. No one’s trying to rule or destroy the world here. And in the end, our heroes find that it is kindness that will lead to repentance—an uplifting message for viewers of all ages.

For WORLD Radio, I’m Megan Basham.

(Disney/Marvel Studios via AP) This image released by Marvel Studios shows Evangeline Lilly, left, and Paul Rudd in a scene from “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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