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5 best and 5 worst things about Ant-Man and the Wasp

With Ant-Man and the Waspthe Marvel Cinematic Universe is officially 20 films deep — and showing no signs of slowing down. It's a breezy, fun superhero adventure that serves as a great palate cleanser in the wake of all of the nonstop death in Avengers: Infinity War. Ant-Man is a pretty goofy concept for a superhero, so much like the previous film the character headlined, this one leans into that inherent camp with all its might — and serves as a refreshing change for viewers who may have found themselves growing weary of superhero movies built on increasingly apocalyptic stakes. It also features the proper MCU debut of Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet van Dyne, the original Wasp, a welcome addition to the franchise. There's a lot to like in the film, but it's definitely not without its flaws, so we're here to take a look at what worked…and what might have worked a little better. These are the five best and five worst things about Ant-Man and the Wasp

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Best: Dad of the year

At its core, Ant-Man is the story of Scott Lang, a normal guy who wants more than anything to be able to provide for his daughter Cassie. By the time the film concludes, he's finally in a place where it looks like he'll be able to be the dad she deserves. It's a great ending, more triumphant than a victory in any bombastic superhero movie battle; unfortunately for Scott, his excursion to Germany to aid Team Cap in Captain America: Civil War lands him in hot water. Ant-Man and the Wasp sees him grappling with the ramifications of that choice — including two years of house arrest — and how they affect his daughter.

A plot like this crumbles if the performers playing the father and daughter don't click onscreen. Luckily, the chemistry between Paul Rudd and Abby Ryder Fortson, who plays Cassie, is exceptional. The two have a killer back and forth in this film, with Ryder Fortson trading quips with Rudd like a seasoned professional. It's almost hard to believe the two aren't actually father and daughter in real life, and with a relationship this strong to anchor the film, everything else comes together.

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Worst: Previously on Ant-Man...

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a sequel to Ant-Man as well as Captain America: Civil War. There's a lot of story to fill viewers in on. Still, one of the understated high points of the MCU is how well these films incorporate exposition into their scripts. If we get gratuitous info dumps, they tend to be done so seamlessly that we hardly realize they're happening. Ant-Man and the Wasp remembers to include informative exposition, but unfortunately forgets to make it entertaining or subtle.

The first several minutes of the film are bogged down by clumsy exposition. From Hank and Hope sitting down to hash out what might as well be a TV-style "Last Week On Ant-Man" segment to Randall Park's Agent Jimmy Woo rehashing the plot of Civil War and Age of Ultron for Scott's daughter, it's lazy stuff from a writing team that, based on the rest of the film, is clearly capable of better.

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Best: Ghost is anything but transparent

For years, the MCU's biggest problem was a lack of compelling villains, but the writers have stepped up their game significantly. Antagonists like Spider-Man: Homecoming's Vulture and Black Panther's Killmonger are some of the best in the franchise, making for engaging superheroics that carry a real emotional weight. When it comes to Ant-Man and the Wasp's big bad, the track record is still intact.

Ghost doesn't even seem to realize she's a villain, and that's because her motivation is pretty simple: survive. Her quantum powers are tearing her body apart, and she doesn't have long to live. The only reason we perceive her as the villain of the story is because her needs stand in opposition to those of Scott, Hope van Dyne, and Hank Pym — specifically because they risk the death of Janet van Dyne. Even then, Ghost has no idea who Janet is, so it's understandable that she's somewhat callous about the former Wasp's fate. In putting our heroes up against a villain whose goal isn't world domination but simple survival, the film feels fresh and distinct from the 19 MCU outings that precede it.

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Worst: They can't all be winners

On the other hand, Ant-Man and the Wasp isn't entirely free of the MCU's long-running villain problem. Character actor Walton Goggins appears in the film as a shady black market tech dealer named Sonny Burch, and the role is everything Ghost isn't. It's a shame, as Goggins is a gifted actor whose quirky tendencies would be a great fit for the MCU. Unfortunately, his talents are wasted in Ant-Man and the Wasp.

Whereas Ghost has a compelling backstory and a clearly defined personality, Burch is about as bland as they come. He's a cardboard cutout of a bad guy, transparently evil and with no real goals outside of whatever the plot requires of him at the moment (although Goggins admittedly delivers a few fun moments and hilarious lines). Burch is a character who does nothing but chase MacGuffins and dispense henchmen for our heroes to fight. His poor writing reins in what could be a truly memorable role for Goggins. The film is saved by Ghost's antagonistic menace, but it's hard not to regret seeing such a talented actor wasted in a forgettable role.

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Best: Michael Pena steals the show

The best heist in Ant-Man isn't Scott breaking into Hank's house — it's Michael Peña stealing the show. His character Luis shines throughout the film, and Peña runs away with scenes and comedic bits with ease every time he's onscreen. His role in the sequel could have been a rehash of his schtick from the first; fortunately, that's not the case at all. 

Peña, with the help of the returning David Dastmalchian (Kurt) and Tip "T.I" Harris (Dave), is once again a standout in a film packed with memorable actors. His rapport with Michael Douglas's Hank Pym is still delightfully awkward, and they manage to work in one of his sloppily narrated stories (this time he's under the influence of truth serum, which just makes it even funnier). More importantly, the character has grown — he's now the head of X-Con Security Consultants, the company he started with Scott. Watching him get flustered over running a legitimate enterprise is a trip, especially while he's immersed in his business partner's quantum-laden, ant-ridden world. He's far more involved than before, and the film is better for it. Wherever Ant-Man goes in the future, here's hoping Luis goes with him.

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Worst: Can Janet catch a break?

Despite it clearly being set up for her return in the sequel, Janet van Dyne's role in Ant-Man is pretty disposable — one more female character who only exists to give a male character a source of motivation. Janet's death prior to the first film pushes Hank into his angry, reclusive state and screws up his relationship with his daughter, but Ant-Man and the Wasp has the opportunity to undo this while giving one of the great Marvel characters her MCU due.

Instead, it just trades one trope for another, making Janet one of the film's primary MacGuffins. She's a plot device that both the heroes and villains are chasing throughout the film. In terms of how they're utilized, for most of the film, there's no difference between Janet and Pym's shrinking lab, the other MacGuffin everyone's chasing. When she finally appears in the end, she gets maybe five minutes of screentime. With Ant-Man 3 still unconfirmed (and with Janet vanishing into dust in the mid-credits scene, another victim of Thanos) we may never see the original Wasp get a proper cinematic adventure. Janet — and Michelle Pfeiffer — deserves better.

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Best: Low stakes, high reward

Avengers: Infinity War took the MCU to the highest stakes the franchise has ever seen, and came on the heels of an Asgardian apocalypse and a Wakandan revolution. Following up Infinity War was no easy task, and that's precisely why the approach Ant-Man and the Wasp takes to its story feels so refreshing.

The fate of the world isn't at stake in this new Ant-Man adventure. Heck, it doesn't even revolve around the fate of a country, state, or city. At its core, Ant-Man and the Wasp is about the fight to save the lives of two people — Ghost and Janet van Dyne. It structures its plot around two competing groups with different approaches to achieving their goals and explores the conflict that arises from their race against time. It's a comparatively small story, but just what MCU fans needed after watching half the galaxy's population fade to dust in Infinity War.

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Worst: Time is money

Until fairly recently, the average runtime of a movie was pretty brisk — for most filmmakers, 90 minutes was plenty of time to tell a story. If you ask us, it still is, but times have changed; these days, most blockbusters run over two hours. With comparatively small stakes and such a simple story to tell, Ant-Man and the Wasp is absolutely a film that would benefit from a shorter runtime than most of its predecessors.

Unfortunately, for a film widely made out to be one of the smaller, more intimate films of the MCU, it has a bit of a bloat problem — it comes in at over two hours, considerably longer than the first Ant-Man film, Doctor Strange, and even the first two Thor movies. It would be less of a problem were the story not so simple. It doesn't need to run as long as it does, and the fact that it does so anyway serves to its detriment.

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Best: Laugh it up

To call Ant-Man and the Wasp a drama would be a gross misclassification, but the film isn't without its more serious moments. It is, after all, a movie about people trying to save their loved ones. On top of that, Scott has to balance house arrest, Ant-Man duties, and being Cassie's dad, and struggles to make it all work. The movie is genuinely hilarious but, crucially, never to its detriment.

In the past, MCU movies have had a bad habit of quipping over important dramatic beats — even something as major as the destruction of Asgard in Thor: Ragnarok. It can undermine the stakes and make for overbearing comedy. As funny as Ant-Man and the Wasp is, there isn't a single important dramatic moment in the film that gets interrupted by a character making a joke or a gag going down. Here's hoping more Marvel movies take note from this one in Phase Four of the MCU.

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Worst: Character matters

The MCU excels at a lot of things, but its best quality might be its ability to take characters and make them grow organically from film to film. We come to these movies not just to spend time with Scott Lang, Tony Stark, or Thor, but to see how their adventures will change them.

Unfortunately, this is Ant-Man and the Wasp's biggest flaw. When the film ends, the title characters are fundamentally the same. It tries to create the illusion of change by taking Scott on the same general journey he goes on in the first film — that of a criminal trying to fix his mistakes and be a hero. He ends up in the same spot: romantically involved with Hope, no longer in trouble with the law, and back to being Ant-Man. It's no better for Hope. She experiences a significant life event in her mother returning from the Quantum Realm, but the film never really shows us what this means for her. Neither character has a real arc — they go on an adventure together, but remain fundamentally unchanged as people.