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Spoilers for Ant-Man and the Wasp are all over this piece. If you haven't seen the flick yet, go see the movie!
I went and saw Ant-Man And The Wasp this week, and generally I thought the movie was fun this time around, although it kicked off with a little more exposition than I would have liked. Regardless, if there's one thing that's a hot mess in Ant-Man and the Wasp, it's the movie's villains, or really lack thereof, in the movie. Ghost isn't really a big baddie. Walton Goggins' obsessed-with-tech human doesn't get a whole lot of screentime. There's just not much there, but by the end, I was actually very thankful there weren't any supervillains. Ava Starr and Bill Foster are incredible additions to the MCU, and ultimately, since the whole point of Ant-Man And The Wasp seems to be about fun and going into the Quantum Realm, having stronger, more traditional villains would have held the story back. The movie actually works because it has weak villains, and I've taken truth serum, so I can't lie about it.
Let's start with Laurence Fishburne and Hannah John-Kamen's characters, because they are highly watchable and add a lot to this film. Prior to the release of Ant-Man and the Wasp, Fishburne came out and said his character had a "father-daughter thing going on." Since previews made it clear Wasp would be fighting Ghost, it seemed feasible to assume Ghost would be the villain in this flick. Then, since we knew Bill Foster would help her, many assumed there must be a twist that he's a baddie, too. Especially early on in the film when we learn Bill Foster and Hank Pym haven't gotten along in ages and that Ghost is out to snag Pym's lab, this theory seemed confirmed. That's really not the whole story, however.
Instead, we get a story that starts with Ghost and Bill Foster collaborating to steal Hank Pym's lab and gain access to the Quantum Realm, as well as a subplot involving Walton Goggins' Sonny Burch also going after the lab to sell it to the highest bidder. With Hank Pym, Hope van Dyne and Scott Lang trying to keep their hands on their lab and the FBI also trying to get its hands on the lab, the whole thing becomes like a big, grown-up game of catch with multiple teams. It's kind of a clusterfuck, but in between that we get to hear Ghost's tragic backstory, and learn more about the intense pain she's felt for nearly her whole life. We get to feel Bill Foster's love, along with his feeling of helplessness about Ghost's situation. The end result is that we really empathize with their characters.
It's a little different than a baddie like Black Panther's Killmonger. You see what happened to Killmonger and how he became the way he is, but you can't possibly root for that character because of what he has done with those feelings and bad breaks. It's not the same thing with Ghost. She nearly derails, threatening to go after Scott Lang's kid, but she has someone who genuinely cares for her, and Bill Foster talks her down off of the ledge. Left to her own devices, she could be a bigger baddie than Killmonger, but there's also the idea that her character still could see the light and be a heroine. So, by the time Janet van Dyne returns with quantum healing powers, I was fully on Team Ghost/Foster. While it's not clear whether we'll get to see more of either character on the big screen, as Marvel has been opaque about what's coming in Phase 4 and even Avengers 4, but the MCU should benefit from having more complicated characters like Ava Starr, especially in lieu of characters like Loki, as the MCU rebuilds following the end of an era with Avengers 4.
In addition, one of the most exciting facets of Ant-Man And The Wasp is that it doesn't have a traditional heroes-fight-baddie arc. Scott Lang's dealing with the FBI because he's still under house arrest, but it never feels like they're out to get him or trying to screw him over. In fact, Lang's relationship with the FBI is one of the more amusing aspects of the film. Sonny Burch is definitely more of the stock villain here, but his presence gives the movie a B-plot with Luis, Kurt and Dave. Ultimately, Ghost and Bill Foster work most as cool new characters who help to introduce us to the Quantum Realm. It's why the climactic moment when Hank dives into the Quantum Realm to bring back Hope's mother Janet, while Hope and Scott fight off Ghost never really feels like a good vs bad situation. The audience is rooting for everyone involved to find a solution.
Ant-Man And The Wasp has its storyline problems, but again, it's extremely refreshing to see a movie that doesn't follow the Marvel standard of meeting up with heroes and then having to deal with some new villain before the credits roll. Thanks to the Vulture and others, the MCU has added some good enemies lately, but I'd argue the studio has opened the door for more exciting types of stories in the MCU. Thanks to its mess of villains, Ant-Man And The Wasp has shown us a different way of presenting stories, and hopefully, that will be a springboard for dynamic movies in the future. After all, with Marvel putting out three movies a year, now, we need some variance.
Ant-Man And The Wasp can be seen in theaters, now.