(Rated: PG [Canada] and PG-13 [MPAA] for some sci-fi action violence; directed by Peyton Reed; stars Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michelle Pfeiffer, Laurence Fishburne, Michael Douglas, Michael Peña, Hannah John-Kamen, Abby Ryder Fortson, Randall Park, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale and Walton Goggins; run time: 118 min.)
A family-positive film
By Ted Giese
The 2015 film “Ant-Man” set up the story of the new “Ant-Man and the Wasp” by introducing the subatomic quantum realm into which Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), the original Wasp — and wife of the original Ant-Man, Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) — vanished while saving thousands of people from a deadly missile attack. A trip into this miniscule world and successful return by the new Ant-Man, ex-con Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), opened the door for a possible rescue mission to retrieve Pym’s missing wife. Father and daughter Hope Van Dyne, the new Wasp (Evangeline Lilly), reluctantly work with Lang to make the rescue.
Things, of course, don’t go according to plan. The trio deal with numerous interruptions and setbacks, including a mysterious villain named Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who can walk through walls and vanish in an instant. She has her own agenda, one that runs head-on into theirs.
The mission is dogged not only by Ghost but also by interference from FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), unscrupulous middle-man-black-market-tech-dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), and Pym’s former colleague from S.H.I.E.L.D, Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne). And while there are plenty of hijinks, shenanigans and tight spots, the movie is less about the rescue itself than it is about something of greater importance: family and marriage.
After the epic scope of the Russo brothers’ “Avengers: Infinity War” (2018), the director of the first Ant-Man movie, Peyton Reed, returns with another small-scale film in “Ant-Man and the Wasp.” Both the original and current films are simple but effective family dramas infused with light comedy and superhero action.
While ex-con Lang’s desire to be a good father for his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) drove the first film, this movie focuses on the Pym/Van Dyne family and their desire to be reunited. By the end of the first film, things looked like smooth sailing for Lang, as he had established himself as the new Ant-Man and successfully started a romantic relationship with Pym’s daughter Hope.
But in the intervening years, Lang’s place within their family was lost when he abruptly left them to fight with the renegade Captain America (Chris Evans) in “Captain America: Civil War” (2016) against Iron Man (Robert Downey Jr.) and the Avengers. His actions violated “The Sokovia Accords,” the international agreement set in place after the events of “Avengers: Age of Ultron” (2015), and he was punished.
As “Ant-Man and the Wasp” opens, the audience finds Lang three days from the end of a two-year house arrest. The urgency of the Pym/Van Dyne family rescue mission prompts Lang’s covert involvement in the unfolding story, in which he also works to regain their trust for failing them and forcing them to live as fugitives.
In a wonderful bit of misdirection, the film’s title suggests that the story is mainly about the relationship between modern Ant-Man Scott Lang and modern Wasp Hope Van Dyne. While that is an aspect of the film, the title also references the reunion of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne, the original Ant-Man and Wasp — for the first pair, the rekindling of love after a break-up, and for the second, the steadfast faithfulness and love between a husband and a wife separated for years by seemingly insurmountable barriers.
While the Ant-Man series includes Lang’s ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new husband Paxton (Bobby Cannavale), the film overall takes a very positive attitude toward marriage. Theirs is a loving relationship, and Lang’s relationship with them and with his daughter is portrayed in a respectful and positive manner.
Where the first film’s arc moved Lang from “deadbeat ex-con with a heart of gold” to a “small but mighty superhero” in the eyes of his ex-wife and her new husband, he was always a hero to his daughter, regardless of his criminal sentence.
In the new film, his amicable relationship with his ex-wife and the mutual respect between him and her new husband is cemented as a positive, albeit broken, dynamic. They not only act civilly toward one another but also seem to genuinely like each other. In this way, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” encourages people to make the best of their situation even when that situation involves divorce.
Refreshing portrayal of marriage
The portrayal of Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne’s marriage is even more refreshing. As husband and wife, they clearly love and honor each other and have remained faithful, living a sexually pure and decent life while they awaited their reunion while not knowing if it would ever happen.
Granted, Janet Van Dyne didn’t have any prospective suitors in the subatomic quantum realm, but Pym remained faithful to her long after the government would have declared her dead. He never remarried, and the film gives no mention of his having any other relationship outside their marriage. Janet is not bitter or resentful about their subatomic separation but happy to be reunited with her husband and daughter.
Many Hollywood films portray marriage in a dim light, cynically slighting and criticizing it rather than presenting it as a good or even merely redeemable institution. If marriage in North American culture is a car in a ditch, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is doing its part to help push it out of the ditch back onto the road. Families, whether broken, blended or intact, will find encouragement in this film.
Parents honored and cherished
Another strong family element in the film concerns Lang’s daughter Cassie and Hope Van Dyne, who are portrayed as honoring, loving and cherishing their parents. This element is reinforced with flashbacks to a young Hope and her parents that places her around the same age as current-day Cassie. They even share similar pet nicknames: Cassie is called “peanut” by her dad and Hope is called “jellybean” by her mom.
The adult Hope shows no bitterness or resentfulness toward her parents for being deprived of a mother for most of her life. Over the years of troubles and hardships, her desire to serve and obey them for the good of the family intensified.
Both Cassie and Hope are examples of characters working to honor their parents (Fourth Commandment), just as Hank Pym and Janet Van Dyne are an example of a married couple who work to keep the Sixth Commandment. (On the subject of the Commandments, Christian families should take note that while the action and violence don’t exceed those of mainstream Marvel films, Captain America would not be happy with the frequent misuse of God’s name and the couple of times that Jesus’ name is used in vain.)
Filled with clever and imaginative set pieces that play with the micro- and macro-effects of Pym’s technology, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” delivers audiences an eye-popping film experience best seen on the big screen. While the film may not concern saving the universe from apocalyptic destruction, it focuses on protecting and saving the family in a world where marriage and family can use all the salvation they can get. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” does this with a lot of heart and avoids clichés in the process.
Rev. Ted Giese is lead pastor of Mount Olive Lutheran Church, Regina, Saskatchewan, Canada; a contributor to the LCMS Reporter and The Canadian Lutheran; and movie reviewer for the “Issues, Etc.” radio program. Follow Pastor Giese on Twitter @RevTedGiese.
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Posted July 13, 2018