Ant-Man and the Wasp
“Ant-Man and the Wasp feeds into a longstanding trope about disability and doesn’t even seem to realize it’s doing it.”
Title: Ant-Man and the Wasp
Director: Peyton Reed 👨🏼🇺🇸
Writers: Chris McKenna 👨🏼🇺🇸, Erik Sommers 👨🏼🇺🇸, Paul Rudd 👨🏼🇺🇸, Andrew Barrer 👨🏼🇺🇸, and Gabriel Ferrari 👨🏼🇺🇸
Reviewed by Li 👩🏻🇺🇸
Ant-Man and the Wasp injects fresh air into the otherwise mythology-obsessed Marvel Cinematic Universe. Whether you’ve seen every Marvel film since 2008 or have managed to avoid them altogether, newcomers and fans alike can enjoy Ant-Man’s second cinematic outing. Paul Rudd as Scott Lang (Ant-Man) and Evangeline Lilly as Hope Van Dyne (the Wasp) combine for lighthearted fare that leans on visual puns for its hijinks. The movie may not be life-altering, or particularly deep, but it’s a helluva lot of fun for the two hours you’re watching it.
Marvel is slowly and painstakingly shedding its legacy of gender imbalance. Its incremental gains are exemplified here: Lilly’s rendition of the Wasp is fantastic, as are the other two main female characters—her mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) and the villain, Ava AKA Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Yet these women still inhabit a male-dominated world.
Let’s start with the good, though. Hope’s character is fairly complex and her story stands independent from that of a man’s. Her motivations are driven by the search for her mother, and while she does hold an expected romance with Scott, their relationship is merely a layer to her existing narrative. We certainly couldn’t say the same about other comic book heroines; Black Widow lacks any backstory despite appearing in six MCU films, and even the ostensibly feminist Wonder Woman from DC Films attributes Diana’s origin story to a man she’d only known for a fraction of her millennia-spanning life.
In contrast to predecessors, Ant-Man and the Wasp really does comes out smelling like roses. Yet the world Hope contends with is biased, and gender parity remains elusive. Scott, Hope’s father (Michael Douglas), the rival of Hope’s father (Laurence Fishburne), and Scott’s posse of three coworkers block out screentime and dialogue through sheer numbers. A glance at the first page of IMDB acting credits tells you all you really need to know: of 15 roles that appear, just 5 of them go to women.
GradeMyMovie.com Assessment: 8% of key cast and crew members were POC.
Similarly entrenched but gone wholly unchallenged in Ant-Man and the Wasp is the way it centers white narratives. Supporting cast of color do exist, but are largely relegated to comic relief. None fall more into this than Scott’s buddy sidekick Luis (Michael Peña, who is Mexican American), or the dorky Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park, who is Korean American) who has a giant man-crush on Scott. Other characters like Scott’s coworkers Dave (T.I., who is black) and the Russian-accented Kurt (David Dastmalchian, who is mixed-race) are largely filler but for the moment they appear from nowhere to save Scott’s ass.
Meanwhile, Laurence Fishburne as Dr. Bill Foster does play a more complex role, displaying great intelligence and moral fibre. But he remains in the way of the white heroes. Similarly, John-Kamen (who is English, of Norwegian and Nigerian descent) as Ghost is meant to be sympathetic, but the script never quite manages to redeem her.
Deduction for Disability: -1.00
Ant-Man and the Wasp crafts an interesting villain in Ghost, but makes the huge mistake of blaming the source of her evil on her chronic pain. The film seems to say that sure, Ava could be a nice girl. But her perpetual state of suffering has driven her mad, so she can’t help but turn into Ghost, the spy assassin willing to kill innocent people in her pain-fueled rampage for a cure. It’s up to the non-disabled Dr. Bill Foster to play guardian angel and moral compass to his ill ward.
This set-up falls perfectly into a longstanding trope about disability being linked to madness or malevolence. Dubbed “The Evil Cripple” on TVTropes.com, this negative portrayal of people with disabilities is all too common in comic books, continuing to appear in ongoing shows like The Flash or even the otherwise inclusive Black Lightning. The fact that Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t even seem to notice its complicity with this damaging narrative makes me wonder: when will screenwriters learn, if ever?
Mediaversity Grade: C+ 3.42/5
At the end of the day, Reed's film is generally more benign than its MCU brethren. Ant-Man takes a comfortable backseat to the Wasp, and Michael Peña as Luis really does steal the show with his signature brand of infectious energy. Plus, I loved watching a female action hero go tête-à-tête with another strong woman (Ghost) as they fight over a third woman (Hope’s mother). If this is the baseline diversity of future Marvel films, we’re certainly better off than we were a decade ago.