- Marvel Studios
- The Marvel Cinematic Universe had been on a villain hot streak with its last few movies. Villains like Thanos, Killmonger, Hela, and Vulture raised the bar.
- Unfortunately, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” breaks the streak with two forgettable villains.
- Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen, and Sonny Burch, played by Walton Goggins, are either too familiar or not compelling enough to be memorable.
Warning: There are minor spoilers for “Ant-Man and the Wasp” in this article.
The Marvel Cinematic Universe had been on a win streak recently with villains, but the franchise’s latest endeavor, “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” breaks that streak.
The movie has double the superheroes in its title, so it also doubles up on its villains. Hannah John-Kamen plays Ava, who is dubbed Ghost in the movie because of her unstable body which prompts her to phase through objects. And Walton Goggins plays Sonny Burch, a typical evil weapons dealer.
While the movie manages to be an enjoyable experience despite its lackluster antagonists, the bar had been raised by Marvel’s memorable bad guys in its last few movies: Thanos in “Avengers: Infinity War,” Killmonger in “Black Panther,” Hela in “Thor: Ragnarok,” and Vulture in “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
Unfortunately, it’s a bar that “Ant-Man and the Wasp” doesn’t reach.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is similar to the underwhelming “Iron Man 2” when it comes to how it presents its villains – Ghost even originated as an Iron Man villain in the comic books, although the character is male in those. “Iron Man 2” features two villains: one “superpowered” (Whiplash) and the other a normal but nefarious businessman (Justin Hammer).
So it already feels familiar, and the fact that the villains themselves aren’t compelling doesn’t help. Goggins is always fun to watch, but it’s a role we’ve seen before, both within the Marvel Cinematic Universe (the scheming business-person trope) and from Goggins’ other work (he basically played the same person in this year’s “Tomb Raider” movie).
As for Ghost, her story arc is the more sympathetic one, which has worked to Marvel’s advantage with other villains like Thanos, Killmonger, and Vulture. But her character’s sympathetic qualities take center stage over her villainous ones, to the point where, if she didn’t fight the heroes, she wouldn’t even be considered a villain. She has no ambitions that we know of outside of curing the condition that makes her phase uncontrollably, whereas villains like Thanos and Killmonger had specific goals in mind that made them uniquely dangerous. We could respect their ideas, but condemn their execution. We can’t do that with Ghost.
To be fair, the movie is a welcome change of pace from the high stakes of those last four movies: “Infinity War” was an event a decade in the making, and it’s villain Thanos had to reflect that, “Black Panther” was a breakthrough for representation in superhero movies, “Thor: Ragnarok” basically recharged Thor as a character, and “Spider-Man: Homecoming” was the second Spider-Man reboot in five years.
By comparison, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is stress-free, and not necessarily an “essential” Marvel movie, but still a highly entertaining one. But when those movies presented compelling villains, it’s hard not to be disappointed by Ghost and Burch.
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