As Marvel transitions from the “traumatic” finale of Avengers: Infinity War, Peyton Reed’s Ant-Man And The Wasp turns insectoid puns into a charming doom-and-gloom antidote. Why layer on the stakes? 2015’s Ant-Man felt negligible and outlying, and 2018’s quantum sidestory once again wrestles no hefty beast. You won’t get James Gunn’s heartfelt depth or the Russos’ action sensibilities, but you will be effortlessly entertained by a breezy “heist” sequel that never takes itself too seriously. It’s novelty size-shifting when we need it most, and more ant names (Antonio!), more sarcasm and more Luis isn’t exactly a *bad* thing.
Thanks to his previous “heroism,” Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) finds himself under house arrest after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) are on the run from similar prosecution. Neither parties have spoken in some time, but that’s until Scott dreams he’s inside Janet Van Dyne’s (Michelle Pfeiffer) body – aka Hank’s long-lost-to-the-Quantum Realm wife.
Cue a tense reunion even though Scott still has three days left until his ankle bracelet’s removed and the introduction of a new plan. Use Hank’s quantum gateway to rescue Janet! That is, if they can thwart black market dealer Sonny (Walton Goggins) from stealing their tech, if federal agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) doesn’t catch Scott outside and if Ava (Hannah John-Kamen) aka Ghost doesn’t glitch her way to stealing Janet’s essence for her own healing purpose.
So many plot points, so little time (well, over two hours). Good ol’ Marvel.
Ant-Man And The Wasp is too well-natured to fault. One can argue how plotting doesn’t really benefit the wider Marvel universe sans two or three moments (post-credits included), but Reed’s five-man writing crew slyly maneuvers around a never-ending pit of “Why?” questions. Rudd’s square-off between “hero” and “father” paints a human element that Abby Ryder Fortson milks as young Cassie. His online magician’s training and constant back-and-forth with yucked-up Randall Park introduces some delightfully dimwitted banter, which makes for a nice respite considering how other heroes are beholden to mystic history or Neil deGrasse Tyson language.
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In emphasizing Ant-Man’s average Joe superheroism, Reed’s production sandboxes memorable sight gags and audible goofs. A gigantic Hello Kitty Pez dispenser tumbles down Californian streets and mini-Scott splashes into bay waters with the dullest *ploop* instead of a man-sized *sploosh.* Comedy holds tighter, more in focus and without confliction by offsetting evils. Actors like Michael Peña take full advantage, who hyper-babbles under “truth serum” influence and brings honor back to the Hot Wheels name as far as superhero appearances go (Green Lantern, lol). Most characters find jokester success at least once – poor David Dastmalchian and his Baba Yaga fear – but Peña’s that one-line jukebox who keeps cranking out the hits. May every movie feature his mini-voice shrieking with excitement.
Walton Goggins’ opportunistic kingpin Sonny doesn’t reach farther than paying thugs to drive his gold-grilled SUV and complete nefarious deeds, and Goggins does what Goggins does best. Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost, meanwhile, stays one step ahead as Marvel’s Vanellope von Schweetz, always in constant pain thanks to her father’s quantum lab accident that now allows her to pass through matter. Goggins brokers shady deals, but Ava outshines in her matte white armor that S.H.I.E.L.D once fitted.
Laurence Fishburne’s role as Dr. Bill Foster – Ava’s father figure – also shows there’s more to the girl than a thirst for blood. It’s nice to see opposition motivated by resounding grief and not just a plan for world domination or ego-fueled crusader beefing (also love the relationship between Ana and Dr. Foster).
Give credit to the effects teams behind Ant-Man And The Wasp too, because Hank’s six-legged followers don’t skimp out on their presence. From assembling scientific lab equipment to jamming on electric drum kits to playing bodyguard, the bugged-out animations are stimulatingly detailed. One part even reminds me of Gremlin personalities as they faintly cackled at the thought of their dominance. If “ant” is in your title, you better deliver on colonization. Not saying you’d want to keep these crawlers as pets, but effects are tighter than, say, something that struggled with Marvel digitization like Black Panther.
Frankly, this goes for most portions of the film. As technology increases, so does Hollywood’s ability to superimpose the faces of Douglas, Pfeiffer and Fishburne in flashback ages – which Marvel fashions nicely. Then you’ve got Scott and Hope’s constant ballooning or deflating, which never feels out of place in a visual sense. Cinematography doesn’t exactly break the mold, but it keeps us anchored in worlds of varying magnitudes even in Quantum Realm psychedelics. Honey, I Shrunk The Kids would be proud. Gigantic tomatoes, refrigerator-sized salt shakers, miniaturization scales of otherwise regular sized products and all.
To touch on Paul Rudd’s return as Cap’s
friend acquaintance, his character’s relationship with Hope and overall comedy schtick, Reed doesn’t let snark go out of style. Evangeline Lilly, meanwhile, is gracefully allowed more likability this time as a daughter in search of parental rescue, frustrated by her (ex?) boyfriend’s boneheaded Sokovia Accords backlash and constant ability to muck things up. There’s more to appreciate between romantic tension and more to root for.
As Scott explains to Cassie that Hope’s his partner in the field, we get a warm balance of fatherhood and chemistry that even Cassie can detect (and melt). Scott’s made better by the women in his life, who are never overshadowed. And that’s never more evident than when a tied-up Scott makes Dr. Foster answer and prop-up his daughter’s video call because it’s an “emergency” (punctuated by a Bobby Cannavale hug, to perfection).
Is Ant-Man And The Wasp the kind of Marvel movie that can solve interdimensional conflicts with write-off evolution powers? Sure. It’s also endearingly earnest, positively punderful and ant-tastic from start-to-finish. Ant-Man has always been a tremendous supporting character, and that’s exactly what this origin sequel lets Scott Lang do best. Fold into a relatively robust cast who lifts the pressure off a top-notch father, name-dropping Avenger sub-in and all-around funnyman who loves belting effusive karaoke sets when no one else is home. Did I mention how we didn’t *need* this Marvel placeholder? Maybe, but I’m sure glad we got it anyway.
Ant-Man And The Wasp is the kind of playtime entertainment suited for Scott Lang's better-when-on-a-team personality, loaded with size-shifty sight gags and lower stakes worth Paul Rudd's ensemble stardom.