Marvel Studios took one of their biggest gambles in producing Ant-Man (Reed, 2015), given that the character is far more obscure than his other Marvel counterparts in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Yet, seemingly against the odds, Ant-Man surprised by momentarily shifting the tone of the MCU away from world- or galaxy-ending threats and back down to Earth for an amusing heist adventure.
Now, in the wake of the cataclysmic events of Avengers: Infinity War (The Russo Brothers, 2018), Marvel is at it again. However, while Ant-Man and the Wasp (Reed, 2018) does scale back to stakes and focus of the MCU, it also expands upon the nature and potential of the Quantum Realm, perhaps in service of future films in the franchise.
Ant-Man and the Wasp takes place about two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War (The Russo Brothers, 2016) and sees Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) three days away from being released from house arrest after violating the Sokovia Accords. While Scott has used the time to set up a security and surveillance company with his friend Luis (Michael Peña) and bond with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), he has last all contact with Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) as they were less-than-impressed with Scott’s actions and have been on the run ever since.
However, when Scott has a dream/vision of his time in the Quantum Realm, he reaches out to Hank and is promptly abducted by Hope. Taken to Hank’s laboratory (which he can shrink to the size of a carry-case), Scott learns that he may hold the key to finding and rescuing Hank’s wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer).
Hank is reluctantly forced to coerce Scott into helping Hope acquire a vital component to their Quantum Tunnel from Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), an act that draws the attention of the mysterious assassin Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Very quickly, Hank, Hope, and Scott are in a race against time to evade Burch, the FBI (led by Jimmy Woo (Randall Park)), and Ghost and complete the machine before Janet is forever lost to the Quantum Realm.
I went into this thinking we would be getting a much faster paced, more action-packed story now that the origin and exploration of Ant-Man’s powers had been sufficiently delivered in Ant-Man but, surprisingly, Ant-Man and the Wasp is as much about the notion of family as it is its action. While nothing quite tops the small-scale battles on Thomas the Tank Engine railroad tracks or inside purses, there is a decent level of car-based action as Scott and Hope shrink and grow Hot Wheels cars to evade their pursuers and the fight sequences involving Ghost are pretty exciting.
Speaking of, rather than being a simple dark counterpart to Scott or Hank like Darren Cross (Corey Stoll) was, Ghost is a pretty unique and sympathetic character. Constantly fading in and out of reality thanks to exposure from the Quantum Realm, she blames Hank for her affliction and the death of her parents. It also helps that she’s pretty bad-ass, which helps showcase Hope’s ability to kick ass as the Wasp.
In many ways, actually, Ant-Man and the Wasp is more about Hope than any other character; she finally receives her suit, which comes with all sorts of nifty gadgets and tech not included in Scott’s, and is clearly a far better and more effective superhero than Scott. Her passion and desire to be reunited with her mother are evident throughout but she also retains a compassion for others (mainly Scott and her father) that keeps her grounded.
As for Scott, he’s everything he was before, and that’s not a bad thing. Paul Rudd perfectly portrays the everyman who is swept up into things largely beyond him and his ignorance to the technobabble and subpar fighting ability are offset by his charm, wit, and ability to think on his feet. Scott is also all about making up for letting down Hank and Hope by not involving them in the airport skirmish from Civil War and, refreshingly, his daughter and family are all perfectly happy for him to continue to be Ant-Man, rather than giving him shit for his actions.
Rounding out the cast are Michael Douglas and, in a new addition, Laurence Fishburne as Bill Foster. Foster and Pym have a strained relationship after a falling out and Pym’s efforts to discredit Foster’s work, which all helps cast Hank as a man who has some demons in his past. Driven to rescue Janet, Hank will seemingly go to any lengths to atone for what he sees as his greatest failing. Once again, Marvel Studios employ some impressive de-aging effects to Douglas (and Pfeiffer) to shed more light on the Pym’s troubled past as a married couple and part-time spies.
In the end, Ant-Man and the Wasp is probably about on-par with its predecessor; it isn’t necessarily worlds better but it’s by no means a step back. As before, it’s a great way to catch your breath after the exhaustive events of Infinity War and, if the mid-credits scene is anything to go by, a vital entry for future films in the MCU.
Recommended: Of course, and not just for MCU fans. Rudd’s charisma and the general premise make this a great recommendation for everyone.
Best moment: The triumphant return of Giant-Man and the fight sequences involving Ghost.
Worst moment: The side-plot of Scott’s damaged belt, which causes him to by stuck at different sizes, grew thin very quickly for me. It just seemed weird for Hank to create a new, presumably better suit but have the most vital component be janky.