In classic sequel fashion, Ant-Man & The Wasp doubles down on what made the first film so enjoyable.
After his adventure into the quantum realm, and under house arrest for aiding rogue superhero Captain America, Scott Lang wants to do right with the people in his life. But when inventor Hank Pym and his daughter Hope ask for his assistance, and a shadowy assassin is roaming around, problems aren’t going to be small.
With the complications around 2015’s Ant-Man‘s production behind them, Marvel Studios and returning director Peyton Reed appear to have hit their stride with the Ant-Man franchise. While the first film wasn’t bad, it certainly felt pepped up by gimmicks, and having a forgettable villain did not help. The sequel however, goes all in with the gadgets and the gimmicks, while keeping just a little bit of heart in there as well.
The film starts off somewhat slowly, giving a rather hamstrung summary of what our heroes have been through, Lang and Pym both, which involves a lot of re-used footage from the first film. We then get some reasonably clunky exposition dialogue explaining why Lang is under house arrest because… well, he did show up in 2016’s Captain America: Civil War… extremely briefly. I guess they thought audiences will have forgotten about all of this, less than two years later?
But things aren’t all clunky. We see Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang at home, entertaining himself, and being with his daughter. A side of life inside the MCU we don’t see often, and it is charming and light and happy.
Of course, things pick up exponentially when Evangeline Lilly’s returning character of Hope Van Dyne kidnaps Scott from his comfortable prison. Kudos to Lilly; free of the disaster that was The Hobbit movies, she has a powerful character in the MCU as Hope, aka The Wasp. We are quickly introduced to her action chops when she takes down a group of criminals that Hank Pym has been buying materials for his research from. The Wasp is a very cool character, and her use of size-changing combat is very exciting and show-stealing!
There’s a child-like joy powering the movie during its action sequences. From Pym using his shrinking technology to shrink an entire building down to the size of a suitcase, to the team’s Hot Wheels carry case of tiny cars which are actually real cars shrunk down. There’s a very inventive car chase, especially for this genre (I’m looking at you, Black Panther) which utilizes the size-changing power to the maximum.
It is also safe to say that this is much more of a comedy than Marvel Studio’s other works. Which is something of a necessity after the grimness of Avengers: Infinity War only a few months ago. Michael Pena is back as Scott’s heist-buddy Luis, and he is more outrageous than ever, but still very funny, especially when the film does a “Luis recounts previous events” scene similar to the first film. The whole audience was laughing happily.
Of course, it isn’t all fun and games. Upon Hope and Lang’s meeting with the criminal underworld, both sides are surprised by a white armoured figure who appears to phase through reality, allowing it to walk through walls and people with ease. The effect of the phasing is very neat to look at (reminiscent of the Twins from the second Matrix film) Known as “Ghost”, this character might not be Marvel’s best villain, but what the screenplay does with it does subvert expectations. At this point, that means this character is in the top half of the MCU villain roster.
The film was initially described as a romantic comedy. It is not. This is a straight comedy. There aren’t many moments of intense peril or danger; the heroes are mostly impervious to harm with their gadgets and the action being gauged around the humour. Paul Rudd feels right at home, playing the everyman while Michael Douglas and Lilly speed through inhuman techno-babble about quantum-stuff. Rudd even gets to play someone else, which was hilarious.
It isn’t a perfect film, of course. But the nitpicks are quite minor. The film is perhaps one of the most dispensable Marvel movies (it isn’t Infinity War grandeur or Guardians style) and you need to go into it without critical thinking. Otherwise you will wonder quite how no one has gone to Lang’s house to find he isn’t there, or where someone found a handy cloak when there were none around (memories of 2015’s Fantastic Four).
It is a laugh-a-minute, child-friendly romp where car chases are synonymous with racing toys across the ground, and Pez dispensers are dangerous weapons. Sometimes we just want a good time.
Additional Marshmallows: There’s a very real possibility, years from now, film history will tell of how Marvel’s success was because we all want to escape how depressing the real world currently is. These films are silly, and somewhat forgettable, but they are entertaining.