Among the big blockbusters of the MCU, it was refreshing to see something a little smaller-scale (literally and figuratively) in 2015’s Ant-Man, a movie during which, at the very least, the fate of the world wasn’t at stake.
And after Avengers: Infinity War, which is about as momentous as it gets in the superhero realm, smaller is most likely where future success lies for these kinds of movies: it worked for last year’s Spider-Man: Homecoming and it works for Ant-Man and the Wasp, a loose and lightweight comic book sequel that is every bit as fun as its predecessor.
Paul Rudd is back as Scott Lang, who too much attention to himself and his super suit when he became an 65-foot tall Ant-Man in Captain America: Civil War. For the past two years, he’s been under house arrest in San Francisco, explaining his absence in other MCU outings such as Infinity War.
But ever since Lang successfully went into – and came out of – the quantum realm in the last movie, original Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly), also known as the superhero Wasp, have been developing a device to save wife and mother Janet Van Dyne, been stuck in the subatomic world for the past three decades and long thought dead.
What’s she been subsisting on for the past 30 years, I wondered, though at that size it may not matter. There’s a throwaway line about time ‘not working the same’ in the quantum realm to explain her survival, but she has aged considerably (or rather, the film flawlessly de-ages her, Douglas, and Laurence Fishburne during flashback sequences using a combination of CGI and younger actors).
Pym and Hope have almost completed a device that would allow them to explore the quantum realm, but find they could use Lang’s help – despite past transgressions that have left them on the run in a nondescript building that amusingly shrinks down to the size of a carry-on – when they discover he might share a link with Janet.
“I would never do that, Hank,” Rudd deadpans when they tell Lang he may have been involved in some quantum entanglement with Janet in the subatomic world.
But Ant-Man and the Wasp aren’t the only ones who plan to make use of their quantum technology. Black market tech dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) is after the goods when he discovers just who he’s been working with, and the mysterious Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who seems to appear and disappear at will, is also seeking Hank’s office complex.
And through the entire narrative, Lang has to convincingly remain in his Bay Area home a la Ferris Bueller while FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) routinely checks in on him without warning, lest he violate house arrest with just two days to go.
Those are the kinds of stakes at play in Ant-Man and the Wasp, which also includes a subplot about Scott’s business partner Luis (Michael Peña) trying to save their security company by brokering a deal with a new client.
Trying to save Janet is valiant, and Ghost has an emotional backstory, but otherwise Ant-Man and the Wasp is stripped of the usual save-the-world plot mechanics that affect most superhero movies. And just like the last film, that’s a good thing.
Returning director Peyton Reed does a great job of keeping things light and breezy and focusing on the small stuff, and there are of number of affecting scenes here between Lang and the young daughter (Abby Ryder Fortson) who gives him the motivation to do the right thing.
I also liked the film’s dedication to actors in comedic supporting roles: Peña and Park both get more to do here than expected, as do returning characters played by T.I. and David Dastmalchian, as Lang’s employees. And it’s nice to see Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale return as Lang’s ex-wife and her new husband, even if they have less to do this time around.
There’s also some genuine visual inventiveness throughout Ant-Man and the Wasp, with characters and objects changing size during the film’s free-flowing action scenes; it’s always fun to see bad guys taken out by a giant salt shaker or Pez dispenser, or the good guys make a getaway in a Hot Wheels toy car.
While Ant-Man and the Wasp may be too unassuming and low-key for audiences expecting to be blown away by the latest comic book blockbuster, this is really the perfect ride for those suffering from superhero fatigue, and proof that the MCU can still be plenty of fun 20 movies in.
Be sure to stick around for a mid-credits sequence that ties the movie into the events of Avengers: Infinity War.