July 4, 2018
2015’s Ant-Man provided audiences a lighter mood that helped to soften the blow of the largely serious Age of Ultron. It also acted as a backdoor introduction to Captain America: Civil War, a film in which Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang would play an important role. Considering the enormous emotional weight that has hung around the neck of every MCU fan since the end of this April’s Avengers: Infinity War, it’s a welcome relief that director Peyton Reed arrives once more, offering a brief reprieve from Thanos’s galaxy-changing snap, as Lang and his band of misfits friends once more seek to save the day, on the small scale, of course.
When audiences last saw Scott Lang (Rudd), he was a Federal prisoner in the Raft due to his involvement in the scuffle between Avengers members at a Germany airport over United Nations agreement known as the Sokovia Accords. Lang plead guilty to acting in contrast to the accords and earned himself two years of house arrest. On the verge of being a free man, Scott is recruited to help Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) recover Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Realm. If that wasn’t enough, they have to accomplish this while avoiding the mysterious reality-phasing Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and Lang’s F.B.I. handler Agent Woo (Randall Park). Lang is the only person to ever return from the Quantum Realm, and he feels guilty about how his actions in Germany put Hank and Hope on the run as fugitives; so Lang agrees to help, even if it means making him a fugitive forever.
One of the best things about the Ant-Man films is that their stories hold little bearing on the larger MCU stories. This allows the characters to engage in the other MCU stories while focusing in this movie on their own narrative sandbox. Within Ant-Man and The Wasp, Reed and a quintet of writers craft a story with not just multiple characters, but multiple factions of characters, enabling the story to travel where it needs in-and-out of action sequences without feeling forced. The greatest strength of the two entries in the Ant-Man series is the characters, a delightful change of pace as most of the MCU feels as though it’s moving the audience from one action set piece to another without regard for character. (Look no further than Michael Peña’s portrayal of Luis. Luis gets a glorious chance to shine in the greatest Luis story to end all Luis stories.)
The comedic elements of The Wasp are more natural than the ones of Ant-Man. Considering most of the leads possess comedic chops (Douglas, Rudd, Peña, Park, and newcomer to the series Walton Goggins), Reed wisely leans on them to make the most out of even the smallest moments. One such moment sees Rudd, Lilly, and Douglas figuring out a way to communicate with Pfeiffer’s Janet which would be a heartfelt, sweet moment if not for the physical delivery of the three as they react to one another. Though there are still exposition-heavy moments, the scribes behind AMAW recognize it. In one particularly hilarious scene, a monologue by Scott is subverted by Scott’s cell phone literally quacking as he receives multiple text notifications, forcing the scene to move on, away from telling and into doing.
Additionally, the size changing technology offers up a look at the brilliance of the Hank/Hope team teased within the first Ant-Man and adds to the ridiculousness of otherwise straight sequences. The duo are a force to be reckoned with and the innovative ways they use their tech on offense and defense tells you everything you need to know about them. From shrinking cars to store in a Hot Wheels case or turning their entire lab into an airplane carry-on, the shear insanity of how Hank, Janet, and Lang use their tech makes every moment feel fresh and unique.
The narrative choice to put Hank and Hope on the run from federal agents is the most flimsy part of the film. The reasoning behind it being so thin that it borders on frustrating. It’s the kind of plot contrivance that CinemaSins and all the other negative-focused culture critics will jump all over. While it makes sense for the story and the ease by which it creates dramatic tension, it’s also the most absurd aspect of AMAW, putting a slight damper on a film in which audiences believe every unrealistic moment as it stretches the bounds of science fiction gleefully. Once ignored, however, AMAW begins a righteous, fun-filled ride.
So if you’re still reeling from the snap felt throughout the galaxy, Ant-Man and The Wasp is the perfect aperitif to cleanse your palate before Captain Marvel’s debut in March 2019. Like Scott Lang, AMAW is full of heart, possesses a unique comedic view, and offers a delightful respite from what ails you.
Star Rating: 4 out of 5