Ant-Man and the Wasp, 2018.
Directed by Peyton Reed.
Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Hannah John-Kamen, Michael Peña, Walton Goggins, Abby Ryder Fortson, Bobby Cannavale, T.I., David Dastmalchian, Divian Ladwa, Laurence Fishburne, Judy Greer, Randall Park, Michael Cerveris, Rob Archer, Sean Kleier, Goran Kostic, Benjamin Byron Davis, Riann Steele, and Michelle Pfeiffer.
As Scott Lang balances being both a Super Hero and a father, Hope van Dyne and Dr. Hank Pym present an urgent new mission that finds the Ant-Man fighting alongside The Wasp to uncover secrets from their past.
It seems that Marvel rather enjoys having a smaller film (pun intended) follow the biggest entries in the MCU. Just like in 2015, we follow a cataclysmic and world-shattering film with the absolute biggest stakes with a film with stakes as low as its insectoid characters. And just like the last time, this film about a man who can shrink to the size of an ant is just what audiences need.
Last time we saw Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Paul Rudd), he was thrown in jail for helping Captain America fight his friends in an airport in Civil War. After two years under house arrest, he has a vastly improved relationship with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), his ex-wife Maggie (Judy Greer) and her overly enthusiastic husband Paxton (Bobby Cannavale) hug him and root for him. Even his colleagues are better off now, as Luis (the always wonderful Michael Peña) now leads their own security company aptly called “X-Con” with his friends Dave (T.I.), and Kurt (David Dastmalchian).
After having no contact with either Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) or Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), and with only three days left on his sentence, Scott suddenly gets involved in an attempt to travel back into the Quantum Realm to rescue Hank’s wife and the former Wasp, Janet Van Dyne (the criminally underused Michelle Pfeiffer). Will Scott make it back to his house before the FBI notices he’s gone? Will Hope and Hank get the last piece they need to build their portal from Walton Goggins’ Sonny Burch to rescue Janet?
It does sound a bit unimpressive after the moon-throwing, finger-snapping, world-vanishing action of Infinity War, but the best compliment one can give Ant-Man and the Wasp is how it works because of its low stakes. This is a film that knows it’s following a pretty dark act, this is all about entertaining the audience, laughing a lot and forgetting about the outside world. Everything from the plot, to the tone screams cheeky unseriousness. Even when the character’s lives are in danger, it feels like a Saturday morning cartoon, consistently light and funny. The runtime of just under two hours flies by. Despite juggling several plot points, multiple characters, and two villains, the film’s five credited screenwriters capably follow through most plot points to get audiences invested in the characters by the time the film inevitably gets into a big action set piece in the third act – though a lot of the subplots lead to nowhere, but by the time you notice, you won’t care because a new cool thing came on screen.
The stakes are so low, the villains aren’t even villains. There’s Hannah John-Kamen as Ava a.k.a Ghost, a woman trying to steal Pym’s equipment so she can use it for… some really compelling and relatable reasons – and then there’s Walton Goggins as a black market tech dealer who is as charming as any Goggins character, even if he gets wasted in a meaningless story of just chasing a McGuffin for two hours. Visually, Ant-Man and the Wasp is an improvement over the first one. There are new and innovative ways director Peyton Reed shows Pym’s shrinking technology, from the titular Ant-Man and the Wasp, to FEZ dispensers, buildings and cars. The set pieces may not feel “epic” like those in recent MCU films, but they are certainly fun to watch. And there’s a Doctor Strange level of trippiness once we venture back into the subatomic world of the Quantum Realm to rescue Michelle Pfeiffer (though if you are expecting her to do much, then prepare to be disappointed). There’s lots of kaleidoscopic lights, to threatening microbes that make for a weird and exciting world I can’t wait to see explored again in another film.
The plot may feel thin, the reason one goes to see an Ant-Man film is the characters. The casting is fANTastic (I couldn’t help myself), starting with Evangeline Lilly finally getting her due and kicking all kinds of ass as Wasp, even pointing out the fact that she would have been a much better choice to join Cap’s team in Civil War. What makes her relationship with Rudd’s Scott so wonderful is that he totally recognizes that Hope is better than him in every way, and he’s fine with it. Michael Peña once again injects such manic energy that he makes the film better by just being on screen, including another scene of him recounting the events of the first film that will leave viewers in stitches. And even newcomer Randall Park as the hilariously insecure FBI agent Jimmy Woo makes the most out of his scenes and makes you want to see more of him in future films.
Last December, Ant-Man and the Wasp was billed as Marvel’s first romantic comedy. While director Peyton Reed denied such reports (and the finished film isn’t really a rom-com), it does fit the bill as the MCU’s equivalent of a funny, yet harmless movie with not much to it, but that you will find while channel surfing and not be able to stop watching.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Rafael Motamayor is a journalist and movie geek based in Norway. You can follow him on Twitter.