Ant-Man and the Wasp, 2018.
Directed by Peyton Reed.
Starring Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Douglas, Michelle Pfeiffer, Hannah John-Kamen, Michael Peña, Laurence Fishburne, Judy Greer, Bobby Cannavale, Randall Park and Walton Goggins.
A message from the quantum realm leads Scott Lang to flout his house arrest and contact Hank Pym, leading to an adventure in which Lang joins forces with Hope van Dyne, who now has her own superhero suit.
With the shockwaves of Avengers: Infinity War still reverberating through the brains of Marvel Cinematic Universe fans all over the world, the next superhero out of the blocks was always going to have a tough time. Like Paul Rodgers touring with Queen after Freddie Mercury, Ant-Man and the Wasp was forced to operate under an enormous shadow. As a result, the film is perhaps the most disposable Marvel movie since the Avengers first assembled back in 2012. With that said, though, returning director Peyton Reed has delivered a movie that pops with colour, silliness and the MCU’s patented Big Quip Energy.
Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest as a result of the deal he made following the events of Captain America: Civil War. His buddies, including Michael Peña’s terrific Luis, are running a security company and he hasn’t heard from either Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) or Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) since they were forced into hiding. They have been trying to enter the quantum realm in the wake of Lang’s successful return in the previous movie, hoping this now means there’s a chance Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) is alive.
There’s a surprising amount of plot in Ant-Man and the Wasp, which unfolds entirely over the course of the three final days of Lang’s house arrest. It rattles along at a breakneck pace as Lang links back up with Pym and Van Dyne when he receives a message from the quantum realm, suggesting he has some sort of link to the missing Janet. What follows is a frenetic adventure as the trio try to carry out their experiments while avoiding Lang’s parole officer (Randall Park), dodgy crook Sonny (Walton Goggins) and a molecularly unstable young woman with her own links to the quantum realm (Hannah John-Kamen).
With so much going on, it’s surprising that Reed manages to do such a solid job. The action sequences are bigger and sillier than they were in the first movie, with salt shakers engorged to enormous sizes and a massive Pez dispenser rolling down a street like the boulder at the beginning of Raiders of the Lost Ark. Rudd and Lilly’s chemistry really comes alive when they are thrust into action together, though these scenes are few and far between and the film has an unfortunate habit of robbing its set pieces of tension by cross-cutting with parallel events – most notably in the mad third act.
Ironically given its bombastic visual invention, Ant-Man and the Wasp is at its best when things are a little quieter. It seems Lang is riding out his house arrest by learning to drum and crying at The Fault in Our Stars and the movie is at its best when it allows Rudd to be as funny as everyone knows he is, dealing out gags at a rate easily double that of the first Ant-Man film. Lilly also gets her fair share of comedy moments and Douglas makes the most of a considerably enhanced role.
It’s also worth giving the movie praise for its impressive array of female characters. Abby Ryder Fortson once again steals scenes as Lang’s daughter Cassie and John-Kamen excels as a slightly darker take on the glitching Vanellope Von Schweetz from Wreck-It Ralph, even though her character feels like more of a formula-mandated afterthought than anything else. It’s Lilly, though, who cements herself as a true star of the MCU with her arse-kicking Wasp, exhausted by the failings of the men around her and capable of holding her own on every level.
As is so often true in the MCU, Ant-Man and the Wasp works as a result of its central characters, who are well drawn and entertaining in their own right, as well as when they’re part of an Avengers-style ensemble. It’s when it moves away from its characters and tries to do something more focused on plot or action that it becomes muddled and messy. As much as it works as a colourful, quippy superhero adventure, it emerges as something very forgettable. By the time the now-compulsory credits scene has finished, the film will leave your mind as quickly as the rest of your Friday night out after that third shot of tequila.
Flickering Myth Rating – Film: ★ ★ ★ / Movie: ★ ★ ★ ★
Tom Beasley is a freelance film journalist and wrestling fan. Follow him on Twitter via @TomJBeasley for movie opinions, wrestling stuff and puns.