Earlier this year, Black Panther and Avengers: Infinity War showed us how bold and innovative Marvel Cinematic Universe films can be. However, as Marvel movies dramatically evolve, Ant-Man and the Wasp proves that the MCU can still provide light popcorn fare. Admittedly, Ant-Man and the Wasp does possess heavy dramatic stakes but for the most part, it’s escapist fun that manages to outdo its predecessor.
The story takes place two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is under house arrest and has avoided contact with Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). That is until Scott ends up helping them track down Dr. Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother who is lost in the dimension known as the Quantum Realm. In the midst of their search, they find themselves confronting a new powerful enemy called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a woman who can phase through literally anything and who has dark connections to Hank’s past.
It’s best not to reveal what those connections are. But the fact that Ghost is written with such a deep backstory shows that Marvel has gone 3 for 3 this year when it comes to their on-screen villains. Not to mention, they went the extra mile by gender-flipping the character of Ghost who was originally written as male in the comics. As the aforementioned villain, Hannah John-Kamen is quite spectacular. Her performance becomes more emotionally devastating as Ghost gets more diabolical. Ghost will try to achieve her plans by whatever means necessary even though she doesn’t exactly want to become a sinister foe. A far more well-realized villain than Yellowjacket, the antagonist from the first film, who’s evil just because he’s a greedy businessman without any deeper motivations.
Ant-Man and the Wasp also expands on the best parts of its predecessor. Particularly, the bond between Scott and his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) which helps give the film its heart. There’s also Michael Pena who has a slightly larger role as Scott’s partner-in-crime Luis. With practically every single line reading, Michael Pena steals every moment he’s on screen. If I’m being completely honest, I’d gladly watch an Ant-Man spinoff on Luis because Pena’s comedic timing is impeccable.
As for the main trio, they’re all in fine form. Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly are terrific as the titular duo while Michael Douglas provides sly comical relief. The chemistry amongst the three of them held the first one together and once again, succeeds this time around.
But while I’m still comparing the sequel to the original, I’ll say that it manages to feel like its own entity. The first Ant-Man was more of a heist picture while this one is more of a family film. What I mean by that is that it goes pretty deep into the theme of family values. Scott tries to be a good superhero for his daughter to look up to. Meanwhile, Hope is trying to save her mother who was a hero to her.
However, despite the terrific acting, earnest dramatic themes, and high-octane action, the film still isn’t without its flaws. There are points where the never-ending humor is meshed into some dramatic moments and it doesn’t quite work. Also, there’s a subplot involving a secondary villain named Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) which felt unnecessary. Lastly, as good as Michelle Pfeiffer is, her casting is still part of the ongoing tradition of veteran actresses seeing their talents go to waste in superhero films (i.e. Rene Russo, Marisa Tomei, Angela Bassett, etc.).
So Ant-Man and the Wasp is flawed despite it being a step above the first film. That being said, it’s still worth recommending simply because it’s the kind of film the summer movie season is made for. Ant-Man and the Wasp is a satisfying, profound crowd pleaser that is hardly anything but pint-sized fun.