This is the palate cleanser we needed after the heaviness of Avengers: Infinity War, and like the first Ant-Man, guaranteed to leave you smiling ear to ear. However, as a film, and grading on the curve of what we expect from recent MCU movies, it falls a bit short of the recent genius of Black Panther or Thor: Ragnarok.
But is that really fair? Do we judge the sorbet, pickled ginger, or simple fruit compared to the course before it? If you eat some apple slices after a particularly hearty main course, shouldn’t you just compare it to other apples? Ant-Man and the Wasp is a particularly good apple, even if it’s a lesser part of the feast of the MCU.
Our story centers back on Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) who, after the events of Captain America: Civil War, finds himself in the last few days of a two-year house arrest, during which time he has had no contact with Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) or Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). They are reunited after he has a vision of Janet (Michelle Pfieffer) whom Hank and Hope have been trying to rescue from the quantum realm, avoiding detection by the authorities with a truly “mobile” lab they can shrink to a rolling suitcase.
Unfortunately, their activities have also attracted the attention of Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) a former S.H.I.E.L.D. operative, who needs their tech to fix her condition which allows her to phase through solid matter, but is also extremely painful. They’re also being pursued by billionaire Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) and FBI Agent Woo (Randall Park) and aided by Scott’s friends from the previous movie, led by Michael Pena. And we get a glimpse into Hank Pym’s past with the introduction of Dr. Bill Foster (Lawrence Fishburne) who previously used Pym’s technology to grow larger and become “Goliath.”
It’s a lot of characters. And most of the movie ends up being a giant game of keep-away with the lab/suitcase while our stars tell jokes and superhero wackiness ensues. While the first Ant-Man played like a generic heist film, this is more reminiscent of the specific sub-genre of a 60’s caper film which was as much about the romantic chemistry of the two leads as its plot.
Full of sight gags and visuals of little things turning big and vice versa, the film plays with its main conceit of being able to shrink and grow at will, sometimes almost to a fault. It also uses its setting of San Francisco to great effect. The film also depends on the audience being willing to accept a lot of super convenient plot turns to keep everything moving, including the biggest deus ex machina of the entire MCU to resolve its central conflict.
One of the biggest impressions we’re left with from this film is “women do it better.” Hope Van Dyne’s Wasp is infinitely better at her job than Scott is at being Ant-Man, and Ghost as an antagonist is infinitely better than Corey Stoll’s super-weak Yellowjacket in the last Ant-Man film.
The other important thing here [possible spoiler alert?] is the idea that this film exists without a singular villain, continuing Marvel’s recent spate of complex villains with an actual beef and moral weight to their arguments. While Ghost is certainly the antagonist, she is a person acting out of severe pain from her “powers” and more akin to a terminal patient looking to do anything to get palliative medical care. And Goggins, while always fun to watch in a villain role, really doesn’t do enough to qualify as a “villain” in the true sense– other than just being a greedy capitalist.
So this movie has a lot of heart, spectacular visuals, great jokes and performances from its supporting cast, and some nice character moments, but falls short of some of the spectacle, fun, and other recent MCU films. But as a palate cleanser? It works really well.
Until [again, possible spoiler alert, but this is predictable] in the post credit scenes we see what happens in this corner of the universe when Thanos snaps his fingers. Then it leaves that ashy, sad taste in our mouth again. If you want to preserve the fun and good feelings this movie gives us, you may want to leave at the credits, just this one time.
This is a fun movie which should keep you smiling for almost the entirety of its runtime. While not as good as, say, Incredibles 2, it’s worthwhile just as some fun escapism from the heat and the stresses of summer 2018.
3.5 out of 5