OnScreen Review: "Ant-Man and the Wasp"

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Ken Jones

  • Chief Film Critic

It seems like it gets lost in the shuffle in comparison to all of the other Marvel Cinematic Universe properties, but 2015’s Ant-Man is an easily enjoyable movie. Despite some initial questions about Paul Rudd being tapped to join the MCU, Ant-Man has slid right in alongside all the others in the MCU rather smoothly. In addition to being a superhero flick, it was also a good genre heist movie as well. This time around, it’s more of a straightforward action movie, though still tempered with plenty of comedy.

Ant-Man and the Wasp returns all of the major players from the first film, picking up the story some time after the events of Captain America: Civil War where Scott Lang’s (Paul Rudd) actions in helping Captain America led to his arrest and detainment at a maximum security prison. Now, he has taken a plea deal and is under house arrest in order to be able to see his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). His actions also caused Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lily) to go underground on the run from the FBI. Their experimentations with the quantum realm open a momentary connection between Scott and Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) as they attempt to retrieve her from being stuck in the quantum realm for so many years. However, other forces are attempting to get their hands on Hank’s technology in the form of a shady business partner, Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), and the mysterious masked figure Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen).

Director Peyton Reed took over Ant-Man when Edgar Wright left the project and gets full control this time around. All of the elements that made the first film enjoyable are reproduced here. One aspect of the style of these films that will probably never get old to me is whenever Scott is shrunk down as Ant-Man doing something and it is shown as incredibly dramatic from his perspective, but then it is shown happening at “normal” size, and it is mundane, like the fight on the trainset in the first movie. One of the best instances of it this time around is when Scott falls into the ocean off of the back of a flying insect with the payoff being barely more than a “plop” as he hits the water, like the impact of a small pebble hitting the water.

The execution of the shrinking and enlargement of items and people in this movie is one of the strongest aspect of the film. Whether it is giant Pez dispensers or salt shakers or miniature vehicles scooting around the streets of San Francisco, there is a fluidity and dexterity with how it is implemented that makes everything feel seamless and that there is a sure command of the action. All of the action feel properly paced and choreographed, which is such a vital piece to nail.

Evangeline Lily gets a chance to properly share the spotlight with Paul Rudd this time around, donning the Wasp suit and fighting alongside Ant-Man. Lily has always been someone capable of holding her own and having a commanding physical presence as far back as her days on the TV series Lost, so her capability in the role is no surprise. She and Rudd work well together and have believable chemistry. Michael Douglas gets to do a bit more in this sequel as well. Having Hank and Hope be frosty toward Scott for using their tech in Civil War without consulting with them adds a nice twist to the relationship between these three. Hannah John-Kamen’s Ghost is a slightly non-traditional villain, with pressing personal motivations for her actions. Michael Pena continues to shine in a supporting role, getting another hilarious flashback to narrate and getting his fair share of the best laughs of the movie. And of course, Michelle Pfeiffer is always a welcome sight on the screen, even in a limited role.

A lot of time is spent discussing the Quantum Realm, which is the smallest level that anyone can go in the suits that Hank has made, where Janet Van Dyne was lost, and Scott briefly ventured into in the last film. Why a quantum bridge exists between them is not exactly clear. Also not exactly clear is how Janet can be found in the Quantum Realm, which is sub-atomic, in the same relative location as where they are when she went missing while taking down a missile half a world away so many years ago. Maybe I’m just daft, but the less you think about the Quantum Realm the more you will enjoy this movie.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a lighter change of pace from the heaviness of Avengers: Infinity War (it’s worth pointing out that it also takes place chronologically before the events of Civil War too). It’s perfect for the middle of summer as a blockbuster with a lot of laughs and slightly lower stakes. Which is good, because one thing that doesn’t exactly work is a lot of the comic book science involved in this movie. Take the film as it is intended to be, a light, funny, and entertaining action movie and not an epic blockbuster on the same scale as Infinity War or any of the bigger Marvel movies. The best part of where Marvel has gotten to at this point is that they can allow these franchises within the MCU to do their own thing at their own pace and have that be ok, just like the comic books they’re based on.

Rating: 3.5 out of 5 stars