Movie review: Ant-Man and the Wasp

Ant-Man was a surprise hit of 2015. Adopting the Guardians of the Galaxy formula, the movie managed to balance humour with action, diverging from the standard Marvel template just enough to carve out its own niche. The ending of Ant-Man – as well as the film’s box office success – pretty much guaranteed a sequel. Then along came Captain America: Civil War, which shook up the Marvel universe, and those damned Sokovia Accords? Well, they had their impact on Ant-Man too…

Living in a post-Civil War world, Scott Lang (played by Paul Rudd) has struck a plea deal with the FBI and is under house arrest. His time is almost up, but he’s struggling to serve out his sentence at home. He hasn’t been Ant-Man for a long time, and has lost contact with Hank and Hope Pym: the creator of the Ant-Man suit, and his daughter. Lang is having flashbacks – experiencing memories of a woman he doesn’t recognise.

Hank and Hope (played by Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly) do know this woman though. She is Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) – the original Wasp, presumed lost “between the molecules” during an operation back in 1987. Hank and Hope have been building a quantum tunnel, which may allow them to rescue Janet. Lang’s revelation suggests that she may still be alive, and that she can be saved. But there are other forces interested in this quantum technology, and the appearance of a mysterious figure that is able to phase in and out of reality – dubbed the Ghost (played by Hannah John-Karmen) – leads to a desperate struggle to rescue Janet before it is too late…

Ant-Man and the Wasp is very good fun. Although it’s clearly a Marvel Universe film, it occupies the more comedic end of the spectrum. There’s a good balance of humour and action here, and the film succeeds very well at entertaining. Paul Rudd does a good job of reprising the Ant-Man role, and although in many ways this is a more serious story (dealing with heavier subject matter than the original, for instance), Lang retains his comic edge. Rudd’s supported by an excellent cast: the staff of (the literally named!) X-Con Security deserve mention. As in the original Ant-Man, Michael Pena is a show-stealer. I’m thinking here of the “truth serum” scene, which we’ve seen in the original, but still felt fresh here.

The rest of the cast is also strong. There are bit-parts for the rest of Lang’s family, but largely the domestic elements of the first film are now resolved, and so these aren’t major issues here. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope has changed since the end of Ant-Man, and my only criticism of her role is that perhaps she was delving back into the same distrust of Lang we saw in the original movie. That said, it’s easy to understand why as well. A major relationship point explored in Ant-Man and the Wasp is the fact that Lang’s sojourn to Germany, to fight alongside Captain America in Civil War, wasn’t approved by the Pyms. I found this development interesting, and demonstrates that Lang isn’t as pure a “good guy” as many Marvel heroes. He occupies that area of light and dark; clearly wanting to do the right thing, but also recognising that sometimes he doesn’t.

Plot-wise, this is fairly standard superhero fare. The story is narrower than many other recent Marvel films. Avengers: Infinity War was obviously much bigger; the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp only really concern the fate of a couple of characters. I was fine with this, and sometimes it’s nice to have a more personal hero flick.

The plot does allow for lots of opportunities for the Ant-Man to use his powers. We get to see him shrinking, growing and everything in between – sometimes even involuntarily. Pym’s technology is now being used for other items as well. The recovery and possession of his lab building – which can be reduced to the size of a scale model – is a major plot hook. Again, small stuff (no pun intended!) but that’s the scope of this movie.

A note also on the extra scenes that Marvel is renowned for inserting into and after the credits: you need to stay and watch them!  While one adds nothing at all to the story, the other anchors Ant-Man right into the wider MCU. I couldn’t help asking where Marvel are going to take things next? They surely have a plan, but I’m very curious indeed to see how this now pans out. Marvel has taken a huge risk by erasing so many major characters post-Infinity War, and those they do have left are not in much of a position to save the rest of the universe…

In conclusion, Ant-Man and the Wasp is another strong addition to the Marvel stable. It’s great fun, and if you were a fan of the first Ant-Man you can be sure you’ll enjoy this one just as much.

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