In 2015, Marvel’s Ant-Man could easily have come across as a low-rent Iron Man – both featuring high-tech costumed heroes – but instead, the studio doubled down on the comedy and we got an incredibly fun caper flick that surprised many a viewer. Now, with 2018’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, we get the answer to the much asked question, “What was Scott Lang doing during the events of Avengers: Infinity War?” (Note: Still no revelation as to what Clint Barton/Hawkeye was doing), the answer is that he was under house arrest. Seriously, the fate of the universe is hanging in the balance, and one of the most versatile heroes is sidelined by an ankle monitor?
Once again directed by Peyton Reed, Ant-Man and the Wasp follows the events of Captain America: Civil War – where breaking the Sokovia Accords in Berlin landed Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) in jail – and now he has just three days left of house arrest. How his being locked up in The Raft (A high security prison maintained by S.H.I.E.L.D) during Civil War was commuted to house arrest in this film is never explained — Lang must have the best lawyer in the universe. Scott has since been spending his time trying to keep his daughter amused – in a way any kid would die for – and running a personal security firm for ex-cons with his pal Luis (Michael Peña). It’s when Scott is hit with a dream/vision of the Quantum Realm that could be coming from Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who’s been trapped inside for decades, that the movie’s plot is sent into hyper-drive.
Of course, popping into the Quantum Realm isn’t like going down to the corner store for a bag of crisps – Scott Lang being the only person to have ever returned – and the dangerous science behind this rescue isn’t even the major problem; aside from the fact that both Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) are still mad at Scott for running off to Berlin with one of the Ant-Man suits – putting both of them on the FBI’s most wanted list – he also has to deal with black market tech dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), a team of Federal Agents led by Agent Woo (Randall Park), and the mysterious Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a masked opponent who wants to get her hands on Pym’s quantum tech for her own, and very personal, reasons.
With director Peyton Reed having to juggle multiple opponents – all with their own agendas – it’s not surprising to find that the tonal shifts the movie makes do not always work – the switching between dramatic moments like a mother missing for decades in a mysterious microverse to Lang’s goofy ex-con buddies could be considered a tad jarring – but the movie’s amazing action set-pieces will keep even the most jaded viewer enthralled. The use of switching sizes mid-combat – turning themselves and vehicles from big to small at the drop of a hat – makes these fight sequences totally insane and completely original, and then when you add in the Ghost’s ability to quantum shift – which allows her to phase in and out of attacks – you get some of the best superhero combat and chase sequences ever put to film.
Where the original Ant-Man movie focused on comedy – with Michael Peña stealing many a scene – this entry is more plot and action driven, with the biggest danger it faces is in getting in it’s own way.
• Marvel’s actor de-aging software is getting better and better.
• Bobby Cannavale returns as the husband of Lang’s ex-wife, and his character nicely bucks the trend of asshole movie stepdads.
• The movie could have used a bit more Wasp action, what we got was fantastic, I just wanted more.
• Having enlarged ants as laboratory assistants was bloody brilliant.
• That Janet Van Dyne managed to stay sane while being trapped for 30 years in the Quantum Realm is quite impressive,
• It’s a shame that Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne) never offers Scott Lang the Blue Pill.
• I’m not sure how the contents of Hank Pym’s shrunken building survive all the jostling they experience during the movie’s “Great Keep-Away” chase Sequence.
The Ant-Man movies are sort of in the same vein as the Guardians of the Galaxy films – both relying heavily on the comedic aspects of their characters – but unlike the Guardians’ movies, Ant-Man and the Wasp continue to keep their adventures on a less cosmic scale, barely having an effect on even a global level, which I find kind of refreshing. Ant-Man and the Wasp may not be reinventing the wheel with this entry in the Marvel Cinematic Universe – though it does take combat tactics to a whole new level – but the result is still a remarkably fun film, with an engaging cast of characters and a new fully developed antagonist who is even more sympathetic than Michael B. Jordan’s character from Black Panther. If you want thrills, laughs and super-heroics, you could do a lot worse than Ant-Man and the Wasp.