Like its predecessor Ant-Man (2015), Ant-Man and the Wasp benefits substantially from its relatively low stakes. Both movies emerged in the shadow of a massive Avengers epic, in which nothing less than the universe itself was in danger (and, in the case of Avengers: Infinity War, is still in danger since we are still awaiting the second part), and it feels like a breath of fresh air to witness our wise-cracking, size-changing hero take on issues that are decidedly more relatable.
While the first film was essentially a heist movie, this one is a rescue thriller, with the object of the operation being to recover someone who has spent the past three decades in the "quantum realm," a bizarre nebulous space in which you are trapped when you shrink smaller than an atom. You may recall that burglar-turned-super-shrinking-superhero Scott Lang, aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) spent a bit of time down there in the first movie, and we are reminded at the beginning of this one that Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), the wife of Dr. Hank Prym (Michael Douglas), the inventor of the shrinking technology that gives Ant-Man his powers, was trapped there 30 years ago during a mission to save the U.S. from a Soviet missile strike. Hank and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) become determined to rescue her after realizing that she is trapped there, rather than dead, as they had assumed. This is primarily because Scott has a dream about Janet right after they do a test-run on a device they invented to project someone directly into the quantum realm, which they take to be a message implanted in Scott's mind by Janet. Still with me? Good.
Unfortunately, because Scott ruffled their feathers by stealing the suit to use in his guest appearance in Captain America: Civil War (2016), in which he joined Cap against the rest of the Avengers, Hank and Hope aren't really speaking to him, which is just as well since he has spent the past two years on house arrest, literally unable to leave his brownstone. He still comes up with inventive ways to spend quality time with his adolescent daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), even with the overeager police detective who oversees his case (Randall Park) chomping at the bit to catch him outside his perimeter.
But, outside that perimeter he must eventually go, where he runs into two primary adversaries: Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), a drawling arms dealer who wants to steal Hank's technology, and Ava, aka Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a tragic young woman who blames Hank for her condition, in which her atoms are constantly tearing apart and being re-stitched, which gives her the ability to walk through solid objects, but also keeps her in a constant state of agony and threatens to kill her. Sonny is a comical riff on comic book villainy, while Ghost is a genuinely tragic figure, driven by both deep-seated anger and a vicious will to live. In its best moments, Ant-Man and the Wasp manages to balance an intersecting trifecta of plot points, with Ant-Man trying to help Hank and Hope (the Wasp of the title) rescue Janet from the quantum realm while battling Ghost and Sonny, both of whom need Hank's technology, and trying to maintain the illusion that Scott is still at home (courtesy of a giant ant wearing his ankle monitor-don't ask). The film's third act action plays like a riff on Christopher Nolan's Inception (2010), with multiple actions occurring simultaneously in different realms of reality (Hank is inside the quantum zone via the tunnel that is inside a building that he has shrunk to the size of a suitcase that is constantly changing hands).
Returning director Peyton Reed, working from a script by Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Paul Rudd, Andrew Barrer, and Gabriel Ferrari, continues the same light-hearted approach he took with the first film, pitching much of the action and violence in a largely comical vein; this is a movie, after all, in which a giant Hello Kitty Pez dispenser is given full slow-motion treatment during a fast and furious chase through the streets of San Francisco, although one of the best gags involves Scott calling telepathically to his flying insect allies to help him, each of which gets snatched one after the other by hungry gulls. There is so much comic relief on hand, much of it courtesy of Luis (Michael PeÃ±a), Scott's overambitious friend and business partner, that the action and intrigue often play as relief from the comedy. Reed never overdoes it, though, and the film certainly doesn't get into the self-lacerating meta-realm of comedy currently cornered by the Deadpool films. Rudd once again makes for an appealing protagonist who wears his sarcasm lightly and manages some depth of emotion when it's needed. You won't mistake Ant-Man and the Wasp for anything particularly deep or even all that ambitious, but it is certainly a fun diversion.
Copyright © 2018 James Kendrick
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All images copyright © Marvel Studios
Overall Rating: (3)
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