Marvel checks in with their most diminutive hero in Ant-Man and the Wasp

Ant-Man and The Wasp doesn’t have as much style as James Gunn’s Guardians movies or Taika Waititi’s Thor: Ragnarok. But it returning director Peyton Reed has honed in on everything. That made the first Ant-Man so charming and doubled down on it. That from the offbeat humor to the zippy energy radiating from every scene.

It’s a smidge longer than its predecessor. But somehow feels tighter and more confident in its execution — a rare feat for a sequel.

Let’s get this out of the way up front: If you’re hoping that Ant-Man and The Wasp. It will answer all your lingering Infinity War questions, you’d better temper your expectations now. It’s no spoiler to admit – since Marvel’s official plot synopsis already did – that the sprightly sequel to Marvel’s 2015 heist movie takes place in the aftermath of Captain America: Civil War, with our diminutive hero Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) under house arrest following his shenanigans in Germany with Cap and the gang.

But that doesn’t mean Ant-Man and The Wasp is divorced from everything else that’s happening in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. While the sequel succeeds in telling a refreshingly self-contained story. It’s clear that the discoveries revealed here will play an integral role in Avengers 4 and beyond. (For once, the first post-credits scene isn’t a bonus – it’s the actual end of the movie, so don’t leave early.)

With the dust still settling from Thanos’ antics in Avengers:

Infinity War, the third Marvel outing of 2018 promises something slightly more light-hearted than global genocide. Disney’s decision to offset the doom and gloom of the “most ambitious crossover event in history”. That with a comedy caper about a man who talks to ants is a testament to their relentless movie machine,. Which sees at least two titles per year dominate the box office.

Set two years after the events of Captain America: Civil War, which saw Scott Lang aka Ant-Man (Paul Rudd) team up. That team with the government-disavowed side of the Avengers, our diminutive hero is cooped up on house arrest. He passes the time playing with his daughter, helping his friend Luis (Michael Peña) with their burgeoning security business. And generally pottering around at home in San Francisco.

Meanwhile,

Old pals Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) have been beavering away, attempting to work out. How they can rescue their missing family member Janet from the mysterious Quantum realm, where she’s been trapped for 30 years. In order to do so, they reunite with Lang, but have to contend with thieves out to steal their next-level tech. That is in the form of reality-tripping Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and dastardly southern gent, Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins playing Walton Goggins).

Considering the plot was heavily hinted at in its predecessor. It’s difficult for Ant-Man and the Wasp to really keep any tricks up its sleeve. Director Peyton Reed has a gift for comedy, and (again, much like its predecessor) the film excels when it’s being funny. This comes down to perhaps the strongest ensemble cast in the MCU, with the relentlessly charming Paul Rudd on fine form as #relatable Scott Lang. And motor-mouthed Michael Peña delivering another scene-stealing turn as Lang’s best buddy, Luis.

Despite the cast’s best efforts, Ant-Man and the Wasp is hardly gripping viewing

Thor: Ragnarok, Black Panther and Infinity War all run circles around it. There’s a lot of technobabble which undoubtedly sets things up for Infinity War Part 2 (as does the obligatory post-credits scene). And the film’s stand-out is a car chase which makes good use of the shrinking tech on which the entire premise hinges. But none of this is enough to make up for the film’s curiously low stakes.

This a film that’s difficult to actively dislike – Rudd and his equally charming co-stars take care of that – and fun in the moment. But there’s precious little that lingers after the credits roll. The whole things feels suspiciously like filler material intended to tide audiences over until the arrival of Captain Marvel next spring.

The key characteristic that Ant-Man and The Wasp shares with the rest of the films in Marvel’s Phase Three. That is a focus on family, whether that means your blood relatives or the tribe you form for yourself. While Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly). Who are willing to go to any lengths to reunite with their family’s long-lost matriarch, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer, who’s radiant but underutilized),

Scott’s top priority is setting a good example for his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson)

And making sure that he’s around to see her grow up. But he’s also concerned with ensuring that his former accomplices – Luis (Michael Pena), Dave (T.I.), and Kurt (David Dastmalchian) – get a shot at rehabilitation, too.

The first Ant-Man is arguably the lightest of the MCU movies. Those movies in both plot and tone (the Guardians films, for all their sass, still feature some undeniably heavy moments), and the sequel has a similar playfulness. It wholeheartedly embraces the inherent ridiculousness of Scott’s powers and the predicaments he often finds himself in — mostly by staging some of the most inventive action scenes attempted in any movie franchise, not just Marvel’s.

One area of the movie that could’ve used a little more creativity is the Quantum Realm. The microscopic alternate dimension where Janet van Dyne has apparently been trapped for decades. After the psychedelic beauty of Doctor Strange, the trippy subatomic landscape feels a tad underwhelming.

INFO:

Rating: PG-13 (for some sci-fi action violence)
Genre: Action & Adventure, Comedy, Science Fiction & Fantasy
Directed By: Peyton Reed
Stars: Paul Rudd, Evangeline Lilly, Michael Peña
Written By: Gabriel Ferrari, Andrew Barrer, Erik Sommers
In Theaters: Jul 6, 2018 Wide
On Disc/Streaming: Oct 16, 2018
Runtime: 118 minutes
Studio: Walt Disney Pictures

Hannah Woodhead
This a film that’s difficult to actively dislike – Rudd and his equally charming co-stars take care of that – and fun in the moment, but there’s precious little that lingers after the credits roll.

Andrea Gronvall
The screenwriters (Rudd among them) frequently mock their own sci-fi jargon, their snarkiness the strong suit in a movie offering little else except souped-up car chases.

Kate Rodger
Michal Pena and his comedy trio feel a little more forced this time around as they try to recreate the magic of their debut, but they still brought a smile to my dial.

Noah Berlatsky
Giant stories are by their nature hard to wrap your head, or your heart, around. But Ant-Man and the Wasp’s smaller-than-life stakes give its characters, and its plot, room to breathe.

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