Movie Review: Peyton Reed returns to the director’s chair for “Ant-Man and the Wasp” – a sequel that largely works because of the charisma and comedic timing of Paul Rudd. It still feels like Marvel at its safest, but the charm wins out.
After the tense and universe-clashing “Avengers: Infinity War” left many of the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s biggest heroes evaporating into thin air, the studio that’s dominated mainstream moviegoing for the better part of a decade decided to follow it up with the one hero who seemed noticeably absent from the whole thing. Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang may not have been there to stop Thanos, and “Ant-Man and the Wasp” attempts to explain why.
When the events of “Captain America: Civil War” leave Scott Lang on house arrest, the shape shifting hero must navigate his toughest mission yet to help Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and her father Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) find their long lost mother/wife. The mission becomes increasingly dangerous when a slew of enemies threaten to stop them in their tracks (those enemies include Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen and Randall Park).
For the most part, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” capitalizes and expands on the best parts of the first “Ant-Man” movie. It’s noticeably funnier, and much of the comedy fits within the scenes they are working in. I’ve frequently complained about how the MCU strains too hard for many of their jokes. Often times they’ll cut tension to lay down one more corny line of dialogue that doesn’t add anything to the sequence it’s surrounded by. That’s not the case with “Ant-Man and the Wasp” – I can easily say this is one of the better and funnier entries into the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
It also serves an important task of explaining where Scott Lang is between the end of “Captain America: Civil War” and “Avengers: Infinity War.” Again, I think it succeeds in tying up those loose ends in a universe that seems to be overflowing with them. I like that we were able to get two standalone “Ant-Man” movies before he was heavily integrated into the larger scale world of Marvel in “Avengers: Endgame.” It seems Scott Lang is going to have a significant part in their future worldbuilding, so it’s nice to have solid foundation before taking his character into intergalactic waters.
I have generally the same complaints with “Ant-Man and the Wasp” as I did with the original movie, particularly that Michael Douglas continues to be nothing more than an angry, depressing old man. Someone of his stature deserves a much better and more developed storyline that offers him room to actually act and navigate in a blockbuster. At least in “Ant Man and the Wasp: Quantumania” it seems like he’ll have some room to work with Michelle Pfeiffer, although I feel more pessimistic than optimistic about Marvel Studios landing the plane with that one.
The movie also gets too caught up in its techy mythology for its own good. It mostly just comes off as snobby, smart guy wallpaper and none of it feels all that interesting. It does lead to some neat moments of Quantum Realm traveling and skyscrapers shrinking. Those parts are mostly neat and I’m excited to see them take the possibilities even further in the third movie. It’s also exciting to see Ant-Man finally get to fight a villain as noteworthy as Kang the Conqueror because Yellowjacket and Ghost have been way too underwhelming. Neither feel like the signature villain that Ant-Man is going to fight, so I’m hoping that Kang is just that.
But as for “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” it feels simultaneously extremely safe and satisfying. They followed up a downer like “Infinity War” with one that’s notably crowd pleasing – I can’t imagine a world where Marvel feels like audiences can take two depressing movies in a row (come on, they don’t take that many risks). At least this movie gets Paul Rudd and Evangeline Lilly back on screen together. They’ve proven to be one of the more consistent duos in this universe.
It’s also relevant to point out that “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is one of the few sequels to stay within leagues of the successful first installment in a flagship Marvel Cinematic Universe franchise. “Iron Man 2” is shockingly bad. “Thor: The Dark World” isn’t nearly as good as the first, although the first is rather brutal itself. “Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2” is a rather divisive moment – I tend to think it isn’t that good, but it might be time for another go around with it. You get the idea. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” actually works in tandem quite well with the first one.
I wont say that Marvel gets a hearty pat on the back with this movie, because really all they did was bring back Paul Rudd and let him work his magic. But “Ant-Man and the Wasp” plays it safe and delivers a relatively enjoyable experience. I’m not sure where I would put it in the grander scheme of Marvel movies, but it’s certainly not the dumpster fire that some of the worst installments have been. It’s enjoyable!