With one snap of the fingers it all changed. Fans of the Marvel Cinematic Universe are still reeling from that cliffhanger ending of Avengers: Infinity War and since the moment the credits started rolling on the massive blockbuster people have been speculating about what’s next for Marvel’s expansive roster of heroes. For the first film following Infinity War, Marvel has decided to scale back with Ant-Man and the Wasp, the sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man. Director Peyton Reed’s sequel isn’t as dire as the latest Avengers adventure, breezing by on a story of relatively low stakes and overflowing with hilarity as Ant-Man and the Wasp has the most fun with its inherently absurd concept. In what has been Marvel’s biggest year at the box office with Infinity War and Black Panther smashing box office records, it’s the miniature heroes of Ant-Man and the Wasp that might prove to provide Marvel’s biggest fun.
As much as Ant-Man and the Wasp is a sequel to Ant-Man it’s also a sequel to 2016’s Captain America: Civil War, with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) under house arrest for his role in that film’s epic superhero climax. Under house arrest, Lang plays with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) and works on a new security company with his old friend and former cellmate Luis (Michael Peña). Any legal slip up and Lang’s house is immediately invaded by the FBI Agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park). Things are looking up for Scott Lang as he only has a few days left under house arrest and then he’s free to do whatever he wants. But his time spent in the Quantum Realm at the conclusion of the first film has left behind some unusual marks on the mind of Scott Lang, and it’s in a dream that he first encounters Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfieffer), the wife of Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and the mother of Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly).
It’s that mysterious connection from another realm of existence that brings Pym and Van Dyne out of hiding in the hopes of using Scott Lang to find Janet, who disappeared within the Quantum Realm over 30 years ago. The father and daughter duo of scientists are working on a device that will transport them to the Quantum Realm and rescue their missing mother. Of course there are complications along the way. First is the sleazy weapons industrialist Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), who wants Pym’s technology for nefarious purposes and utilizes his army of goons to seize it. The other is Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), a mysterious super-powered individual who exists between realms. Ghost can weave between matter, making battle with the masked villain more difficult than usual. With a little help from one of Pym’s old science partners Dr. Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), Hank Pym hopes to use his unique knowledge to travel within the Quantum Realm and save his missing wife.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is mostly a very contained story, focusing intently on the father-daughter dynamics between Scott Lang and Cassie along with Hank Pym and Hope Van Dyne. It gives this particular Marvel movie a different feel than so many of its brethren in its emotional stakes, which defy superhero convention as these familial issues are never used to create a single damsel in distress.
None of these family elements dilute the film’s wildly entertaining attitude, as Peyton Reed keeps his superhero sequel moving at a blistering pace. Reed and a team of five screenwriters (Chris McKenna, Erik Sommers, Andrew Barrer, Gabriel Ferrari, and Paul Rudd) play with inherent absurdity of Ant-Man. This sequel goes nuts in utilizing the size-shifting Pym Particle as objects and people are always shrinking and enlarging. There is so much cleverness on display in the way that everyday objects are manipulated by its heroes and villains that it creates a number of scenes that simply couldn’t exist in any other movie, superhero or not. Ant-Man and the Wasp is so ridiculously entertaining as it just flies by with marvelous action set pieces and countless hilarious moments. It’s really masterful how Peyton Reed has crafted a film that delivers the eye-popping CGI action but also knows how to use these same aspects for some hilarious moments. Even the Stan Lee cameo is one of the funniest that the comics veteran has ever done.
The most refreshing aspect of Ant-Man and the Wasp is the dynamic that emerges between Scott Lang and Hope Van Dyne. Lang is the bumbling reformed criminal who finds new life as a superhero in Hank Pym’s suit. Hope Van Dyne is over qualified to be a superhero and is finally unleashed as the Wasp, and Reed along with his screenwriters give Evangeline Lilly a badass hero who may have equal billing with her male counterpart but outshines him when it comes time to battle.
Of course, you should stay through the credits of Ant-Man and the Wasp as its post-credits scenes are truly something else, including one jaw-dropping moment. Ant-Man and the Wasp doesn’t have that epic feel of the last two Marvel movies, but it’s that smaller scale (get it?) that makes it such a welcome diversion. It’s a superhero movie that is driven by its characters and most all of them get their big moment to shine. The fate of the universe doesn’t lie in the balance of this super sequel and yet that doesn’t mean that Ant-Man and the Wasp fails to deliver big time on its action and spectacle. Peyton Reed has crafted one of the most purely entertaining Marvel movies to date, standing along side Thor: Ragnarok as one of the funniest. These heroes may be tiny, but the fun is big – real big.