As the dust from Avengers: Infinity War settles -- or more fittingly, drifts away in the wind with the snap of the fingers -- you'll likely be in search of a respite from the harrowing tragedy that befell Earth's mightiest heroes. Ant-Man and the Wasp, the third and final Marvel Studios offering this year, is not that. It's bleak and depressing and of course I'm only kidding.
The sequel to 2015's Ant-Man, whether by nature or by design, is as close to the polar opposite of Infinity War as can be: Like something of a palate cleanser, light and a whole lot of fun and on a significantly smaller scale. (As small as one of these massive Marvel movies can get, anyway.) Our eponymous duo is not trying to save the galaxy, or the planet, or even their neighborhood. A simple rescue mission drives this story: Save Janet van Dyne.
Though we mostly only heard tale of the original Wasp in Ant-Man, we now meet Janet (played by the iconic and bewigged Michelle Pfeiffer) almost immediately. "I still think about the night your mother and I had to leave you," Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) explains via voiceover to their daughter, Hope (Evangeline Lilly), as Ant-Man and the Wasp recaps from the first film the two's "business trip" that ended with Janet going subatomic and disappearing into the Quantum Realm.
When our Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), made it into the Quantum Realm and back again at the end of the last movie, Hank reasons, "Everything changed." Thus, the father-daughter team set out constructing a Quantum Tunnel and what is, in essence, a spaceship to travel to another dimension. Ant-Man and the Wasp is easily the most traditionally sci-fi of the MCU installments thus far, with its tinkering and toiling on retro-futuristic gizmos and never-ending quantum talk -- enough quantum talk to warrant a joke about how much quantum talk there is.
Meanwhile, Scott is three days shy of competing his two years of house arrest, the repercussion of his vigilantism in Captain America: Civil War. (Timeline-wise, that situates this before the end of Infinity War.) Despite the threat of returning to prison and, once again, being separated from his daughter, Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson), Scott is roped into the search for Janet. So begins the action as the three -- Hank, Hope and Scott -- must elude a blundering FBI agent (the hilarious Randall Park), indignant former Pym partner Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne), drawling black market dealer Sonny Burch (Walter Goggins) and Ghost (Ready Player One's Hannah John-Kamen), a mysterious woman able to phase through solid matter after being exposed to quantum energy.
As directed by Peyton Reed, Ant-Man and the Wasp can't always muster the stakes and urgency it's after. I suppose that could be because, from the start, Hope and Hank are sure that Janet is still out there, are determined that they will bring her back, dammit. Even as the plot twists back and forth and around in circles, there is never a moment of desperation from either, of fear that this could all fail.
What the movie does have going for it is adrenaline, felt in so many of the cleverly constructed set pieces, dizzying and riotous as Reed uses miniature and maxature to ingenious effect. A car shrinking down to the size of a Hot Wheels toy during a madcap chase, only to pop back to its regular size underneath a baddie's SUV. The Wasp, suited up and swaggering, going from big to small to big in rapid succession as Ghost phases and disappears opposite her in the fight. Scenes we may have seen before, we've never seen like this. It's a freaking blast, and so damn funny.
If anything, I wish the movie leaned even more into the comedy, as impressive as all the big, comic book-y action moments may be. That is Ant-Man’s sweet spot. Rudd brings a different texture to his Marvel superhero that sets him apart from the Chrises; he’s daffy and agreeable, though the movie’s gratuitous shirtlessness reminds you Paul Rudd is buff now. (You’re welcome. Love, Marvel.) Michael Peña, as prison buddy-turned-X Con Home security whiz, Luis, is a repeat scene stealer, with a bit towards the middle that brings the house down. For any bumps along the way, there is always some brilliant joke about close-up magic or oddball gag involving a super-sized ant or appearance by sweethearts Judy Greer and Bobby Cannavale to keep it light and keep you laughing. Like Ant-Man himself, wearing his heart on his sleeve, so earnest in wanting the best for those that he loves, Ant-Man and the Wasp just wants you to have a good time and leave a little happier than you came.
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