Let’s set the scene.
It’s 2 years after the events of Captain America: Civil War. Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is still under house arrest for breaking the Sokovia Accords by helping Cap and Bucky in that mega airport fight, but is about to be released.
Thanks to Scott using their technology to get involved in Civil War, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) are also in trouble with the authorities, but are on the run. That hasn’t stopped them developing the Pym particle though, with them trying to figure out how to get back Janet van Dyne, Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, from the quantum realm.
When their research reaches a bump and they need Scott’s help, them extract him from his house arrest – and the usual Marvel chaos ensues.
Well, not quite the usual – Ant-Man and The Wasp is the first MCU movie to feature a female hero in the title. And it only took 20 movies, people!
Speaking of the Wasp, she’s one of the better parts of this film, but undeniably let down by it. Evangeline Lilly is fantastic; it’s her that delivers most of the action (far more than Ant-Man) and does so impeccably. We’re clearly being told how she’s smarter than him, a better fighter than him, but Hope is given little character development of her own that doesn’t revolve around the men in the movie in some way. Who is she without her Dad? How does she act when neither Hank or Scott are in the room? We’re still not sure, and its disappointing.
There’s lots more playing with size interwoven through Ant-Man and the Wasp than there was in the first film, and it’s done to great effect, if not without some plot holes. The Pyms seem to have figured out how to shrink moving vehicles when there’s passengers in it, making for some very fun car chases, and they move their huge high-tech lab around by zapping it down into a small suitcase with wheels, complete with extendable handle.
In terms of villains, it was always going to be hard for this film to follow Avengers: Infinity War, and we’ve gone from one of the best Marvel villains in Thanos to pretty much the worst. There’s Ghost, played by Hannah John-Kamen, who gives as good a performance as she can but whose character really falls flat. She has a great superpower and interesting backstory, but the exposition scene where we find out about it is lazy and draining to watch, and she’s never really given the chance to get stuck in.
Walton Goggins also features as, well, we don’t really know who – some black market arms dealer who wants the Pym lab to sell on and generally just pops up to put a spanner in the works for the protagonists’ plans, but doesn’t add anything of value.
It’s the introduction of these two antagonists that is vital to the film not being over in 15 minutes. The plot is weirdly simple in that, basically, the villains want what the heroes have and it’s their attempts at stealing it that get in the way of Hank, Hope and Scott trying to get Janet back. This feels forced, and like the writers were out of ideas.
The one thing you expect from an Ant-Man movie more than any other Marvel instalment is comedy, and that’s definitely here in spades. Not all of it lands as effectively as the first film and there’s certainly some recycling of what worked last time, but there’s enough one liners, genuinely hilarious moments and dialogue from Michael Pena to keep things entertaining. Paul Rudd will never not be a delight, and he is here, but he certainly could have been let off the leash even more. Especially coming after the pure comedy of Thor: Ragnarok, this film had the potential to really turn up the laughs.
Another thing that doesn’t have quite the impact it did in the first Ant-Man is the depiction of the quantum realm; when Scott shrinks into it at the end of the last movie, it elevated the film completely. The silence, the kaleidoscopic patterns, the way the levels got increasingly trippy the further Scott sank; it was enough to make the viewer uncomfortable, and gave a true sense of fear around the consequences of the Pym technology.
In this film, the realm appears much differently – it feels a lot more tangible, like a real world with a floor and walls and gravity instead of a floating subatomic abyss, far too easy to navigate. Plus, it’s not really a spoiler to say we find Janet down there, and revealing Michelle Pfeiffer‘s phenomenal cheekbones adorned with a full face of makeup, smoky eye and all, after 30 years in the quantum realm certainly took this reviewer out of the movie completely.
After a slow start to the film, you might be glancing at your watch, but Ant-Man and the Wasp really grows on you as the runtime goes along, and, contrary to most Marvel movies, the third act is the strongest. It’s where we properly see the two titular heroes working together as partners, as a team. Despite her being in the name of the movie, you might have expected to go into this seeing Hope as a secondary character, especially in fight scenes, but it’s really not the case. The biggest achievement of this movie in the Marvel canon is showing that from now on, these two come as a pair.
It’s hard to say if this film is better than the first in this character’s series. It’s nowhere near as lean, and understandably less surprising, but has more satisfying moments. Oh, and you’ll most definitely want to stay for the post-credit stings, both of them. They’ll get you thinking…
Hardly groundbreaking, but still entertaining, we’re giving Ant-Man and the Wasp 3 stars. It’s about damn time we saw a woman take the lead in an MCU movie, even if she did have to share it.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is available for pre-order now.