Ant-Man and the Wasp provides the fun until the next Avengers sequel arrives


Ant-Man and the Wasp returns to the fun and whimsy of past Marvel features, and while its impact is low as a whole, it serves its purpose.

It’s been two months since the events of Avengers: Infinity War and people are still losing their minds over what has happened. So it’s understandably jarring that Ant-Man and the Wasp starts out world’s greatest dad Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) on a Goonies-like adventure with his precocious daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson). Doesn’t he understand there’s mass chaos in the Avengers world right now?

Actually, the events of Ant-Man and the Wasp don’t tie into Avengers: Infinity War, and this creates a weird respite, reminding audiences of the entertainment derived from past Marvel features like Thor: Ragnarok and Spider-Man: Homecoming. There’s plenty of fun to be mined from Ant-Man and the Wasp, but it never rises above acting as a reminder that you’re waiting for a resolution to Infinity War.

The film deals with the fall-out of Scott Lang’s actions in Captain America: Civil War, with the affable dad stuck on house arrest for the last two years. With his debt to society almost paid, Scott is trying to stay on the straight and narrow. But with just three days to go trouble comes looking for him. When he starts having visions from the Quantum Realm, he’s compelled to call Hank Pym (Michael Douglas). Pym, along with his daughter Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) believe Scott’s visions could be proof that Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), Hank’s wife and Hope’s mother, could be alive inside the Quantum Realm.

Like any good action-comedy, much of the frivolity involves Scott’s “one last job” — or, in this case, final days of house arrest — with a Ferris Bueller-like sense of trying to get one over on the Feds (whose leader is hilariously played by Randall Park). But it’s hard not to see Scott as ultimately irrelevant, there to provide a quick joke or an ab shot. He’s mainly a conduit, connecting the story of Janet Van Dyne and the Quantum Realm, to the universe we know as Ant-Man.

This isn’t to say Rudd isn’t good. He’s completely dependable as everyone’s good-natured dad. He and Ryder Fortson have excellent comedic timing and a genuine camaraderie. When he’s opposite Lilly and Douglas, though, he seems to fade into the background. So by the time the third act comes around, complete with a giant Scott Lang in San Francisco’s Fisherman’s Wharf, it seems to act as an apology for marginalizing him for the majority of the runtime.

It’s to the film’s benefit that its title character takes a backseat, as the true heart in Ant-Man and the Wasp is derived by the woman forced to take second billing. Evangeline Lilly, long a fan-favorite from her day’s on ABC’s Lost and her debut appearance as Hope in Ant-Man, gets a chance to spread her wings and fly (literally). Hope Van Dyne isn’t hobbled by the daddy issues that plague Marvel characters of late. In fact, her relationship with her father is pretty great, on par with Scott and Cassie’s. Hope quests not just for her mother — the film’s central conceit — but herself.

Even without the costume, Lilly’s character saunters into a room to negotiate a sale with Walton Goggins’ evil businessman Sonny Burch and never loses power, even when things don’t go her way. Lilly shows Hope is a badass, rightfully so. Most importantly, she’s a character who doesn’t want to be shaped by the men in her life; she’s been let down by Scott in the past, and thankfully the film doesn’t make too much effort to force a love story between them.

Ant-Man and the Wasp’s best sequences involve the relationship between Hope and Hank as they try to find Janet. Because the script isn’t intent on asserting their relationship (again, because it’s stable) they’re able to get down to creating in the hopes of saving her. They’re characters who prove their history together, perfectly demonstrated when the two, along with Scott, are captured by another of the film’s villains, Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) and have to pretend one of them is ill.

The interplay between Hope and her dad is amazing, touching, and you believe something bad is going to happen, which only makes the bait and switch that more satisfying. Michelle Pfeiffer is really an extended cameo, being introduced in the beginning (thankfully needing none of the de-aging stuff applied to Douglas and Laurence Fishburne) with the hopes of having more to do in subsequent outings. She has some sweet moments with other characters, but we get more of her through Scott, who is mind-melded with her to great effect.

And much like the original Ant-Man, Michael Pena’s Luis acts as the audience surrogate, the fanboy commenting on things we’re seeing. Like the first film, he gets a great extended “recap” sequence that’s a combination of Marvel meets Drunk History, forcing the other actors to get out of their comfort zones. He’s complimented by T.I. and David Dastmalchian as Dave and Kurt, two fellow members of Luis and Scott’s X-Con security business. Dastmalchian ends up upstaging Pena in a few scenes, particularly as he fears Ghost is the evil demon, Baba Yaga.

The film is jam-packed with characters, and considering the movie has to tell us what Scott’s been doing while the Avengers have been avenging AND introduce Hope’s mom, there’s little need to add anything else. Unfortunately, the script doesn’t know when to quit — hindered by six credited screenwriters, no doubt — adding in both Goggins’ Sonny Burch and John-Kamen’s Ava, a.k.a Ghost. The former, who played a serious corrupt capitalist earlier this year in Tomb Raider, is little more than a fly in the ointment. He pops up throughout to play keep-away with a part Hope needs before later trying to steal her and Hank’s lab. His motivations are uninspired, short of money, and his eventual end-scene is just blah.

John-Kamen’s Ava is far more interesting, hell-bent on revenge against Hank for destroying her father’s work. There’s a lot of interesting things regarding race that are intentionally ignored, but regardless her character holds far more promise and, like most of the third act she just disappears in the hopes that payoff will come… eventually.

Ant-Man and the Wasp is a reliable entry into the Marvel universe, but if you still haven’t gotten on-board with the character it’s doubtful this will change your mind. Director Peyton Reed shows capability with his actors, though there are far too many. The San Francisco setting, particularly a car chase through Lombard Street, is especially thrilling.

Be sure to sit for the post-credit scenes (expect to have your heart ripped out again… you’ve been warned).

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Catch Ant-Man and the Wasp in theaters starting July 6.