After the grim, jaw-dropping ending of May’s “Avengers: Infinity War,” it was only appropriate for Marvel’s next installment to be a small-scale, lighthearted romp where giant ants play drums and Paul Rudd frolics around to the Partridge Family’s “Come On Get Happy.” With a wealth of exciting films opening this summer, the sequel to 2015’s middling “Ant-Man” was not one of my most anticipated movies. However, it’s likely to go down as one of my favorites. “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is an action-packed, heartfelt joyride that will leave you grinning and hungry for more Marvel action.
The film again takes place in San Francisco, where Scott Lang/Ant-Man (Rudd) is in his last few days of house arrest for his treasonous actions in “Captain America: Civil War.” Scott spends his days playing with his daughter Cassie (Abby Ryder Fortson) and having strange visions of Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), who is trapped in the otherworldly Quantum Realm. When Scott is recruited by Janet’s husband Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and his daughter Hope van Dyne/the Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) to rescue Janet, he soon finds himself in trouble with F.B.I. agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park), black-market weapons dealer Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins) and the strange new threat Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen). Scott must suit up and team up with Hope to defeat these threats and rescue Janet before it’s too late.
The plot of “Ant-Man and the Wasp” is a bit messy, especially compared to its simple heist predecessor. Director Peyton Reed tries to juggle three villains and each of their individual plotlines, while still fitting in screen time for Scott’s buddies Luis (a scene-stealing Michael Pena), Dave (Clifford “T.I.” Harris) and Kurt (David Dastmalchian). While this results in a packed film from start to finish, it also means that not every character receives their due. This is particularly evident in the plotline involving Goggins’ Sonny, who doesn’t seem relevant to the overall storyline. Goggins’ talent goes to waste, as his character isn’t given much to do. On the other hand, the film’s main antagonist, Ghost, is no Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) or Thanos (Josh Brolin), but still transcends many of Marvel’s other subpar villains. John-Kamen is haunting as a girl cursed with powers who seeks revenge against Pym. As with other strong villains, the audience understands Ghost’s motivations and even sympathizes with her cause.
“Ant-Man and the Wasp” is notably the first Marvel film to feature a female headliner, and Lilly certainly kicks butt as the Wasp. She owns every scene with an undeniable swagger and confidence. Unfortunately, she still doesn’t feel like a fully developed character, as she has no defining character traits other than being a love interest for Scott and Hank and Janet’s daughter. In fact, for much of the film she takes the backburner to Rudd, and the film feels more like an Ant-Man movie with the Wasp as a sidekick. Her character largely remains a mystery akin to fellow Marvel heroines Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and Scarlet Witch (Elizabeth Olsen). This disturbing trend in Marvel films will hopefully be bucked with 2019’s “Captain Marvel,” which will feature Marvel’s first leading lady in Carol Danvers (Brie Larson).
However, this doesn’t hinder the film itself, as Rudd steals the show yet again with a hilarious performance that cements Ant-Man as a standout character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. Rudd strikes a strong balance between loving, goofy father and superhero, and he’s funny as ever at 49-years-old (though he still looks ageless because he’s Rudd). Douglas, at 73, is also a pleasure to watch on screen, clearly having a blast in this iconic comic book character role he has made his own. His chemistry with Rudd and Lilly is outstanding, and their moments together are some of the film’s most impactful.
Reed does an outstanding job giving the film a quirky vibe that seems fitting for an Ant-Man movie. Whether it’s by incorporating the critters themselves into the plot or by crafting creative action set-pieces, Reed carves out a distinctive part of the MCU with the film. The film’s action scenes are unlike those of any other flick, as Reed cleverly utilizes the protagonists’ shrinking and growing powers. In addition, even the film’s scale is small, with the characters’ motivations personal rather than world-altering. By making the characters’ goals more personal, Reed adeptly tugs on heartstrings, particularly with the family relationships of Scott and Cassie and Hank, Hope and Janet.
I would be remiss not to mention the most delightful cameo in the film: Emory University. The film features two scenes shot in the soon-to-be-renovated White Hall, so keep a lookout during the scenes that introduce Bill Foster (Laurence Fishburne). You can make out one of White Hall’s iconic lecture halls, teacher offices and a glimpse of Cannon Chapel out the window.
Overall, “Ant-Man and the Wasp,” works as both an enjoyable comedy and a thrilling superhero film. The film is bigger and better than its predecessor and gives viewers a complete moviegoing experience. It’s emotional, thrilling and laugh-out-loud funny. Take your whole family to the theater, see it on the biggest screen possible and enjoy a fantastic superhero ride.