Ant Man and the Wasp Review

In the wake of Infinity War the MCU sits in a limbo phase, the universe in a dismal state. Ant Man and the Wasp serves as a sort of palate cleanser for that traumatic turn of events, adjusting the stakes from a battle for the fate of all life forms, to a smaller scale story about the future of a few individuals. The writer’s room at Disney has managed to create a charming follow up to the heist-comedy that was the original Ant-Man. It’s comedic timing is fantastic, the fights utilize the protagonists’ powers in clever ways, and the drama, while somewhat saccharine, feels like an earned take on the importance of family.

Marvel’s latest takes place following the proceedings of Civil War, with Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) under house arrest due to siding with Cap in the conflict. It’s been two years, and he’s nearing the end of his term, time mostly spent goofing around, while occasionally helping out Luis (Michael Pena) with their upstart security business. During this period he has been completely out of contact with Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglass), who are on the run from the government due to indirectly aiding Lang by giving him the suit in the first place. However, after Scott has a strange hallucination, he feels the need to break that silence, and calls the two using an emergency phone. From there the three begin a journey to bring back Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), Hope’s mother and Hank’s wife, from the quantum realm, a mission that attracts a slew of enemies desperate for their technology.

A typical problem with humor in the Marvel films is that the comedic moments often undercut any semblance of drama. While I enjoyed the zaniness of Guardians of the Galaxy, it is most culpable of this, frequently underselling its genuine moments due to its inability to take itself seriously. By contrast the tonal shifts in Ant Man and the Wasp feel nearly pitch perfect, these bits naturally arising out of characters’ insecurities and awkwardness. The jokes never undersell the drama but instead help underscore Scott’s lack of confidence, or the quirks of his associates. While a character literally explaining a romantic relationship between the two leads would come off as a grating exposition in any other movie, Luis’ rapid fire delivery of this information is both hilarious and an important recap on the dynamic between these two. A great culmination of how it melds comedy and drama manifests in a scene where Scott’s body is taken over by an external party. Despite the fundamental absurdity of what’s happening, the scene plays as emotionally true due to the actors’ commitment to the scene, Rudd’s mannerism making this encounter hilarious and garner a certain warmth.

Complementing the punch lines is a series of imaginative action set pieces that fully utilize the sizing shifting technology employed by our heroes. Giant PEZ dispensers wipe out motorcycle drivers, Scott and Hope bounce off each other to gain momentum, and the car chases feature an abundance of shrinking based shenanigans. These gimmicks side-step the typically stale fight choreography that plagues these movies, overcoming that weakness through sheer creativity. This sense of creativity extends into the depiction of the quantum realm, an area that exists on an inconceivably microscopic scale. The journey into this realm plays like a homage to pulpy 60’s Sci-Fi; bulky suits, kaleidoscopic visions, and all.

While the plot could easily be reduced to a tug of war in which various parties repeatedly steal a MaGuffin from each other, the proceedings feel fully tethered around its central exploration of family. Hope and Hank‘s only goal is to be reunited with Janet, Scott wants to balance the relationship with his daughter and with Hope, while the villain Eva (Hannah John-Kamen) has been entirely shaped by her lack of family. A lot of the delivery of this core concept comes down to the strength of its performances. Paul Rudd’s Scott grows more likable with each appearance, the relationship between him and his daughter an important emotional anchor. Evangeline Lilly’s single minded drive to rescue her mother pairs well with her general competence, and works as a nice contrast with the antagonist’s single minded drive to become a normal person at the cost of someone else’s family.

The pacing may suffer due to all of the unsurprising reversals of fortune (it seems like our protagonist’s almost carry out their plan only to be thwarted half a dozen times), but despite this, its’ other components remain entertaining enough to avoid being a slog. As someone who was lukewarm on its predecessor, Ant Man and the Wasp proved to be a funny, creative, and heartfelt entry into the MCU. It fully explores the strengths of its core super powers, while balancing its drama and comedy.

Rating: 4/5

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