The solemnity of Avengers: Infinity War didn’t quite hit me until the first few minutes of the frothy Ant-Man and the Wasp. A sequel to 2015 Ant-Man (the one Edgar Wright got bumped from), this chapter leans heavily on the comedy and well-designed set-pieces based on… size proportion. The film stands by itself for far longer than expected –given certain events in the MCU– and the limited stakes are a welcome respite from Thanos’ idea of redistribution.
Probably because of the absence of drama behind the scenes, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a lot more cohesive than the first episode. Returning director Peyton Reed and a team of five scriptwriters fail to fully grasp the whole subatomic shrinking business, but your tolerance for science-speak is rewarded in different ways.
Following the events in Captain America: Civil War, the titular Ant-Man, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), has abandoned his career as a superhero and now endures a two-year house arrest sentence. Scott is willing to bide his time for his daughter, but is also fully aware his actions have forced his former companions –Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and Hope Van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly)– to go on the lam.
On the verge of ending his confinement, Scott’s dreams are invaded by Pym’s wife, Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer), supposedly lost in the quantum realm. The event is reason enough for the gang to reunite, but tensions run high.
A very lengthy list of adventures, mishaps, and shenanigans ensue. Suffice to say team Ant-Man must evade the FBI, a band of deep-pocket criminals, and a sympathetic supervillain, Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), cursed with being immaterial due to quantum entanglement. Ghost’s cure and the return of Janet Van Dyne are treated as mutually exclusive. The movie attempts to explain why, but in the end it makes little sense.
Outside this glaring structural problem, Ant-Man and the Waspunfolds amiably from showstopper to showstopper, with delightful banter in between. With Evangeline Lilly elevated to co-lead (as the titular Wasp) and dealing with the most actiony bits, Paul Rudd is in full comic relief mode and the movie is better for it. Alongside Michael Peña’s motormouth Luis, the pair shows killer comic timing, normally at Michael Douglas’ expense. On the flipside, Laurence Fishburne is given precious little to do.
The most notable aspect of the film is the use of the character’s different sizes to eye-popping effect. Cinematographer Dante Spinotti (Heat) does a remarkable job making the impossible seem perfectly normal. Even the trips to the quantum realm have the texture and verisimilitude missing from Infinity War.
Watching the film, I couldn’t stop thinking how unnecessary was the reveal of Michelle Pfeiffer as Janet Van Dyne in the promotional materials (particularly considering how good is Marvel at keeping secrets). It cheapens the mission to rescue her. That said, the first coda is a beauty. Three and a half planets of the ants. Oh, the humanity.
Ant-Man and the Wasp is playing everywhere.