In a world where bigger is often thought to mean better, especially in terms of sequels, Ant-Man and The Wasp comes along to prove it is not the case. A sequel to 2015's Ant-Man, which was a heist flick burdened with introducing a hero many audiences were unfamiliar with, the latest entry to the Marvel Cinematic Universe is a self-contained joy ride written to include great humor and surprising twists.
Though Ant-Man and The Wasp is a self-contained outing from Marvel Studios, it is not without its connections and influences from the larger universe where it resides. Moviegoers going in blind will have no problem enjoying themselves but knowledge from Ant-Man and Captain America: Civil War certainly supplement the experience.
Under house arrest for his actions in the film without "Ant-Man" in its title, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is close to paying his governmental debt just as Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) decide it is crunch time for rescuing their long lost Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), Hope's mother and Hank's wife who was stranded in the Quantum Realm many years ago.
Standing in the way of the heroes is Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), who continues Marvel's strong year of villains. On the heels of Black Panther's Erik Killmonger and Avengers: Infinity War's Thanos, Ghost is burdened with a near impossible task of topping two already strong baddies. She gives her best effort and it's almost enough. Fortunately, Rudd, Chris McKenna, and Erik Summers delivered a script which allowed John-Kamen's villain to have necessary elements where moviegoers might relate. Blurring the lines of villain or simply an antagonist in the way of the heroes' plans, Ghost continues a trend in the right direction for Marvel's baddies.
While the film might have both Ant-Man and The Wasp's names in its title, the latter steals the show. Rudd's Lang is very much torn between his heroic duties and his responsibilities as a father, serving as his core motivations throughout the film, while Lilly's van Dyne is getting a brilliant origin story treatment.
Early on in the film, The Wasp proves she means business during a tremendously directed fight scene in a kitchen. Director Peyton Reed makes great use of the film's ability to shrink and grow its heroes to show off exactly what The Wasp is capable of, with Lilly (and her stunt doubles) never missing a beat right down to the perfectly witty and well-timed facial expressions or fight moves. Part of a franchise already crowded with lovable heroes and many new faces earning praise, Lilly's Wasp will stand above most others with a strong plea for more on the horizon.
As fantastic as The Wasp is, the film could have used a bit more of the hidden gem that is Michael Peña as Luis, who shines every single time he takes the screen.
Ant-Man and The Wasp builds on what worked in the original film but never feels formulaic in doing so. It helps that the movie, for better or worse depending on the moviegoer, is not nearly as much a heist film. This is an action-comedy driven by its two heroes who split the screen time evenly, though could have been seen working together in action more often.
Reed crafted brilliant use of the size-changing ability his heroes feature. Growing up to 65-feet or shrinking to the size of an ant are only scratching the surface. One sequence sees Lang in a defective suit, prompting an incomplete shrink, where he has to then blend in with students in a middle school. The clever scene is well-shot with visual effects to match, as Lilly and Rudd deliver organic humor which does not feel as forcefully injected as previous Marvel Studios films might at times.
While this is a movie involving a slew of characters who can shrink, grow, and phase through walls, it's not without its other moments requiring a suspension of disbelief. Certain scenarios beg questions of where the police are (with one officer being a surprising delight from Randall Park) or why people aren't noticing a giant building which continues to appear and disappear. Sometimes, though, the film will simply nod to the moment with dialogue to acknowledge its necessary self-awareness.
Ant-Man and The Wasp is a creative and self-contained adventure with Lilly's new heroine stealing the stage. As she said in the post-credits scene of the original Ant-Man film, "It's about damn time." With references to the larger Marvel Cinematic Universe and seeds discretely planted for future films, Ant-Man and The Wasp is tremendous fun, action-packed, and Marvel's best second movie in a single franchise since Captain America: The Winter Soldier.
Rating: 5 out of 5 stars.