Yes, Ant-Man and The Wasp is ridiculous on many levels, but there is something about this follow-up to the original Ant-Man outing from 2015 that prevents it from reaching the scale of over-the-top mayhem, destruction, absurdity and earnestness that are the staples of most Marvel movies. The whole premise is utter nonsense, of course, but there is a humour and humanity to this film that is so often lacking in such fare and it makes for a pleasant change. Directed by Peyton Reed, who also helmed the first instalment, and with Paul Rudd back as criminal-cum-superhero Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man), the film balances humour, action, drama and romance to mostly good effect with Rudd delivering another incarnation of the likeable loser persona that he has mastered in films such as I Love You, Man and This is 40. Teaming the goofy Lang with a serious and emotionally damaged Hope Van Dyne/Wasp (Evangeline Lilly) is in keeping with Hollywood traditions of partnering oppositional personalities (from Clark Cable and Claudette Colbert in 1934’s It Happened One Night to the likes of action comedies such as Lethal Weapon and 48 Hours) and whilst this might be a familiar trope, the presence of a female character as a co-lead in a Marvel property is new territory for the studio that is both overdue and very welcome.
The film opens with a flashback sequence in which Hank Pym and his wife Janet Van Dyne (a de-aged Michael Douglas and Michelle Pfeiffer respectively as an earlier embodiment of the titular characters) have shrunk themselves and hitched a ride on a Soviet missile bound for the United States. When Janet goes subatomic to steer the missile into the ocean, she becomes stuck in the Quantum Realm (I told you it was daft) and is presumed dead. However, since Lang has successfully gone subatomic and returned to normal size, Pym believes there may be a way to bring Janet back. With Lang confined to home detention for violating the Sokovia Accords alongside Captain America and the other Avengers, Hope snatches him from the house and the adventure begins as they face off against the various bad guys (Laurence Fishburn, Walton Goggins, Hannah John-Kamen), all of whom have their own motivations in attempting to thwart Pym’s efforts. Michael Pena, Tip Harris and David Dastmalchian return as Lang’s clueless business partners, with Randall Park (TV’s Fresh Off the Boat) as a hapless FBI agent desperate to catch Lang in breach of his home detention.
Having been on the lam since the events of the first film, Hank and Hope have constructed a new laboratory in an abandoned high rise that they simply shrink to suitcase size and move to a new location whenever they find themselves under threat. The fact that nobody seems to notice a building just magically appearing and then disappearing again is difficult enough to accept, but how the heck do they get access to electricity and plumbing and the like when the building is literally just plonked on a vacant block of land? If you can overlook such shortcomings in logic, you will no doubt draw plenty of enjoyment from the antics that ensue as Ant-Man and The Wasp fight off the various threats that – as a scene midway through the closing credits tells us – is taking place simultaneously to the events of Avengers: Infinity War and is therefore not immune to the fallout from Thanos wielding the Infinity Stones.
The biggest sin of all from Reed is the criminal under-use of Judy Greer, a wonderful actress who is often better than the material with which she is burdened, but here she has little chance to shine given her role as Lang’s estranged wife Maggie is so inconsequential. Likewise, Bobby Cannavale has little to do as Maggie’s boyfriend, while Abby Ryder Forston is Lang’s daughter Cassie, the token cute-as-a-button poppet for whom he is determined to serve as a more positive role model in light of his criminal past. It goes without saying that romance develops between the two heroes and, despite such predictability, Ant-Man and The Wasp is an enjoyable enough romp that, unlike so many films of this ilk, doesn’t feel bloated and overblown.