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If you’re still reeling from the gut-punch of Avengers: Infinity War’s ending, you’re in luck because Ant-Man and the Wasp is here to lift your spirits. Peyton Reed returns to direct the sequel and doubles down on what made his first instalment an unexpected success: small stakes, eye-popping visual effects, and the kooky charm of one Paul Stephen Rudd.
The last time we saw Scott Lang – aka Ant-Man – he was being detained at The Raft, a high-security prison, for his involvement in the big airport fight during Captain America: Civil War. After Captain America springs him and the rest of the detainees from jail at the end of that film, Lang eventually gets caught by the FBI and put under house arrest for violating the Sokovia Accords. Fast forward two years, and Lang is days away from ditching his ankle bracelet and starting his new job at an upstart security firm run by his pal Luis (Michael Peña). Meanwhile, the original Ant-Man, Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), and his daughter/newly crowned Wasp, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly), are still on the run, trying to gather the technology required to open a bridge to the quantum realm and rescue Pym’s wife Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer). When they discover that Scott’s short time in the quantum realm during the first film left him “entangled” with Janet, Hank and Hope reach out for his help.
It’s this race to rescue Janet that drives the story forward. The entirety of the film plays out over just a couple of days, and once again the film keeps the drama and conflicts personal. What starts as a relatively simple job, acquiring once last piece of tech from a black market dealer named Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins), is quickly complicated by the appearance of a mysterious adversary called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) who is looking to use the tech for her own purposes. The two characters aren’t really “villains” so much as simple adversaries with their own agendas. The heroes are also working against the clock, with their rescue window closing and FBI agent Jimmy Woo (Randall Park) hot on Scott’s heels.
Ant-Man and the Wasp suffers from the same quality most Marvel sequels have: the tendency to retread old ground and not try new things. Your fondness for the first Ant-Man will determine whether or not this bothers you here. Having enjoyed it, and being a pretty big Paul Rudd fan, it wasn’t a big deal for me that a lot of the jokes call back to the original. The sequel does have more variety in the action set-pieces, with Reed making full use of the new dynamics that the winged, blaster-wielding Wasp and phasing Ghost bring to the table. And after testing out his enlargement abilities in Civil War, Lang’s size-changing capability is pushed to new (literal) heights.
As expected, Ant-Man and the Wasp does touch briefly on the unfolding Thanos drama, but by and large the film is another self-contained caper. It’s also a great showcase for Evangeline Lilly’s Wasp, who beats Captain Marvel to become the first female title character in the MCU. All told, Ant-Man and the Wasp a perfect Marvel palate cleanser and the ideal summer popcorn flick. With Avengers 4 on the horizon, we should all enjoy the levity while it lasts.
Reviewed by Kyle Miller.
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