We live in a world where there are now two Ant-Man feature films……and both happen to be good.
Three years ago, when the first Ant-Man movie had the privilege of following up Avengers: Age of Ultron, it seemed weird to position a solo movie of a “down the list” Marvel character right after a billion-dollar grossing team-up blockbuster. Throw in the director switch drama and other concerns raised about the script and it really looked like Paul Rudd, Michael Douglas and Evangeline Lilly were only going to get one not so well received shot at joining the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
Then the movie quietly made more than half a billion dollars worldwide and Rudd’s Scott Lang was featured in Captain America: Civil War, making the road to a sequel all the easier, and now we have that sequel today in Ant-Man and The Wasp, featuring a story that’s as much about time travel for the Marvel audience as anything else is.
The premise is pretty straightforward. We know what happened at the end of Avengers: Infinity War and now we are winding the clock back to a time just before Thanos’ fateful snap. A time when the house arrest that was mentioned for Lang in Infinity War as a result of his aiding Captain America in Germany is nearing its end, meaning that Scott will be able to once again rejoin his daughter Cassie and continue rebuilding his family unit.
So, it figures that just days before his confinement ends, he’s needed by Hank and Hope Pym in assistance with a major plan to enter the Quantum Realm and bring back Janet Van Dyne, the long lost Pym matriarch that both Hank and Hope feared dead many years earlier in a noble self-sacrifice. Now, thanks to Scott’s momentary journey and return from the Quantum Realm in the first movie, Hank believes Janet is still alive and has spent the past two years with hope building a way to retrieve her, all the while running from the authorities who want them arrested for assisting Scott in violating the Sokovia Accords.
Yes, two years and six movies later, we are finally seeing some enforcement of the Sokovia Accords. One could argue that they haven’t had a real chance to yet based on the stories they have been telling, but it’s still nice to see here nonetheless, at least at first.
In the midst of all this, you have Hannah John-Kamen’s “Ghost,” a phase-shifting antagonist that has designs on the Pym tech for her own critical reasons, and Sonny Burch, a black-market tech dealer with an army of goons that wants to sell Pym tech to the highest bidder at all costs, all the while with Scott, Hank and Hope doing all they can on the run to retrieve Janet, played ably by veteran comic book movie actress Michelle Pfeiffer.
Ant-Man and The Wasp is an action comedy movie, make no mistake about it. If you’re someone that doesn’t dig the humor and jokes that have become staples of the MCU since “The Tonal Turn” with Guardians of the Galaxy, then this is a movie you might have trouble with, but if you saw the first Ant-Man film then you should know what you are getting into, which is more of the same plus greater action set pieces. Seriously, the story itself may be more personal to the characters but the action and VFX are top tier for the MCU, especially with anything involving Pym tech. It’s abundantly clear very fast into the movie that Hank and Hope have been perfecting their gear and abilities since the end of the first movie and it shows beautifully in this one. The fights between Wasp and Ghost alone are spectacular set pieces.
The cast is really on even par with their performances in the first film, right down to Michael Pena’s Luis as comic relief with his friends Dave and Kurt, played by T.I. and David Dastmalchian. Laurence Fishburne as Doctor Bill Foster makes a couple of important appearances to give the story a bit more weight and Abby Ryder Fortson as Cassie is the only one from Scott’s personal family unit that is given the stage and support to bring her own depth to the film, while Judy Greer’s Maggie and Bobby Cannavale’s Dave are there to give Scott hugs. Literally.
This movie isn’t on the level of Marvel’s previous films this year (Black Panther, Avengers: Infinity War) but fortunately it doesn’t buckle under any pressure to be on that level either. It knows what it is, and it acts accordingly, with much more humor and lightheartedness than some may want in their comic book movies. Again, if you’ve seen the first Ant-Man movie then you should know what to expect from its sequel.
As for the movie’s connection with the events of Infinity War and how they lead to the rest of the franchise afterwards, that’s effectively dealt with inside the mid-credit scene and if you have been paying attention to the MCU storyline to this point, you can expect what might happen here, with potentially a slight twist that even I didn’t expect to see. Suffice to say, the audience reaction in my half-sold IMAX theater was one that reminded me of Infinity War and let me and others further know just how connected and invested in this storyline and these characters people are right now. If you’re still looking for answers to your questions from the result of Thanos’ snap, you’ll get only a few of them in Ant-Man and The Wasp and potentially add some more questions to your list, but now after a glut of MCU movies from May of 2017 to now (six total), we will be waiting at least nine months for the release of Captain Marvel in March of 2019, which will then take us to the climactic event that is Avengers 4 in May of 2019.
For now, though, enjoy Ant-Man and The Wasp as another solid entry for the MCU on what is its 20th film in the past decade, and try not to clap and cheer when the Marvel Studios logo comes up in the beginning. No, go ahead and do that if you really want to, it just might seem a little weird to the rest of us……like the ant playing the drums.