When deadly traps and finger snaps can bring the universe to dust,
And most heroics boil down to saving life itself or bust,
It’s effortless becoming numb to world-annihilating threats
And yawning while you wait until the pall of doom and gloom resets.
And that is why you sometimes want some slightly more light-hearted fun,
Reminding you not every story has to be a cosmic one.
A chase, a smile, a smaller trial, when carried out with proper style,
Has enough unique appeal to satisfy this cinephile.
MPAA rating: PG-13
It’s simply a coincidence that I planned to review a Marvel movie the day after the great Stan Lee’s death. While I’m still deeply saddened at the loss of a comic book icon, I’m also grateful for his cultural contributions, which have not only taken over the 21st-century box office but have provided countless hours of entertainment, a prime example of which is Ant-Man and the Wasp. The first Ant-Man was an unlikely success that surprised more than a few skeptical viewers, and I’m just as surprised that its follow-up is even better.
A light-hearted caper like Ant-Man and the Wasp was bound to leave one of two impressions, coming on the heels of a huge, stuffed, sobering juggernaut like Avengers: Infinity War. Either it would be seen as fluff filler that felt out of place after Infinity War’s cliffhanger, or it would be a refreshingly light change of pace from the end-of-the-world exploits we’ve come to expect from the MCU, not unlike the first Ant-Man. Though some critics have voiced the former view, I favor the latter. While Marvel excels at balancing its doom and gloom with humor, sometimes you need a superhero movie where the stakes stay relatably small, and what better vehicle for those “small” stakes than Ant-Man himself?
Of course, the key to ensuring that such a small-stakes story still matters is letting the stakes matter to the characters. After the public debacle in Captain America: Civil War, Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) is nearing the end of his house arrest and remains a lovably earnest father to his daughter Cassie. Meanwhile, original Ant-Man Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) and daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) are on the run from the government while seeking Hank’s long-lost wife (Michelle Pfeiffer) somewhere in the infinitesimal Quantum Realm. Chasing both clues and tech to make that possible, they recruit Scott into their risky size-altering mission.
Ant-Man was a heist film at its core, and while Ant-Man and the Wasp retains a lot of its predecessor’s style, it transmogrifies it into a twisty nonstop chase, freewheeling from one fight or set piece to the next with gleeful abandon. It’s essentially a MacGuffin hunt, with the MacGuffin usually being Pym’s tech-filled lab shrunk to the size of a breadbox. (The way it’s tossed around, he must have everything in the building bolted down!) Of course, Pym and Hope need it to save the original Wasp, but it’s also desired by a greedy small-time gangster (Walton Goggins) and by the semi-intangible Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen), whose intentions are more sympathetic than most Marvel antagonists.
Rudd and Lilly continue to strengthen their tag team chemistry, and while it’s significant that Lilly’s Wasp is the first title superheroine of the MCU (and the last of the original Avengers roster from the comics to join), she owns the role in a way that makes a kick-butt female with wings seem only natural as Ant-Man’s partner. (By the way, can she use the wings when she’s normal-sized or just when shrunk? I know I’d be using them all the time.) Also returning is Michael Peña’s Luis, who is still possibly the best comic relief sidekick of the MCU, and Randall Park makes a fun appearance as Scott’s parole officer trying to catch him in the act of breaking his house arrest.
Ant-Man and the Wasp may not have the star power or all-around epicness of Infinity War, but I can honestly say that I enjoyed it just as much for different reasons (and minus the soul-crushing deaths). It’s a smaller affair than others of its MCU brethren, but it’s purely fun entertainment with no shortage of thrills and laughs. Plus, it’s probably the most family-friendly Marvel film yet and feels nicely self-contained, with a conclusion that’s more heartwarming than usual while leaving enough room for future stories. One of my older coworkers saw it with her grandkids and loved it, even though she’d never even seen the first Ant-Man. You’d think that Marvel would be showing signs of fatigue after twenty films, but I certainly can’t tell based on #20.
Best line: (Hank, speaking of his wife Janet and Scott’s brief time in the quantum realm) “We think when you went down there, you may have entangled with her.” (Scott) “Hank, I would never do that. I respect you too much.” (Hank) “Quantum entanglement, Scott.”
Rank: List-Worthy (joining Ant-Man)
© 2018 S.G. Liput
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