Peyton Reed’s jovial sequel to 2015’s Ant-Man comes via a much less complicated production background than its predecessor. Fewer re-writes and disagreements behind the scenes and a director present from conception to release. In the wake of the behemothically over-stuffed Infinity War, it’s a much needed breather.
Paul Rudd is once again effortlessly likeable as ex-petty crook Scott Lang, who opens the film under house arrest in the wake of the events of Civil War. Remember that one? On the other side of town, Hope van Dyne (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym are hatching a plan to rescue Janet van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) – her mum, his wife – from the so-called quantum realm, in which she’s been trapped for three decades. An opening flashback gives Marvel another chance to wheel out their spooky de-ageing technology
In order to embark on their rescue mission, the pair need one final component to complete the extradimentional tunnel Hank has built and Scott himself, whose own visit to the microverse three years ago has left him quantumly entangled to Janet. The only problem is that Hannah John-Kamen’s Ava Starr is also after a way into the realm, in the hope that it might be able to cure her of the molecular instability that has turned her into ‘the Ghost’.
Though a mouthful to explain, Ant-Man and the Wasp has a beneficially straightforward plot, one which boils down to: get the macguffin, stop the baddie, save the hero. With only a handful of headline characters to juggle, Reed has room to let his story breathe. The result is a breezy, funny and thoroughly enjoyable adventure, clocking in under two hours.
Compared to the first film, this is much stronger work. The comedy is sharper, the effects are more visually striking, the ideas more inventive – Hank’s miniature car collection is a hit – and the dynamics more assured. As the Wasp to Rudd’s Ant-Man, Lilly has ample material to play with and rises to the material in a way that was denied to her last time around. Hope and Hank share a stronger relationship than before and Reed does well to engage with familial themes. Rudd’s joie de vive runs through the blood of the cast in a far less stilted way than before, with the best laughs evenly distributed.
Newcomer, John-Kamen equals her co-stars and proves to be a real find for the production, bringing empathy to a character whose alleged villainy is almost three-dimensional. In supporting roles, meanwhile, Lawrence Fishburne, Judy Greer and Pfeiffer a touch wasted here but Michael Peña and Randall Park shine. Sure, the stakes are smaller than in most superhero films – no cities were destroyed in the making of this film – but that’s rather the point. Naturally, it helps that the ensemble are unanimously worth rooting for.
Ant-Man and the Wasp may bring nothing structurally new to the Marvel Cinematic Universe but it does so in a way that feels refreshingly traditional from the studio. A good old-fashioned romp one might say. True, there’s a post-credits sting to salivate the mouths of those for whom 2019 can’t come quick enough, yet this is an adventure which can stand alone.