Scott Lang (Paul Rudd) has a serious problem. He can't figure out if he should spend the entire day playing the drums, practicing card tricks, building outrageous indoor playgrounds for his daughter, Cassie, or read a few more weepy novels like Fault in the Stars. These kind of decisions plague Lang every day as he finishes out the final days of house arrest, which stemmed from his actions in Captain America: Civil War.
If you were wondering why Ant Man didn't help the Avengers battle Thanos in Infinity War, you get an answer real quick in Marvel's latest joint, Ant Man and the Wasp: he couldn't leave the house. In short, Lang chose family over heroic obligations.
One of the things that singles Peyton Reed's film out from recent Marvel films is the core of the storyline centering on family and the way it affects even a superhero's life. Taking a page from last month's Incredibles 2, audiences get to see Lang domesticated in the early going, setting up a slide throughout his house that keeps his daughter happy and his co-workers, Luis (a hilarious Michael Pena), restless.
While Scott has been biding his time, Hope (Evangeline Lilly) and Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) have been developing tech that would allow them to access the Quantum Realm, an infinite abyss that took Hank's wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer), but a location that Scott managed to escape from in the first film. Before the film is ten minutes old, Lang is being dragged to new headquarters and helping Hope and Hank find the final piece to their puzzle in rescuing Janet.
The only problem is a mysterious shape-shifter called Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) also wants the technology for more personal reasons and keeps getting in the way. There's also a scummy arms dealer named Sonny Burch (Walter Goggins) who wants to get his hands on Hank's technology. All this sets up a series of adventures that are best saved for the theater without lighting.
Ant Man and the Wasp is another example of Marvel mastery looking effortless and easy to love. You don't have the heavy themes that DC Films try to hit you over the head with, but a simple tale about doing what is right and doing it for family. When Scott escaped the Quantum Realm in the 2015 original, there was suddenly a way to find Janet, and that powers the sequel's story.
Yes, Pena's sidekick gets to recount stories in his own comedic voiceover stye, along with his partners (T.I. and Dave Dastmalchian). Yes, there are subplots involving Laurence Fishburne's Dr. Bill Foster, a former associate of Hank's who may know a secret or two. There's the backstory of Kamen's adversary, who may not be as bad as prescribed. There's an FBI agent (Randall Park, whose deadpan expression is naturally funny), who is jealous of Scott's newfound magic trick abilities. Tiny appetizers for the main dish.
It all leads down one road in the end and it's absolute fun. That is the name and game of Marvel films are always action-packed yet funny adventures. Without the jokes, it's all tight suits, punches, and end of the world threats with wizardry tech that few people can actually explain. There is a scene where three characters simultaneously say "quantum" about five times each, but don't be alarmed. A little while later, a giant pez dispenser takes out a speeding truck and Ant Man literally kicks another car off the road.
While Rudd's charm could power an entire film, the enhanced role that Lilly plays in the sequel really balances out the fun and shows how powerful a woman who can think and kick can be. Consider this a tease for what Brie Larson's Captain Marvel will bring to you in 2019. Lilly was a resourceful presence in the first film, but here some would argue she takes center stage over Lang, and it's a good plan. In this film, it's more about her story anyway, finding her mom after decades apart.
Douglas is excellent as usual, injecting a competent sense of duty and wit into Hank that other actors couldn't find with a glow stick. You can tell he's giving the role something extra and not just phoning in the performance in a big live action blockbuster. Fishburne, Goggins, and John-Kamen also give it their all, which produces a versatile cast that aides the two stars, Rudd and Lilly.
It can't be forgotten how easy Rudd slips into the skin of Lang, an ex-con trying to do right by his daughter without abandoning the abilities that make him a superhero. When he was cast for Ant Man, I won't lie and say a slight eyeroll was the result of me hearing the news. Then he blew me away with his physical transformation as well as his witty take on a Marvel player. The sequel only sees him settling more comfortably into Lang's persona, as well as helping write the script.
Reed favored ad-libbing from the cast in the first film, and it continues in the second film. Something that made Thor: Ragnarok so invigorating was the actors going off on their own in certain scenes and turning up the laughs on an otherwise ordinary set piece.
The visual effects are easily some of the best any comic book film or movie for that matter has seen. Seeing a large building shrink down into a suitcase or a hot wheel set becoming Hank's car collection at the push of a button is one thing, but seeing it happen on screen never gets old. How about Scott being unable to go back to normal human sizing, and having to crawl into a mini-van? Funny stuff.
Ant Man and the Wasp is a family friendly film in more ways than any previous Marvel movie. It doesn't take itself too seriously, wedging complex theories into your head. All it does is extend Ant Man's story while bringing in Lilly's Wasp, and connecting them in intelligent fashion to the MCU. Yes, that means stay for the credits. Being one of the few Avengers with a kid to think about, Reed and the Marvel minds have fun with those stakes, and put Rudd to great use.
Did Marvel do it again? Yes. While not as kinetically moving as Winter Soldier or dramatically pleasing as Civil War, Ant Man and the Wasp gives audiences an extra scoop of ice cream in their escape from the summer heat. Don't think too much, kick up your feet, get some popcorn, and enjoy it. It's something the entire family can enjoy.