Film review | Ant Man and The Wasp

Director Peyton Reed returns to the offbeat and minor Marvel Studios character in what feels like yet another refreshingly ‘minor’ but nonetheless exuberant take on the interlinked superhero universe

Reluctant team-up: Evangeline Lily and Paul Rudd return as Hope Van Dyn/Wasp and Scott Lang/Ant-Man in Peyton Reed’s follow-up to Ant-Man (2015)
Reluctant team-up: Evangeline Lily and Paul Rudd return as Hope Van Dyn/Wasp and Scott Lang/Ant-Man in Peyton Reed’s follow-up to Ant-Man (2015)

With Infinity War delivering a bold, operatic game-changer of a chapter for what is an ever-ballooning and impressively interlinked movie franchise, Marvel Studios are bound to have plenty of shocks and surprises up their sleeves for fans in the coming years.

However, much like the Guardians of the Galaxy branch, the Marvel stable brought some welcome and zany levity to the proceedings (even if the recent firing of its director made for some dour and depressing real-life drama to counteract that vibe, when it was announced last month). Ant Man, starring comedian Paul Rudd as Scott Lang and Michael Douglas as Hank Pym, was something of a quirky side-show that offered a lighthearted respite from the epic superhero storm.

The story of an ex-con eager to rehabilitate himself into a role model for his daughter – who now lives with her mother Maggie (Judy Greer) and her new partner Jim (Bobby Cannavale) – only to end up embroiled in the world-saving antics of maverick scientist Pym (Douglas) and his daughter Hope (Evangeline Lilly) went down a treat as a low-key heist film in a swarm of mega-budget, city-smashing theatrics.

Its follow-up, Ant Man and The Wasp, conveniently (and even, somewhat nostalgically) takes place before the cataclysmic events of Infinity War but right after the events of Captain America: Civil War (2016), during which Scott was roped in to take sides in an internal squabble between Earth’s mightiest heroes – a move that led to him being excommunicated by Hank and Hope. Scott is now on house arrest and under close watch by the FBI for breaking the ‘Sokovia Accord’, which criminalises superheroics. With just three days left of his sentence, however, Scott is determined to behave, if only because this means he can spend time with his daughter outside the confines of his house.

But Hope shows up to throw a wrench in that plan. Mad as they are at Scott for using their technology without permission to engage in a very public superhero melee, Hope and Hank realise that a recent surreal nightmare Scott confesses he’s had might just hold the key to finding Hope’s mother, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) – who ended up lost in another dimension – the “quantum realm” many years ago.

While Mission Impossible: Fallout certainly retains the top spot as far as this summer’s spate of action blockbusters go, Ant Man & the Wasp is a diverting enough pleasure in its own right. Though it’s certainly crammed with its own action set pieces, the real thing that distinguishes it from the more bombastic and bland offerings in the Marvel Studios stable is the comic timing and chemistry between the stars. Both Rudd and Douglas are excellent at what they do, and Lily is a sober foil to all of them. But it’s Michael Peña who steals the show as Scott’s best friend Luis, a fellow ex-con with ambitions of running his own security company. Between all the chasing and rubble-punching that does take place, an interrogation scene where Luis’s motormouth goes off the rails makes for solid laughs, and will remain the standout scene for most.

Otherwise, it’s pretty standard Marvel fare. The plot is helped into shape by a chase for McGuffins (here it’s ‘components’ for a machine enabling interdimensional travel), there’s a ton of zippy, ironic dialogue to deflate the cheese, and veteran actors like Pfeiffer and Laurence Fishburne – the latter playing Bill Foster, a former academic rival of Pym’s and the film’s reluctant mad scientist – step in to offer some gravitas and emotional heft. It also suffers from the weak villain syndrome that somehow continues to be the bane of these tent-pole features.

Hannah John-Kamen’s Ava Starr may look great in her dimension-toggling ‘ghost’ costume, and she certainly acts the part with the adequate amount of pained angst. But she still doesn’t feel too big a threat, and she is actually outshone by the film’s secondary villain figure – Sonny Burch, a black market tech mogul from Texas, played with deliciously smarmy panache by the inimitable Walton Goggins.

But it’s a fun enough ride as far as it goes.

The verdict

Packed with incident and charm, Ant-Man & The Wasp once again proves Peyton Reed to be the guy we need to bring some levity to an increasingly tangled and dour Marvel Studios universe, which in the wake of Infinity War looks to be a taking a “worse before it gets better” route for our heroes. Shrinking both our heroes and the scope of the action into a couple of interlinked heist-and-rescue operations (one happening in the mundane physical world, the other through a trippy interdimensional portal), the follow up to the original Ant-Man movie thankfully levels up without growing too big for its boots. A fun summer diversion... though the big action prizes still go to Mission Impossible: Fallout.