What it's about: Scott Lang is under house arrest for breaking the Sokovia Accords following his involvement in a certain superhero civil war. Unable to contact his former associates Dr. Hank Pym and his daughter Hope, he spends his days hanging out with his daughter, playing drums, and spending too much time in the bathroom. But Hank and Hope must recruit Scott once again to use his connection to the subatomic quantum realm, in hopes of finding Hank's wife who has been stuck there for the past 30 years. A figure from Hank's past, however, has her own reasons to find Janet Van Dyne and a strange power to challenge Ant-Man and The Wasp.
It didn't make sense to me to release Ant-Man and the Wasp after the monumental Avengers: Infinity War. The scale-changing events in the finale of Infinity War made it seemingly hard to go back to a silly little superhero story involving a character who wasn't even in Marvel's biggest blockbuster yet. Who would care anymore? Turns out, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a perfect palette cleanser.
I haven't revisited Peyton Reed's Ant-Man since seeing it in theaters -- I didn't feel any impulse to do so. I remember enjoying it as a small, quippy, disposable, mid-tier Marvel film. Honestly, the two things I remember most are the train-set action sequence and Michael Peña's amazing Drunk History-style storytelling scene [we get another one here, thankfully, and it is awesome and adequately points out some of Ant-Man's biggest character flaws].
The film's sequel steps up the action, comedy, and character beats while keeping its identity as a relatively small-scale and personal superhero story. Ant-Man and the Wasp is thoroughly enjoyable. It's not without flaws, but the inevitable managed expectations really serve the film well.
It might be a smaller story, but the film is full of constant special effects that are executed really well. The shrinking/expanding works seamlessly within the action scenes and the villain's phasing power is perfectly realized. After Infinity War, it is also nice to see these effects consistently interacting in the real world instead of open fields and CGI-created landscapes.
The film also uses the full scope of Ant-Man's powers: shrinking, growing, even more mind-controlling of insects which I understand is a major part of his comic book powers. I would have expected this to be pretty hokey, but it works well within the film.
The main plot involves a lot of confusing and stupid science mumbo jumbo but it keeps itself bound nicely in relatable emotion. And it is able to poke fun at the obvious ridiculousness -- at one point, Scott asks if the scientists around him just put the word "quantum" in front of everything.
Hope Van Dyne [Evangeline Lilly] is thankfully given much more to do, not just in the most important emotional narrative but as a kick-ass action star. The hand-to-hand action sequences involving The Wasp are a lot of fun, quick but clear.
Of course, Paul Rudd is also a highlight. The film doesn't overplay his character as a fish out of water amidst much more intellectually capable company, which was more the case in Ant-Man. His natural charms come through the screen, especially in non-verbal reaction shots that Rudd has perfected over the years in silly comedies.
Ant-Man and the Wasp continues to show that Marvel has solved their villain problem. Well, sort of. There are two major villains here and one of them works well. I love Walton Goggins but his street-level criminal could have been completely cut from the film. The supernatural villain Ghost, on the other hand, has a well established backstory and plenty of motivation. The more important thing, though, is the character design is extremely cool and her superpowers are unique and amazing on screen. Unlike many Marvel villains, Ghost has real staying power within the larger story.
I'll try to talk around it but some spoilers involving the post-credits stinger ahead. I was anticipating the twist seen in the stinger to come and was curious how they'd execute it. With time away from Infinity War, I've come to terms with how its ending was handled and I think it was integrated smartly here. Ant-Man and the Wasp didn't need to unfairly revel in the emotional impact of the rapture yet again -- we've already been put through that once. It does, however, nicely showcase the implications for Scott Lang, which are massive. It actually helps build the story, giving us a glimpse into the future of the series, not just leaving on a sour note.