Courtesy of Marvel Studios
Heroes come in all shapes and sizes.
Or in the case of “Ant-Man and the Wasp” many shapes and sizes, thousands actually. The follow-up to the 2015 Marvel flick about Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang being able to skate around in his miniaturized metal suit like a speeding bullet, all while assembling an army of ants, is a seemingly harmless vehicle for the Marvel canon (certainly not the best) but this time Scott has Evangeline Lilly’s The Wasp as backup, and with it adds a refreshing tone to a beaten-dead formula.
While I’d still long to see what Edgar Wright had cooked up for this second-rate - scratch that - third-rate superhero, for now we still have to settle for Peyton Reed and his army of five screenwriters to divulge Ant-Man’s continued origins. This sequel - filled with every Marvel flaw in the book - definitely adds elements of fan service galore (they’re always has to be connections to the Marvel cinematic universe) but within the tiny framework that surrounds the entire picture, “Ant-Man and the Wasp” still delivers the type of goods audiences will be craving.
Speaking of Captain America, half of this plot was set in motion because of him, and the aftermath of “Civil War” in which Scott (Rudd) violated the Soviet Accords treaty. As a result, he’s been stuck on house arrest (hence his absence during “Infinity War”) leaving him isolated and coming up with daily routines to entertain his young daughter, some involving close-up magic and others: house-sized obstacle courses.
As for his old crew, Hope (Lilly - rightfully promoted to co-headliner) and Dr. Hank Pym (Michael Douglas) have cut ties with the former thief, in part because of Scott’s antics during ‘Civil War’ (he apparently took the Ant-Man suit without asking) and they’re working on a new device which could open a portal to the Quantum Realm; a molecular inter-dimensional space zone where Pym’s wife, Janet (Michelle Pfeiffer) disappeared thirty years earlier (let’s hope they at least have Netflix).
So it’s no coincidence that Scott’s been having strange visions about Hope’s mother and reconnects with the old squad. When they rekindle, Hope and Pym are on the cusp of a scientific discovery, catching the attention of Sonny Burch, a trafficker of black-market tech (played via smolder by the great Walter Goggins) who wants to go into business with the Pyms’ otherworldly research for his own monetary gain (yawn). He’s one of the many casualties filling this tiny movie with unnecessary fluff. But Goggins, being the seasoned veteran we’re all accustomed to, says his slimy dialogue with a sly grin (channeling the type of baddie who would fit right at home on a Saturday morning cartoon).
To add even more wrenches in the plot, Scott and Hope must contend with a visually transfixed apparition of sorts known only for their name Ghost - who - like everyone else in the movie, is after the trios blueprint of Quantum Realm travel. Ghost has the power to vanish and past through space without a suit to back them up. Brandishing a new world of possibilities (and one pissed off foe) to the mix (side note: people say different variations of the world quantum a-lot in this movie).
Filling out the roster is the spot-on Michael Pena (bringing his motormouth antics back to stunning results here); Laurence Fishburne as a former scientists who’s got some beef with Dr. Pym; and David Dastmalchian and T.I. as the clueless errand boys filling the background, trying to jump-start their security business with Scott. Some of them don’t have much to say or do, but the movie would have a void if not for their presence. They make “Wasp’ a more well-contained picture.
Still, It’s funny that “Ant-Man and the Wasp” has many references and nods to the art of alluding and misdirection (this being Scott’s dedication to street magic) because that’s essentially what this movie plays as: a comedy that knows its limitations. Safe to say, it lacks the sort-of lampoonish element that boasts a film like “Deadpool,” but you get the feeling that Reed and company are gesturing to the audience about the silliness at stake (at one point we see a “Hello Kitty” Pez dispenser morph into a life-size version of itself, and used as ammo in a high-speed chase - in addition, buildings and cars shrink and implode like toys on a board game).
But even though Hank and Hope’s desire to reunite with Janet has merit, the plot is one giant swindle. The movie is all jokes and movement, fused with mile-a-minute energy, there to distract you from the zaniness the filmmakers are able to sneak in (at one point Janet and Scott become “linked” together, which means we literally see Rudd take on full Pfeiffer mode. I’m not sure if it really works, but you miss every shot you don’t take).
Aside from the films spit-fire comedic elements, Reed’s action sequences are all light on their feet with the type of quickness and speedster agility missing from other superhero flicks. Partially because of Ant-Man and Wasp’s ability to morph between human and ant size on a dime; and to Reed, who may have finally become the special effects driven guru missing from the previous installment, he directs with a touch more confidence here, and it shows.
Then again, if not for Rudd being so appropriately casted as Lang (he’s playful banter between his other co-stars is reason enough to check out the picture) who knows what kind of friction would exist in this franchise. Much like “Iron-Man” is for Robert Downey Jr, you believe Rudd as Lang because he’s got an earnestness (and look) of someone trying his best to do the right thing. Most of what Scott does is good for a laugh, despite the relatively corny mechanics that occasionally steal away from the films eccentric shenanigans.