Review by C.J. Bunce
Iron Man, Spider-Man, and the Hulk haven’t done it. Along with Captain America and Thor, now Ant-Man adds another Marvel Cinematic universe film that matches the spirit of its first solo film. That’s Ant-Man and the Wasp, premiering this weekend in theaters across the U.S. If you count Ant-Man as one of your favorite films of the MCU, you won’t be disappointed in the sequel. As with the original, Ant-Man and the Wasp is the rare superhero movie that will appeal to all ages of moviegoers–not a single scene will pollute the minds of the littlest kid, and for the older generation that loved that classic sci-fi trope from The Incredible Shrinking Man, moviegoers don’t need to follow the MCU to jump right into this film. Better yet, Ant-Man and the Wasp has heart like nothing else on the big screen from Marvel, except for Paul Rudd’s first adventure as Ant-Man only three years ago.
For those not paying close attention, this film takes place before the events of Avengers: Infinity War, and two years following the events of Captain America: Civil War. Each of the character-led superhero films have those elements special to that character. The trademarks of Ant-Man return for this sequel: a slightly daft and bumbling hero (played by Rudd) enjoying his superpowers, a friend whose rapid-fire banter steals every scene (played by Michael Peña), a romantic co-lead ready to bust out and make her own name (played by Evangeline Lilly), even more cutting edge special effects that show today’s actors playing scenes looking just as they did 20 years ago, and the return of the great Michael Douglas with every bit the acting chops he had back in his The China Syndrome, Coma, and Romancing the Stone days as the incomparable Dr. Hank Pym, the original Ant-Man. Rudd’s Scott Lang has only three days left under house arrest before regaining his freedom, as Dr. Pym and daughter Hope (Lilly) attempt to secure the last piece of technology required to try to reach Pym’s wife, long ago left in the quantum realm. But they aren’t the only ones after this new technology.
The film doesn’t stop at mere fan service, bringing in three new characters that take the quantum universe story arc from the first film into new territory. That’s Michelle Pfeiffer as Dr. Janet Van Dyne–the original Wasp, Laurence Fishburne as former Pym colleague Dr. Bill Foster, and a stunningly good MCU debut by Hannah John-Kamen–at last in a major big screen role after playing supporting characters this year in Tomb Raider and Ready Player One. John-Kamen’s character has the same fierce grit and badass determination as Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie in Thor: Ragnarok, and like Valkyrie, we hope she’s back in the sequel to Avengers: Infinity War next year. As with Thor: Ragnarok, Ant-Man and the Wasp brings the comic book page to life, and like Black Panther, the film has an antagonist you may find yourself rooting for. And make no mistake, Lilly’s Wasp could take over the reins from Black Widow as Marvel’s lead superheroine.
Marvel was wise to bring back Ant-Man director Peyton Reed to maintain continuity of the friendly vibe between the films, while featuring a travelogue of San Francisco as the backdrop. If you want to know the kind of humor you’re in for, consider it is written by Chris McKenna and Erik Sommers, of Spiderman: Homecoming, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, The Lego Batman Movie, and Community fame–for many that will be all you need to know to give Ant-Man and the Wasp a try. The next time we’ll see these two writers will be for next summer’s Spider-Man sequel, Spider-Man: Far From Home, which will be the beginning of Phase IV for the MCU and a new Marvel leaving the Avengers-centric stories in the past. Much of the humor in Ant-Man and the Wasp is carried by Lang’s trio of friends, each with more to bring to the table this time around: Peña’s Luis, David Dastmalchian’s Kurt, and Tip (T.I.) Harris’s Dave. It’s also shared with the triangle of great dialogue throughout the movie among Rudd, Douglas, and Lilly. Plenty of those lines are that kind of quick wit that may get lost between laughs, so keep your ears open so you don’t miss anything.
The new costumes are great, especially Ghost’s suit and all the new quantum realm gear, thanks to the creative eye of nearly forty-year career costume designer Louise Frogley (Spider-Man: Homecoming, Bull Durham). Returning from Ant-Man is composer Christophe Beck, whose themes from the two films are among the most memorable of ten years of supporting Marvel superheroics on the big screen.
If shrinking was the theme of the first film, it’s increasing the size of everything and anything that is the best fun of Ant-Man and the Wasp, and nothing is off-limits this time. Don’t forget to stick around for one Marvel trademark mid-credits coda and a second post-credits coda.
With plenty of great films this year, don’t let this one get lost in the crowd. Ant-Man and the Wasp opens in theaters everywhere this weekend.