2 ½ (out of 4)
When you churn out 20 interrelated superhero movies in 10 years ranging from mildly successful to insanely popular, you earn a reputation. Marvel is synonymous with reliably distracting entertainment and they're just as famous for minimizing risks and straddling the status quo. 2015’s Ant-Man was the MCU's biggest box office gamble in which they conservatively shelled out the smallest budget. Following the film's success, and especially with the series reaching a baffling crescendo in profits thanks to this year’s Black Panther and Avenger: Infinity War, I expected something a little more substantial from Ant-Man and the Wasp.
Not that this newest recess in the MCU doesn’t serve up its own fun-size wallop of minor superhero amusement. Just like the first Ant-flick was a welcome comedown after Age of Ultron, this sequel serves as easygoing levity on the heels of heaviness in the third Avengers. Ant-Man and the Wasp is mathematically fast-paced and buoyant at its best – Paul Rudd, Michael Peña and newcomer Jimmy Woo carry the film through even the most pandering instances with their instinctive comic chops. Abby Ryder Fortson as little Cassie also always puts an adorable face on the humanity of Scott Lang's character.
The biggest disappointment is the film's marketing which spoils just about each and every one of the film's memorable moments for the sake of a fun trailer – only some of the best bits of banter are theater exclusives. Save for Spider-Man: Homecoming and maybe the Guardians films, this is the most straightforward comedy we've seen from the series and for laughs alone Ant-Man and the Wasp is a good time even as hit and miss as it can be.
But with so much potential for inventive diversion from typical capeshit, the film is only so clever in finding cinematic uses for Pym's technology – there are so many cool sci-fi concepts at play but unfortunately nothing ever gets too weird or heady. How strange that Marvel's real risk-taking came from April's Avengers: Infinity War when there were two-dozen or so heroes to make room for. The individual, consequence-free additions to the MCU, like the superior one-offs Doctor Strange and Thor: Ragnarok, are better the less they subscribe to formula.
While Evangeline Lilly's Wasp is everything Ant-Man isn’t (she can fly without a bug nearby and is actually trained for combat) she envelopes the action single-handedly, upstaging our lead at every turn. Lang's regulator malfunctions throughout the entire film, leaving little room for many superheroics from our title character. Lilly is an excellent foil for Rudd, romantic or otherwise, but she spends so much time suited up that the quest to rescue mama Pym (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the quantum realm is superficial, convoluted and emotionally muffled, especially because it was a key aspect of the last film.
Besides a relatively strong villain for the series – Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) is not only a neat character to watch but also well-motivated – Ant-Man and the Wasp is a decidedly mid-shelf Marvel film.
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