Cinematic Releases: Ant-Man And The Wasp (2018) - Reviewed

The first Ant-Man was a pretty standard Marvel action movie with some humor thrown in. It was okay, but the heavy doses of series mythology were an awkward fit with the tone and really slowed the film down. Its sequel, Ant-Man and the Wasp, is more like a comedy with some action thrown in. Most of the entries in the Marvel Cinematic Universe focus on the drama of being a superhero. After the darkness of Avengers: Infinity War, perhaps they felt fans would appreciate something goofy before diving back in to the super serious stuff with the next Avengers movie in May. Whatever the motivation for this approach, Ant-Man and the Wasp is a fun watch.

These movies always have a lot of plot, and Ant-Man and the Wasp is no exception. Paul Rudd returns as Scott Lang, who begins the story under house arrest due to the events of Captain America: Civil War, but is tasked with suiting up as Ant-Man once again when Dr. Pym and Hope need his help for a mission into the quantum realm. What is different is how quickly the screenplay establishes that stuff so it can get to the comedy and action. It does not waste time with unnecessary exposition. It is just “here are your heroes, here is what they need to do, now let’s have fun watching them.” I mean that as a compliment.

Director Peyton Reed does a much better job pacing things in this one, as well as fitting the unique abilities of Ant-Man into the fight scenes. It feels like I have already seen a million chase sequences this year, but Reed uses his heroes’ powers cleverly enough to keep them mildly exciting.

The action is alright, however what made this movie work for me is that it does not take itself particularly seriously, even in comparison to its predecessor. Though the story is not all that interesting, the humor kept me engaged. Part of the charm of the Ant-Man films comes from the unexpectedness of Paul Rudd as a superhero. He is a great choice for the lead since Scott Lang is not supposed to be Captain America or Thor. He is a regular guy and the screenplay is all the funnier because it never attempts to convince us otherwise.

It also gives him and his talented supporting cast ample time to mess around in small, amusing moments that are generally unrelated to the main plot. Those conversations do help a little with character development, but they are there because it is entertaining to watch these actors riff with each other in between special-effects set pieces. Rudd has some good exchanges with Michael Peña, returning as his friend Luis, and Randall Park, who shows up in a funny role as the FBI agent in charge of Scott’s house arrest. Even the serious characters played by Michael Douglas, Evangeline Lilly and Laurence Fishburne are allowed the occasional humorous line. That keeps the tone consistent and livens things up, making the film feel more eventful than it is.

Ant-Man and the Wasp could be deemed skippable by those looking for a bit of a break from superhero blockbusters. It is light, slight and maybe not entirely a must-view in order to follow the MCU (it takes place before Infinity War, though it does contain some information devotees will likely be interested in). It is not great and it certainly did not make me eager to see what happens next in this mega-franchise. But it is an enjoyable two hour escape, which is all it is really trying to be. 

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-Ben Pivoz