Following on from the thematic heavy-lifting of Black Panther and the death-a-thon of Infinity War, Marvel Studios needed something light to cleanse the palette of MCU fans. So along comes Ant-Man And The Wasp, the filmic equivalent of a lemon syllabub – all smooth action, frothy fun and sharp humour. It’s not the most memorable MCU film, nor is it groundbreaking in any way, but it does tick all the summer blockbuster boxes.
The film takes place two years after Captain America: Civil War, with Paul Rudd’s Scott Lang entering his final three days of house arrest following his illegal antics in that film. Evangeline Lilly’s Hope Van Dyne has had to go into hiding with her father Hank (Michael Douglas) because of Scott’s behaviour, so the film finds Team Ant-Man not on speaking terms, until Hope and Hank need Scott’s help to rescue Janet Van Dyne (Michelle Pfeiffer) from the Quantum Realm. Unfortunately, the mysterious phasing Ghost (Hannah John-Kamen) is after the same piece of technology they need to rescue Janet, as is crafty businessman Sonny Burch (Walton Goggins).
Like the first film, Ant-Man And The Wasp is a heist movie, with the gang reluctantly getting back together to pull off one last job. Where this film improves on its predecessor is in the motive for the job – Hope is trying to rescue her mother, and Scott is simply trying not to go to prison so that he can be a better father. The central characters – and Ghost – all have strong emotional motivations for their actions. That said, the film is never especially emotional, generally choosing gags over poignancy, which does sometimes detract from the story, especially when it comes to Hope.
Much has been made of the Wasp being the first female Marvel hero to be named in a movie title, and she certainly gets a lot to do, particularly in an excellent battle against armed goons early on in the film. Hers is the storyline that drives the movie – Scott is essentially just dragged along for the ride – and yet she never feels like the heart of the movie. While her straight-man role worked in Ant-Man, where she was his supporting character, here she feels out of sync with the comedic tone of the film. Wasp and Ant-Man never feel like the team they should be – he is out of practice after two years of house arrest and spends most of the film falling over while the far more competent Wasp gets things done. Their tag team works best when playing to their separate skills – Ant-Man is no match for the Wasp’s skills on a miniature level, but when she’s tiny and he’s giant things suddenly click.
The supporting cast are once again good, with Ghost being a far better villain than Yellowjacket was, although Sonny Burch is a one-note villain who seems to have stumbled straight out of a 90s buddy cop comedy. Michelle Pfeiffer is great as the original Wasp, as is Laurence Fishburne as the scientist with the heart to balance out Hank’s cool (and often cruel) head, and both deserve to be given a lot more to do in future MCU films.
The set-pieces are excellent, especially a size-changing car chase that makes excellent use of San Francisco’s vertiginous hills, and the film has a lot of fun with Scott’s size regulator being on the blink. Even the action scenes aim for comedy over thrills, and you’ll watch the whole film with a silly smile on your face. But you’ll forget it almost as soon as you’ve watched it. It’s an enormously fun film, but there’s no way it can match up to Marvel’s recent hot streak.